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Am I legally able to change letting agent?

Yes, as a landlord, you have a right to decide who is the best letting agent to manage your property needs.

If you aren’t happy with the service you are receiving, you have found someone who offers a package that you prefer, or costs have crept up, you are perfectly within your rights to jump ship and move to an agent who better fits the bill.

However, it is important to remember that an agreement between a landlord and a letting agent is a legal document, so it is important to follow the correct steps if you choose to make the change.

Are there any legal issues to consider when I switch letting agent?

When you enter into a relationship with a letting agent, you will sign a contract outlining the details of the relationship. Whilst these contracts are designed to continue on a rolling basis, there are opportunities to remove yourself from the contract if you choose to.

This clause, usually called the termination clause, should give you details of how you have to notify your agent of your intention to terminate the contract, and the notice you have to give. The clause is similar in principle to a break clause in a tenancy agreement, in so much as it gives either party the opportunity to break the contract early without repercussions, as long as certain rules are followed.

Termination clauses vary agent-to-agent, so check your contract for yours. If you are still unsure, we are happy to have a look for you – pop it over to our team at [email protected], and we’ll check though it and let you know exactly where you stand.

How do I do it?

  • Check your contracts: Check your contract for your termination clause and see how you can exit the contract without repercussions.
  • Give official notice: Send your agent official notice that you would like to terminate your contract. The best way to do this is in writing, so that they have evidence that you have done so.
  • Build a paper trail: In the same way that a paper trail is important when it comes to managing tenant disputes, it is vital to document every stage of this process carefully. Once you have notified your letting agent of your decision to remove yourself from the agreement in writing, continue to document every move every step of the way to give a clear timeline of your actions throughout the procedure.
  • Refresh your paperwork: Ensure you have all of the relevant paperwork for the property that the outgoing agent holds, that you may need copies of. This includes copies of your EPC, gas safety certification, inventory, tenancy agreement, deposit protection details etc.
  • Notify your tenant: You should let your tenants know exactly what is going on. Your agent has an obligation to do so, and it is important that you engage with them too.
  • Engage with a new agent: If you are looking to engage with a new agent, make sure you do so in plenty of time. This will give your new agent a chance to liaise with your previous agent and make sure that any important information is passed across and no details are forgotten.
  • Collect your keys: At the end of the notice period, don’t forget to collect any keys that the agent may be holding for your property. If you have alarms or key boxes at the property, it is good practice to reset the codes.
  • Obtain final sign off documents: When your notice period is complete, make sure you receive a document from your outgoing agent to confirm that the contract has been terminated and that the contract has ended. This should confirm that all fees are paid, and that you no longer have any relationship with the agency.

Will it cost me anything to change letting agent?

If you give adequate notice to your agent and abide by the terms of your contract, you should be able to leave the agreement on an even financial keel.

If you have experienced bad practice from an agent, and they have failed to deliver on the terms of the contract that you signed, you may be able to exit the contract early and get any early-exit fees waived. If you believe that your agent has failed to fulfil the terms of their agreement, you can contact Citizens Advice to discuss the case. It is up to you as a landlord to prove that the agent has failed to provide an adequate service, so it is important to have good evidence and clear information ready if you are looking to go down this route. The team at Howsy are happy to advise on exactly what service a good agency should be providing, so give us a call on 0330 999 1234 if you’re unsure whether or not this could be an option for you.

If your property is under management, you may find that your agent has a clause in their contract that states that you are required to pay management charges as long as the tenant (that was found by the original agent) continues to occupy the property. Generally, a very dim view is taken on any clauses that tie an individual into a contract and do not give them any ability to leave. If your contract contains a clause like this, our free legal helpline can offer assistance in working out exactly where you stand. Give us a call today on 0330 808 1079

Do I have to give notice to terminate the agreement with my letting agent?

Yes. A termination clause will generally have a notice period of one to two months; however, this may vary depending on your agent. It is important to check your contract carefully and make sure that you are clear on this timeframe.

Could switching letting agents mid-contract impact my tenants?

If you choose to switch agents, there is no need for this decision to have any impact on any existing tenants. Keeping a good relationship with your tenants is key – you can read more about it here.

It is important to remember that there are two contracts to consider here – your contract between you and your letting agent (the one being contested), and the tenancy agreement between you and your tenant. Whilst this important legal document may have been prepared for you by your agent, it is between you and your tenant – and shouldn’t be in contest at this stage.

In order to make sure that the change-over doesn’t have any wider effects, there are some points that you should be sure to consider:

  • Make sure you have all of your tenant’s contact details. You should have this anyway, but make sure that the details you have are up to date, and that your tenant’s contact details haven’t changed from those that you already hold.
  • Ensure you have all of the relevant paperwork for the property that the existing agent holds, that your tenant may need copies of (you will need all of this paperwork anyway!)
  • Make sure your tenant has contact details of the new agent, and a way to contact them should they need to. It would be wise to send a clear email with details about what is going on, with all the relevant details so that is in one place.
  • If the agent has managed the deposit for you, make sure that this has been transferred and protected again, either under your name or that of your new agent. Don’t forget that once you have re-protected the deposit, you will have to issue Prescribed Information again to everyone who has contributed to the deposit (including guarantors).
  • Ask your new agent to draw up a new tenancy agreement, providing the details of the new letting agent as soon as possible. This isn’t the time to be making big changes to the agreement, just amend the contact details.

Can my new letting agent handle this process?

Yes, much of this can be handled by your new agent. Here at Howsy, we help our new landlords with this process as much as possible. Of course, you have to make the first step in letting your existing agent know that you are looking to leave, but once that is done, we can take over in managing the rest of the process.

We understand it can be daunting to consider jumping ship, but it needn’t be. Your property is a huge asset, and you need to be confident that the very best people are looking after it.

If you’re considering switching letting agents, simply complete this form to see how we can help and start the process. Switch today and save money tomorrow.

Stoptober, Public Health England’s 28-day campaign to encourage people to to give up smoking for the duration of October is well underway.

This nationwide campaign has seen over one million people attempt to stub out the habit, taking action on smoking and health, and is the biggest mass attempt to quit in the country.  

All this is great news for landlords. A whopping 53.6% of smokers in the UK rent within private or housing association properties, however only 7% of private landlords are open to letting their tenants light up – so there’s a serious issue burning away in the sector.

Can you stop a tenant smoking in a property?

Including a clause in a tenancy agreement stating that no smoking is allowed in the property would make it very clear that this behaviour is not acceptable under the terms of the lease, and that the tenant is acting outside of the terms that have been agreed to. It would be possible at this stage to terminate the lease based on breach of contract via a Section 8 notice.

However, landlords are under an implied obligation to allow their tenant quiet enjoyment of the property, meaning a landlord must not interfere (or allow anyone else to interfere) with the tenant’s enjoyment of the property. It could be considered that if a tenant is a smoker, not being able to smoke in peace in their property could be a breach of their quiet enjoyment of the property. At this stage, it would be down to the discretion of the judge to decide who was the party in the right.  

With this in mind, it is worth considering that if by the stage that these new developments have come to light, the damage may already have been done. If a tenant has already been smoking in the property, the smell – often the worst element – will already be present. Rather than going through the process of eviction which can be costly and drawn out, you could consider choosing not to renew the contract at the end of the term, and instead spend the money on a spruce up of the property when the tenant has left.

How is vaping different to smoking?

Over 2.3 million adults in the UK already ‘vape’, and with many people moving away from cigarette smoking and onto vaping kits, it’s likely that the question of whether or not to allow electronic cigarettes or vaping is one that could be faced by many landlords.

The potential damage caused by cigarette burns and the lingering cigarette smoke smell are often key reasons cited for landlords not wanting to allow smoking in their property. Damage from nicotine build up on walls and ceilings from smoke and ash are others. Vaping theoretically removes these issues, but should it carry the same rules?

A cigarette, cigar or pipe requires a flame to burn to be smoked, an e-cigarette or vape is powered by a rechargeable battery, and uses liquid nicotine to produce a mist, or ‘vapor’ which is then inhaled. Although vaping produces a cloud of vapor once dispersed this leaves no trace, unlike smoking.

Choosing whether to allow your tenants to vape is a personal choice, however, unlike smoking it is likely to be very tricky to detect if they are doing so in your property unless they come clean about it. If your tenant is open about their vaping habit, you could choose to include a banning clause in the tenancy agreement– although this is likely to be near impossible to enforce. Alternatively, you could allow vaping, but refer to the ‘no smoking’ clause in the tenancy agreement, and reiterate that vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes are acceptable, but a smoking ban is still in place.

What if you have more than one tenant?

If your property has any Common Parts (the shared areas of a property shared by multiple indiviual tenants – kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, staircases, entrances etc) you must be significantly stricter about enforcing a smoking ban in your property. This is because your property is directly affected by the National Smoke Free Legislation, the same law that impacts our workplaces, cafes, bars and pubs, and your tenants are protected from the health risk of second hand smoke. There are no vaping guidelines within this remit.

Not only is smoking not allowed in these areas, but signs and documentation must be displayed to comply with the regulations. Downloadable copies of the official template signs are available here. Your local authority will have an appointed smoke free officer who can assist with any queries on how to modify your property to comply with the smoke free legislation.

Howsy’s Top Tips for dealing with this burning issue:

  • When advertising for a prospective tenant, specify non-smoking only
  • Include a clause in your tenancy agreement that smoking/vaping in the property is not permitted
  • Reiterate your feelings when you meet with your tenant, and explain your reasons
  • Ensure that all of your insurance policies accurately reflect your tenant’s habits – update if necessary
  • If you have shared areas, make sure ‘No Smoking’ signs are clearly displayed

There is no doubt that winter is firmly setting in. As the seasons change, a new challenge picks up pace for the nation’s renters and landlords – managing damp, condensation and mould issues.

Mould growth in a rented property can be more than just an unsightly annoyance. This pesky issue can cause health problems for tenants, the property to fall into disrepair and if left unchecked can even land the landlord in legal hot water.

But what causes mould, damp and condensation problems? What are tenants rights in this situation, should the fixing the issue be a landlord responsibility, or does the clean up land at the feet of the resident?

The common causes of mould in a property

A mould problem in the home is most often caused by a build-up of condensation. This occurs when moisture held in warm air (such as from showering or boiling kettle) meets cold surfaces, such as a glass window or a tiled wall. The warm air then condenses into excess moisture, which has nowhere to go.  Modern homes have actually made this situation worse. Better standards of insulation, such as double glazing and draught proofing work brilliantly at keeping heat in, but also trap moisture in exactly the same way.

If this happens regularly, the pooling excess moisture lingers in the same area, settling in regular places, such as on window frames and in the corners of baths, which can eventually becomes a mould infestation.

Whilst tasks such as showering and boiling kettles are an obvious source of condensation problems, another key day-to-day household task that is high on the list for creating excess moisture in the air is drying clothes. Every average sized load of wet washing holds a staggering one litre (nearly two pints) of water. That’s a lot of liquid to disappear into thin air every time a tenant needs to dry clothes!

Overcrowding can be a real issue too. Depending on how humid the air around us, the average person loses around 300 to 500 millilitres of fluid a day through just breathing. It’s no surprise that a lot of people in one small space, or even one person in a space that is too small can result in mould if left unchecked and unventilated!

Of course, the cause of damp doesn’t have to come from inside the property. Damaged guttering, broken roof tiles/flashing, damaged mortar in external walls or a leaky pipe hidden deep within a wall can all be sneaky culprits of a dodgy damp area inside the property. This is known as penetrating damp. Coupled with poor ventilation inside, all it takes is a few days of wet weather or a slow leak on a pipe fitting and you could be facing a damp spot that will struggle to dry out.

Finally, everyone’s favourite – rising damp. Occurring on the ground floor or basement, this sort of damp happens when moisture is soaked up though a broken or absent damp proof course, into the bricks or concrete foundations of the property. This situation is now slightly rarer, thanks to effective damp proof courses being present in most properties.

What are the dangers?

As well as being unsightly, some mould issues can actually have real impacts on tenant’s health.

Black mould releases tiny spores which travel through the home, triggering allergies, asthma, and fungal infections.  The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) classes mould as a category one hazard, and requires a landlord to remove or reduce any damp or mould factors that could have any impact on a tenant’s physical or social wellbeing. This applies to homes owned by a private landlord or local authority. You can read all of the HHSRS hazards here.

As well as being risky to your tenant’s wellbeing, a damp problem will undoubtably have a lasting impact on the health of your property. Should internal walls be subject to ongoing moisture, it is likely that significant repair work will be required to get plasterwork back up to a good standard, and woodwork is likely to suffer too.

In the very worst cases, damp can invade the very foundations of a building, and if this happens, you could be facing a really hefty bill – but it’s very possible to solve, so don’t panic! Additionally, it is outlined in Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 that a landlord has a responsibility to ensure that the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house is kept in working order so if damp is causing a problem in your property, you need to fix the issue quickly to ensure not only that your asset is safe and secure, but that you are not breaching any landlord legislation (you can check out some more of your legal requirements here).

How to fix the issue

Working out where the problem is coming from is the first hurdle. Once you have figured out what is causing the problem, you can set about tackling the issue.

There are some simple fixes that will make a really big difference inside your property.

  • Install light-activated extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen – these are the key areas that cause problems internally
  • Install a tumble dryer – and incentivise your tenants to use it if they are nervous about the cost
  • Explore vented windows – if windows are left unopened, bedrooms can be hotspots for condensation. Many windows now offer vented options allowing airflow whilst maintaining warmth and security
  • Consider installing air bricks if they are not in place already, and check that they have not been blocked up!
  • Request that large items of furniture (wardrobes etc) are not pushed flat to the wall. This encourages air flow around them, and prevents build up behind them

If you have a significant problem, you may need to look at ventilating the property, using dehumidifiers to draw water out of the fabric of the building. A dehumidifier can be hired from a local DIY store, but they must be left on continually and are not always very quiet – so the tenant may want to vacate the property whilst this is ongoing!

If damp has crept in from the outside, your focus should be on managing repair work to address the immediate cause. Ensuring maintenance of your roof, guttering, damp proof course and brick work is up to date is vital.

Landlords not managing mould

Manging damp appropriately can be tricky, as often tenants are nervous about reporting it to landlords.

There is a concern amongst some tenants that the blame for any damp within the property will be placed firmly at their feet, and that the first time they report an issue they will pay the price with an eviction notice.

However, whilst it is vital that landlords carry out any repairs that are needed within a reasonable timeframe, they can only do so if they know about them. Details of how a tenant can report any concerns must be included in the tenancy agreement, with UK contact details for the landlord, or their representative clearly stated.

Once a problem has been reported, it is landlord’s responsibility to respond in writing within 14 days to the tenant, noting details of what they intend to do about the issue, and giving a clear timeframe for works.  

If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant can raise the issue with their local council, where the environmental health team will investigate. If a landlord then tries to evict the tenant within six months of the problem being reported but not addressed, they will be unable to enforce the section 21 notice.

In worst case scenarios, failing to manage mould could even land you in court. A new law, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act came in force in 2018, designed to make sure that all rented properties are free from anything that could cause serious harm.

If a property is not fit for human habitation, tenants have the ability to seek legal advice and ultimately take their landlord to court, where they can be forced to carry out repairs, or put right health and safety issues. The landlord can also be made to pay the tenant compensation.

There’s nothing worse than a noisy neighbour, in fact noisy tenants with no volume control are one of the biggest causes of complaint to landlords.

But what are our tenants up to that is so loud? The most common complaints we hear at Howsy include:

  • Noise from pets
  • DIY
  • Parties / loud music
  • Shouting / Loud voices
  • Unattended car alarms

All very frustrating noises to live next door to.

However, there are some noises that, whilst possibly very maddening to listen to are not classed as anti-social behaviour and cannot be addressed by local authorities. These include:

  • Traffic, trains and planes
  • Children playing inside or outside the property
  • DIY activities during the daytime or early evening (Monday-Friday 8am-6pm / Saturdays 8am-1pm)
  • Noise resulting from the ordinary use of a property (Including footsteps, doors closing, toilets flushing, and household appliances being used during the day time and early evenings).
  • Fireworks before 11pm, except on certain dates (until midnight on 5 November, until 1am following the first day of Chinese New Year, until 1am on the day following Diwali day, until 1am on the day following 31 December)

But what can you do if your noisy tenant is causing upset? Before you start delivering ear plugs, there are a few options to try…

Who is responsible for noisy tenants?

Whilst as a landlord you do have plenty of legal responsibilities (you can read more about them here) you are under no legal obligation act on unnecessary noise complaints from a neighbour. However, it is in your best interest to ensure that neighbours are happy – after all, they are your eyes and ears and it is important to keep on their good side.   Wherever possible, it is always good to help smooth troubles waters if you can.

Whilst unlikely to contain a specific ‘noise clause’, some tenancy agreements will contain a clause requiring your tenant to not do anything in the property that causes them to be a ‘nuisance’, and all-night parties every evening would certainly contravene that clause. In this instance, you would be within your right to start section 21 proceedings against the tenant on the basis of a tenancy breach, eventually ending in eviction (however it is unlikely that many landlords would do so if the individual was an otherwise good tenant, and the party was a one-off)!

How to deal with noisy tenants

Very often, having a chat to your tenants can be the best first step to managing this issue. Keep things light and friendly, and mention to them that their actions are causing distress. They may not be aware that whilst they may find heavy metal relaxing to fall asleep to, their habit is causing their neighbours sleepless nights! Try and work with them to come up with a solution to the problem. For example, if the noise levels from their midnight trumpet practice are keeping everyone else awake, rather than demanding they stop entirely, ask if it would be possible for them to stop at 10pm – meet in the middle!

Popping them a message after your chat can be a good idea. A quick text to say ‘thanks for being so understanding about my noise concerns when we spoke earlier, hope your trumpet concert goes well!’ is simple and to the point, but reiterates the chat, and also gives you written and dated proof that the conversation took place.

This evidence is also useful if the causal chat doesn’t work and you need to move to the next step, involving the local council. Collecting evidence that you have tried to remedy the situation yourself is key, as is collecting as much detail about the noise as you can.

It can be difficult for official bodies to investigate noise nuisances, as often it can be sporadic and takes place at inconvenient hours. Making sure you ask the complainant to make clear audio recordings of the noise when it happens (recordings on a phone is fine) and logging the times and dates could be invaluable to a subsequent investigation.

What to do if you live next to a noisy tenant

If you are the suffering neighbour living next to a noisy tenant, contacting their private landlord, housing association or the freeholder can be a good place to start if you would like to elevate the situation. Whilst ideally you would give your neighbours a friendly knock and have a chat with them about the noise issues, in some cases it can be easier to alert the landlord immediately, and ask them to manage the situation on your behalf.

What if that doesn’t work?

If reasoning with the noisy tenant doesn’t work, the last resort would be to involve your Local Authority’s Environmental Health Department. Legally, this department has a responsibility to manage any noise disturbance that is considered to be a ‘statutory nuisance’ under the  Environmental Protection Act 1990, which includes anything which is considered to ‘unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises’ or ‘injure health or be likely to injure health’. However, they are reliant on evidence to process a case – so audio recordings, dates and details are vital here.

Once a case is underway, the occupier will receive a letter saying that they are the subject of an investigation regarding noise disturbance, however your identity as a complainant is kept confidential (many neighbours and landlords choose to skip straight to this route for this very reason). Having examined the evidence, if it is deemed that the noise problem is too loud and the tenant isn’t willing to do anything about it, the council can issue an abatement notice. This strict legal action instructs the individual to cease or limit noise it to certain time of day. A word of warning though, the abatement notice can be served on an individual or the owner of the property – potentially the landlord.

What if they do not stop?

The individual does have the right to appeal an abatement notice, but this is a strict 21-day window. If they do not launch an appeal in this time, they are not able to do so.

Once the individual has received an abatement notice from the council, it is a criminal office to fail to comply with the requirements set out in the notice. In the event of a breach of the notice, the recipient can face prosecution and a hefty fine.

Should it get to this stage, if the property is rented it is possible that the unsuspecting landlord could be facing bigger problems than a noisy tenant. There have been cases in the past of tricky tenants leaving a rental property, and disappearing, thus landing their unfortunate landlord with the fine from a breached abatement notice!

Howsy’s Top Tips

  • If you have a noisy neighbour, notify landlords and managing agents of any issues
  • Keep a clear record of the situation – recordings, dates and conversations
  • Raise issues to Environmental Health if not rectified
  • Be patient – Environmental Health can take up to 12 weeks to process a case
  • Closely monitor any tenants who are causing a noise nuisance – make sure they are abiding by the rules!

It is illegal for a landlord to rent out their property without a gas safety certificate.

A landlord’s gas safety certificate is a legal requirement and a crucial piece of documentation which proves your gas appliances were checked by a qualified gas safety engineer within the last twelve months. It’s a vital part of your legal duties to ensure you provide your tenants with a safe environment to live in.

Here’s what it involves, why you need one, and how to find a qualified engineer.

About the gas safety certificate

As a landlord, you have a host of legal obligations to your tenant, but providing a gas safety certificate is arguably the most important. It is your documented proof that flues, appliances and all relevant fittings have been checked by a gas safety qualified engineer within the last 12 months.

It is also widely known as the CORGI Proforma or CP12 and dates back to the days when CORGI was responsible for ensuring the safety of all gas appliances in a property. Since 2009, the responsibility belongs to the Gas Safety Register, which contains the official list of gas engineers who are legally allowed to work on gas appliances in the UK. These are the only people qualified to carry out their checks and you can find a list of qualified engineers in your area on their website.

It makes good sense as a Landlord to take out an annual gas service contract as this ensures your gas appliances are in tip top condition and likely to last longer. Getting the annual gas safety check renewed can be easily completed as part of this annual service.

Having a service contract in place also gives your tenants peace of mind as it shows you are taking your Landlords’ responsibilities seriously and can quickly get boiler and other gas appliance equipment fixed easily should an issue arise.

This will also give your tenants a separate point of contact with the company you take out the service contract with should a gas emergency occur.

How long does a gas safety certificate last?

Each CP12 certificate lasts for 12 months and should be given to your tenants within 28 days after the previous certificate expired. You should also provide one for any new tenants before they move in or within 28 days of them moving in.

How long must the landlord keep the gas safety certificate once it has expired?

You should keep hold of all your old ones for at least two years, so you can demonstrate a history of compliance if you need to.

What if the landlord doesn’t have a gas safety certificate?

If landlords do not fulfil their gas safety obligations, they may be liable to a fine and you may have further protections as a tenant if they try to evict you.

What if the tenants owns their own gas appliances?

If tenants have brought their own appliances with them, they are their responsibility. Landlords are only required to look after the flues and fittings. Even so, in the spirit that it’s better to be safe than sorry, it’s probably worth including them in a check.

What should an inspection include?

Each annual gas safety inspection will check any equipment or appliance that uses gas. This includes gas supply, gas boiler, and any gas fires
The inspection should also include the following:

  •        Check appliances for tightness and safety regulations
  •        Ensure there is sufficient provision for ventilation
  •        Check burner and gas pressures against the manufacturer’s data plates
  •        Check the flue flow to ensure the removal of combustible products
  •        Monitor standing and working gas pressure
  •        Safety devices must be checked to ensure they work safely and you should also check for any misuse of gas devices or items

How much does a landlord’s gas safety certificate cost?

The Gas Safety Regulator does not oversee the price of a gas safety inspection. As a result, costs can vary considerably depending on who you’re going with. It’s a good idea, therefore, to shop around. Don’t go with the first name appearing in your search – try to draw up a shortlist of about three.
It’s also worth ensuring you go with the best people possible. Gas Safety Engineers are registered professionals so the chances are that you’ll be working with someone reputable, but even so, some will be better than others. You might go by word of mouth recommendations or try looking at reviews.

Carbon monoxide alarms

You are also required by law to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used for accommodation in which solid fuel is used. So, if there is a fireplace or a wood burning stove, it’s important to have one in the same room. The only exemption is if the open fire is purely decorative and is unusable, in which case you will probably not need a Carbon Monoxide alarm.
The landlord’s gas safety certificate shouldn’t take too much time or money to arrange, but it is an important box to tick. You can always check the Government’s renting website for more information about your obligations – or have a look around our blog for the latest guidance.

If you’re using a letting agent for property management, you’re in good company – about 61% of landlords are in the same boat according to the NLA. After all, outsourcing to a qualified professional is a no brainer when there are over 400 rules and regulations for letting a property, and fines for noncompliance go up to £30,000.
But when you are paying 8-15% of your rental income – up to 26% in London, on a property management service, you want to be sure you’re getting the best service possible and you’re getting all the benefits you’re paying for. Below are the main things that define what a good property management service looks like. How many of these boxes does your current letting agent tick?
 

No hidden fees or secret clauses in your contract

Many landlords discover they’ll pay more than they thought when they receive a surprise bill – for something they never realised was chargeable. Among the extra costs and clauses you may find hidden in the small print are:

  • a ‘Tenancy Renewal Fee’ – you will be charged every time your tenant extends the tenancy beyond the initial fixed-term.
  • admin charges when new tenants go in
  • charges for tenancy agreements, telephone calls abroad, etc; while they might be normal,  make sure you know what they are and you are happy with them
  • clauses that state a very long notice period of 6 months or more if you wish to cancel the agreement
  • estate agency fees clause – the agent will get a fee if the property is put up for sale and is bought by the tenant, even if the letting agent didn’t act as an estate agent for the sale

As a general rule, a good agent will have a clearly written contract and a clear pricing structure, with each cost broken down. Read your contract carefully and talk to a specialist if there is anything you don’t understand. If there’s a particular clause in your contract you’re unsure about, we’re happy to offer a professional opinion, give us a call on 0330 043 0183.  
 

You receive thorough reports after each inspection

What’s in a good inspection report?

Are you receiving regular inspection reports from your agent or do you have to chase them up?
Because of the 2015 retaliatory eviction legislation (part of The Deregulation Act), it’s crucial to establish the exact condition of your property at regular intervals. After each inspection, you should receive a report that includes good quality photographs of all the areas inspected – so you can compare the current state of the property with the initial inventory.
The level of detail you get in an inspection will also tell you a lot about the quality of your agent. Beyond visible issues such as carpet cleanliness or furniture damage, does your agent pay attention to areas which could lead to costly repairs if action isn’t taken in time? Are kitchen worktops and baths sealed properly and is there water leaking under the sink?  

How often should your agent do inspections?

Regular inspections are the only way to identify early problems such as leaks, unauthorised alterations, messy tenants or even illegal activities. Inspections should happen routinely, every quarter or at least every 6 months as an absolute minimum.  
Overworked and understaffed agents try to cut corners wherever they can, and inspections are the first things to get skipped. In the most serious cases, the landlord finds out about a problem with their property once it becomes huge – police coming to dismantle a cannabis farm or a boiler exploding. In more common cases, disgruntled tenants will just leave at the end of a tenancy. When the landlord asks the lettings agent why the problems were never reported or resolved after inspections, it transpires the ‘promised regular inspections’ never happened.
 

No surprise charges for repairs

Are you crystal clear on what the agency has to run by you and what they’re just expected to do? Many agents will carry out emergency repairs without checking with you first, and if they work with their own repairs contractors -and receive commission from the repairer as a percentage of the repair cost, you might end up paying hundreds of pounds for something as minor as a light bulb change.

Set a limit for emergency repairs

Try to agree with your agent on a spending limit for emergency repairs they are allowed to do without notifying you – £200 or £300 is a reasonable amount, and make sure you are notified about all other repairs. Ideally, the agency should present you with a choice of contractors and allow you to choose the one you’re comfortable with, or they should be able to work directly with your preferred contractors if you give their contact details to the agent in advance.

Don’t settle for 1 price quote

Many landlords end up overpaying for a repair because they don’t have the contacts or the knowledge of how much the repair should cost. If you’re in that category and the agency pushes you to work with their preferred contractor, do a quick online search for prices in the area before you commit to the repair.  
 

Your agent is always available

What are your agents’ opening hours? Are they open on weekends? Are they only 9 to 5 during the week?
Most people work during the day – longer hours nowadays, so usually enquiries are made during the weekend and after work hours. If your agent misses them, there’s a good chance the tenant would have found somewhere else by the time their call is returned. Broken boilers have a nasty habit of happening unexpectedly, often on weekends and during night time, so it’s important that your agent picks up and acts quickly, no matter what the hour.
How long does it take your agent to answer a query? People expect to hear from an agent almost immediately, often within an hour, but definitely within 24 hours. If it takes your agent long to answer, that should raise an alarm about their general service.
 

Your agent is fully regulated and in a professional body

Anyone can set up as a letting agent, without any qualifications or experience, and many landlords working with such ‘cowboy agents’ end up suffering. For an agent that knows what they’re doing and will keep you on the right side of the law, choose a member of the National Approved Letting Scheme, or one of the professional bodies that support it:
– The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
– The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
– The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
All letting agents are required by law to be a member of one of three government-approved letting agency redress schemes. If they aren’t a member of at least one, they are operating illegally and could face prosecution The schemes are: Ombudsman Services Property, Property Redress Scheme and the The Property Ombudsman.
Also remember to check if your agent has client money protection in place. Sounds like a bad movie plot, but there have been instances where agents have ran off with tenancy deposits and rents. Without client money protection the landlord was left to repay the tenants, and couldn’t ask the tenants to pay rent again.  A professional lettings agent should also have professional indemnity insurance which will cover them against the chance of being sued.
 

Switching letting agents isn’t as hard as you think

According to the PRS, property management issues were the most common reason for complaints received from landlords about their agents in 2017. Late payment of rent, bad repairs management, lack of communication, deterioration of the property, rude staff and long void periods between tenancies are all depressingly common.
Even when they are unhappy with their current agent, many landlords hesitate to make the switch. Some don’t want to deal with the hassle, while others don’t even realise that changing letting agents is a possibility.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait until the end of a tenancy to change letting agents. The Tenancy Agreement is a contract between you and your renter, with the agent working on your behalf, so changing agent does not affect the legal rights or obligations of either party.
Tenants are usually the most affected by a defective property management, so it is likely they will be happy to see it replaced, and may even stay in the property for longer than they would have with the previous agent.
At Howsy, we have a lot of experience taking over property management, and our process is completely smooth and totally free for both landlord and renter. We’ll work with your current letting agent to manage every aspect of the transfer, from agreements to deposits to liaising with the renters. If you’re unsure about your contractual obligations with your current agent, we also offer a free legal helpline. 
If your current agent doesn’t exactly tick all the boxes and you’re looking for a better solution, give us a shout over at Howsy. We’re a friendly bunch and we’re happy to share experience and advice anytime. Call us on 0330 043 0183.

People become landlords for different reasons… Maybe you decided to move house and rent yours out, perhaps you’ve unexpectedly inherited a property or you could be well on your way to building your own property empire. Whatever the reason, getting a rental property ready is a bit of an art form, but done well, it can save you a lot of hassle.

Here are some top tips from Howsy:

1.Ready, steady, rent!

It pays to start preparing for your new renters at least 6 weeks beforehand. Get your paperwork in order, do your research, work out your terms, make sure things are in good working order and do any decorating or repairing well in advance. If you’re becoming a buy-to-let landlord, do your research so that you have an understanding of what’s involved. It’s worth reading up on relevant legislation, so you get to grips with your legal responsibilities.

2. Who made the cut?

If you’re an inexperienced landlord then this is a top priority. Good agents are hard to come by so do some background research and find out what other landlords think. Choosing the right one is vital as they’ll be taking care of everything – from agreeing the monthly rent, marketing the property and finding and screening potential tenants, to drawing up contracts, handling the deposit and managing regulatory documents. Howsy have turned the world of renting on its head. We offer two fixed fee plans; Howsy Standard gives you great value property management on your terms and Howsy Protect means you can be completely hands off yet fully protected from unpaid rents and unexpected damages. Tenant find is free with both. What’s not to love?

3. Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Although this comes down to the size of the property, you need to know what type of people or person you’d like to rent to. Are you looking for a professional couple? Or perhaps a family with young children? How do you feel about smokers and pets? And what if they work a night shift? You’ll need to share these thoughts with your agency and make sure you meet prospective renters before signing a contract.

4. A lick of (white) paint

Renters will want to give your property the personal touch when they move in so it’s best to strip it right back so it’s clean and neutral and will appeal to a broad audience. It’s worth giving walls and ceiling a lick of paint and putting down the same affordable flooring or carpet throughout. If you’re keeping it furnished, get rid of anything that’s worn out, broken or more of an acquired taste.

5. Know your stuff

Your lettings agent will handle legalities for you, but it’s important you know the ins and outs. Did you know that by law, your property will need an Energy Performance Certificate and a Gas Safety Certificate? You’ll also need to make sure tenants have access to the Government’s online How to Rent guide and their deposit (if there is one) will need to be put into a recognised Tenancy Deposit Scheme. New right to rent checks also mean it’s now yours and your agent’s responsibility to check that tenants have a right to be in the UK. Check out our Landlords Responsibilities guide for more information.

6. What new tax laws?

Make sure you’re up to speed on any changes to tax laws that could affect you now and in the future. Sign up to free online alerts and read trade press to stay on top of things.

7. Your property, your terms

Think through the terms of your tenancy agreement in advance and make a call on things like the length of tenancy and notice period. Your agent will draw up an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST), which is a standard contract  between yourself and your tenant.

8. A lick, a spit and a polish

It’s your job to set the standard in your property, so it’s definitely worth hiring in professional cleaners to give your home an intense clean before anyone moves in. It’s typically around a £100 and pays off in the long run. Your new tenants will then need to get the property professionally cleaned, or at least to the same standard, when their tenancy ends and they move out.

9. A manual for everything

Making sure your renter has instructions and manuals for everything in the property will save you some late night calls and unwanted stress. Dig out instructions for major things like the boiler, cooker and white goods as well as gas and electricity keys, and make sure you leave them in a prominent place within the property. It might be worth adding a clearly marked key ring.

10. Get the right protection

If you’re a new landlord, you’ll need to talk to your insurer about getting a landlord’s policy or dwelling policy because your standard home insurance policy won’t cover you as a landlord.

11. Speak to your mortgage lender

You’ll also need to inform your mortgage lender if you are renting out a house that has a standard homeowners mortgage.

If you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll and your rental property is ready for renting, get in touch! Our friendly team are on hand to offer any further advice you may need, or to get your property on the market and looking for suitable renters! Call us on 0330 043 0183.

Unless you’re an exceptionally lucky landlord, you will have to deal with evicting a tenant at least once in your career. Since you got to this page, you’re probably considering an eviction right now. We won’t lie, it can be quite a distressing experience. But we promise that as long as you follow the rules, it will be a straightforward process. We prepared this step-by-step eviction guide to help you follow the correct procedure and keep you on the right side of the law.

1. Tenancy Types

The first thing you need to know is that eviction procedures will differ based on what type of tenancy agreement you have with your tenants. For private tenancies, the most common contract is the assured shorthold tenancy (also known as an AST). There are two types of AST:

  • fixed-term tenancy – runs for a set amount of time
  • ‘periodic’ tenancy – runs week by week or month by month with no fixed end date. A periodic tenancy can also arise when a fixed term tenancy expires and is not renewed for another fixed term.

Another type of tenancy that has become very rare nowadays is the assured or regulated tenancy. Your tenants might be on it if they started their tenancy before 27 February 1997. If this is the case, different eviction rules will apply.

2. Serving a notice

If your renters are on an AST, the eviction process must start with you giving a “notice seeking possession” to your tenants.

2.1 Serving a section 21 notice

If you simply don’t want your tenants to continue living on your property at the end of the tenancy or you want to trigger an agreed break clause, you must start by serving a valid section 21 notice of possession.

Technically, a section 21 is not a notice of eviction. It’s a notice to inform your renters that you wish to recover possession of the property, so you don’t have to give any reason for your decision. But if your tenants choose to ignore your notice you might have to present it in court, and you won’t be able to enforce it in court unless everything has been done by the book. To serve a correct section 21 notice, you must follow these rules:

  • You must give the tenant at least two months notice using the prescribed form of the notice.
  • It can’t be served during the first 6 months of the tenancy.  
  • The notice is only valid for six months from the date it was issued. If possession proceedings are not issued during the six month period, another notice will have to be served.
  • If your renter makes a legitimate complaint about the condition of your property and you fail to deal with it, they may then refer the matter to the local housing authority. A section 21 notice issued after the initial complaint will be invalid once the local housing authority notice is served.
  • You must use form 6A to make a section 21 notice. Hand the form together with your Section 21 notice letter.
  • For a Section 21 to be valid, you must have given your tenant the following information at the start of the tenancy:
    • A Gas Safety Certificate
    • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
    • The How to Rent guide, this guide must be given to a tenant at the start of any new tenancy.

You must be aware that you cannot use a section 21 if you or your letting agent don’t protect your tenancy deposit. Please take a look at our Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes article to learn more. The tenant can also raise a claim against you for the return of the deposit and a penalty of as much as three times its original value.

If you have respected all the rules above, you are entitled to possession by default if a section 21 notice was served. However,  if your tenant becomes difficult or refuses to leave never reply in a way that could be regarded as harassing or anti-social. This could result in them claiming harassment damages in court.

2.2 Serving a section 8 notice

What if your tenants have broken the terms of the agreement? You will need to start the eviction process by giving your tenants a Section 8 notice. You will have to fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’ which can be downloaded here.

You will need to specify which terms of the tenancy have broken. The most common reasons for evicting a tenant are rent arrears, damage or disrepair to the property and nuisance.

A section 8 notice should be your last resort. If you end up in court, the outcome might not go your way, especially if the tenant has remedied the breach that you relied on to seek possession. Even if that didn’t happen, a judge in court may not decide in your favour.

So it is best to start by trying to convince your tenant to reach a mutual agreement before serving a section 8. You might want to consider a Section 21 notice instead, particularly if it’s approaching the end date of the agreed tenancy or it is a periodic tenancy.

2.3 What if my tenants won’t accept the notice?

Sometimes, difficult renters will refuse to accept the notice. The correct way do deal with this issue is by going to the property with a witness and posting it through the letterbox, before 5pm. The courts will then consider it delivered the next day.

A second choice for you is to use a professional server, but remember to get a certificate of service from them to use in court.

2.4 What if my tenant lives with me?

If your tenant lives with you, sharing the kitchen, bathroom, or other common spaces, you don’t have to give any written notice. You must give a ‘reasonable notice’ that can be delivered verbally. Normally, ‘reasonable notice’ is considered the same as the rental term, and if they refuse to leave by that date, the law gives you the right to change their locks.

3. Making a possession order

If your renters don’t leave the property by the date specified on the notice, you will need to escalate by applying to the court for a possession order. There are two types of possession orders you can use:

  • standard possession order if your tenants owe you rent and you served either a section 8 or 21 notice
  • an accelerated possession order if you’re not claiming any unpaid rent and you served a section 21 notice

It’s good to know that if for whatever reason want to get your property back faster but your tenant still owes you rent arrears, you could still use an accelerated procedure then make a separate court claim for the rent arrears.

3.1 Making a standard possession order

A standard possession order costs £325.

You can do it at the County Court for the area where the property is situated, or use the possession claim online service, which will allow you to fill in court forms online and track how the claim is progressing.

3.2 Making an accelerated possession order

This option will get you back in possession of your property faster than a standard order and  usually there is no court hearing. From the issue of proceedings to receipt of the order for possession, it can take between six and ten weeks.

The court fee for this procedure is £355. You will need to fill in the appropriate forms and send them to the County Court for the area where the property is situated.The court will notify the tenant, who can lodge an objection within 14 days.

In a successful outcome, you will get an order for possession without a hearing (normally enforceable 14 days after the order is made) and the tenant will have to pay the court fee.

If the paperwork is not in order or if your tenant raises an important issue in their objection, there might be a court hearing.

4. Applying for a Warrant Possession

If the possession order has expired and your tenants are still on the property, the last step is to ask the court for a warrant of possession and arrange for a bailiff to evict them. This will cost £121 and may take a further 4 to 6 weeks.

You can speed up the process by applying to have the warrant transferred from the county court to the High Court, in which case a high court enforcement officer will carry out the eviction.

You must be aware that even at this stage you tenants will be able to ask for a suspension at a new hearing. For example, if they can make payments again the judge can delay the eviction or let your tenants stay in the property.

5. Howsy introduces: Free Eviction Service

We provide a fixed fee property management service that covers everything for landlords: from finding tenants to rent collection, repairs, 24/7 service etc.

While our checking and referencing process is top-of-class, sometimes a tenancy will go wrong despite everybody’s best efforts. If you are a Howsy Landlord and your tenants passed our referencing process, including guarantor backed tenancies, our Free Eviction Service will handle the entire eviction process on your behalf and cover the bill.

For any questions about Howsy or our Free Eviction Service, chat to us, email [email protected], or call us on 0330 999 1234
Disclaimer: this guide is for informative purposes only, if you need advice specific to a particular situation please get in touch with a solicitor.

With the winter chill finally settling in, with it comes many issues that affect our homes – one of which being mould caused by high levels of condensation.
Condensation happens when warm, moist air is produced in a property – which then hits cold surfaces such as in and around windows, causing condensation.
Anywhere that condensation forms – mould will soon follow…
First of all, you’ll start to see greeny black specks start to appear on walls. Usually, this will be around windows – but could appear anywhere where steam can turn into condensation by coming into contact with a cold surface i.e behind furniture, on walls in bathrooms and kitchens.
It’s important to do as much as possible to prevent and treat any mould caused by condensation – for both cosmetic and health reasons.
 
Here’s our top tips on how to reduce condensation and prevent mould growth 💧 :
 

  • Condensation usually builds overnight. You can reduce this by “cross ventilating” the property. Open a small window downstairs by just a small amount, and do the same with a window upstairs (or opposite ends of the property if you’re in a flat). Keep all internal doors open – this enables air to circulate around the property. (Always remember to make sure windows are secure if you go out!).

 

  • Make sure the kitchen is ventilated if you are cooking or washing up. If you have a window – open it! If not, always be sure to make use of a cooker extractor or extractor fan.

 

  • Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but try not to use radiators to dry clothes. All of that moisture is coming straight out of your fresh linen and straight into your inside space. If you have a tumble dryer, make sure it is properly vented outside (unless it’s a new type condenser dryer).

 

  • If you prefer to have a bath rather than a shower, run cold water BEFORE the hot. Believe it or not, this significantly reduces steam which can lead to up to 90% of total condensation.

 

  • If you’re cooking, or washing – be sure to keep both the kitchen and bathroom doors closed when you are using these rooms. This will help to stop moisture creeping through the rest of the house.

 

  • Always take extra ventilation measures after using the kitchen or bathroom. By opening a small window or using a fitted extractor for just 15-20 minutes, you can effectively reduce the amount of moisture build-up within the property. (Extractor fans are cheap to run and can be very effective).

 

  • We strongly advise against using bottled gas heaters. The safety of running such heaters is somewhat questionable, and they also produce over one litre of water vapour for every litre of fuel used.

 

  • Most windows have small vents with covers located at the top of the frame – these are called ‘trickle vents’. These are a great way to ventilate your bedroom, as well as leaving your window open slightly during the night (if safe to do so).

 

  • Do not attempt to draught proof any room with a condensation problem or where there is a heater or a cooker that burns gas or solid fuel

 

  • Do not draughtproof any bathroom or kitchen windows. These windows provide natural and helpful ventilation from rooms most likely to generate moisture.

 

  • Never block ventilators or airbricks for the same reason as above.

 

  • Whenever possible, try to ensure during the colder months that there is some heating on within the property. Even at a low level, this enables surfaces to retain some warmness which will, in turn, reduce condensation.

 

  • If you don’t have heating in every room, keep the doors of unheated rooms open to allow heat from other rooms to travel through.

 

  • During the winter, indoor house plants can produce more moisture in the air. Try moving these outside in the colder months

 

  • Another option is to purchase an electric dehumidifier. These start from around £40 and will automatically turn on to absorb excess moisture levels within the air.

 
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still having problems, be sure to mention any issues you have to our Property Management Team.