When taking over the management of properties from other agents we often encounter one particular issue. Whether or not we are entitled to the tenant’s references and whether or not the previous agent is entitled to rely on the UK General Data Protection Regulations when refusing to release it. 

Is a landlord entitled to a tenant’s reference?

Put simply, yes, a landlord is legally entitled to their tenant’s reference. It is in fact a common misunderstanding in the lettings industry that a landlord is not entitled to a tenant’s reference for GDPR reasons. 

When agents act on behalf of landlords they do so under the law of agency. This means that when a landlord instructs an agent they are instructed entirely on the landlord’s behalf. By the very nature of the agent and landlord relationship, an agent is an extension of a landlord and acts on their behalf. Therefore when an agent secures a tenant they do so on behalf of the landlord and arrange for a tenancy agreement to be signed between the landlord and tenant. This of course means that there is in fact no contractual relationship between the agent and tenant. 

Any agent acting on behalf of their client the landlord is required to do so in their best interest. Landlords are ordinarily not a party or aware of the exchange between agents and tenants however, they are entitled to their tenancy documents, including references on demand due the agents responsibility and duty to account. 

Tenant references and data protection

Further with regards to the specific statement that references cannot be provided for GDPR reasons, this is wholly misconceived. Agents obtain references on behalf of their clients and they belong to those landlords. In fact when agents obtain these references they do so as data processors and it is the landlord that is the data controller for GDPR purposes. This means that agents are freed from many of the ordinary responsibilities for data protection that apply in this scenario. 

Read more about data processors and controllers and their respective roles in data protection.

Furthermore, having paid for the references a landlord is entitled to them not only to be confident about the person renting their property but also to ensure that the references have been obtained in the first instance. 

Finally, an agent can pass over data for processing by the landlord if it falls within the legitimate interests processing basis under the GDPR. Clearly, it is a legitimate interest of the landlord to have a copy of the references belonging to the tenant because they will have an interest in the identity of the person occupying their property as well as their ability to meet the tenancy obligations.

Gurdeep Clair
In-house Legal Counsel

Long gone are the days where an evening’s entertainment is confined to only four channels. With thousands of channels offering unlimited options, it is no surprise that many tenants are keen to have satellite tv options installed in their rental properties.

So, if a renter requests a satellite service, what should a landlord say? After all, with satellite dishes adorning the roof and cabling snaking through the inside, installing entertainment isn’t always a simple job. 

On the flip side, once the components are in place to receive satellite services they will remain in situ even after the current tenant leaves and this can be a real selling point for future tenants, who wouldn’t have to worry about arranging installation themselves!

Getting appropriate permissions

Any permanent changes that a tenant wants to make to a rental property should of course be ok’d by the landlord, and having satellite TV fitted should be no different.

Whether the subscription requires the installation of a dish or just internal cabling, changes are required to be made to the property, and as such it is important that the landlord gives their full approval before the tenant proceeds.

As well as being good rental practice, there are certain elements of an installation that a tenant may not have considered – failing to tick all of the correct boxes before pressing ahead could leave the property owner in trouble!

For example, if the landlord is a leaseholder, they may have to get the permission of the freeholder before making changes to the exterior of the property. This could mean reaching out for permission for a tenant to erect a satellite dish. On the flip side, there may be strict rules in place over whether dishes are allowed at all, they may be deemed to infringe on common areas of the property (the exterior) and be against the rules. Installing one dish could break the terms of a landlord’s lease.

Even if the property isn’t bound by a leasehold agreement, there are other potential pitfalls to consider. Blocks of flats often have limits to how many dishes are allowed (more on managing this below) and listed buildings are unlikely to be granted planning permission to erect a dish.

If you are unsure if your property is bound by any planning permission regulations, clear guidelines are available in the Householders Guide to Antennas and the Government’s Planning Portal.

Is there a chance of damage?

If your tenant is having a reputable organisation carry out the satellite dish installation, there should be no major concerns about damage.

The installer will attend the property and assess the best location for the dish, and any internal cabling. The dish installation will require a hole to be drilled through the property’s external wall to allow a cable to be passed through, and then the dish will be mounted onto the external wall. The engineer will position the dish to be angled to pick up the satellites required to access the service – usually this is south facing. The dish will be positioned in a location that it can be accessed for maintenance, if needed. Depending on the location of the dish, the installer may need to drill a hole in the external wall to secure their ladders, however all holes will be made good.

Ask to be present during the installation so you are able to query any issues you have a concern over. If there are any problems with damage, raise them with the service provider. Sky have an Engineer Complaints Department and if a complaint is made a manager will be sent out to review the situation and resolve it. It is worth noting that Sky does use third party engineers for communal set ups and work higher than first floors.

With a dish in situ, it is advisable to add the dish to your list of points to check when you carry out your maintenance checks on the property – they can be sensitive to high winds, so make sure you keep an eye on it if the weather takes a turn! If your property is overseen by a letting agent or property management agent, be sure to let them know that it has been installed and should be monitored.

Tenancy agreements

If there are any strong elements one way or another regarding the installation of satellite tv services, it is wise to include details in the tenancy agreement, so that your tenant is aware of the situation from the start of the process. This would be a reasonable restriction, if it was made clear from the start. 

If the property’s permissions prohibit the installation of a satellite dish, consider including a clause in the agreement specifically prohibiting them. Most agreements include a general clause prohibiting changes to the property without consent, however it is wise to be very clear if there is a specific issue, such as the potential breach of a leasehold.

If a tenant chooses to ignore this clause, they are in breach of the rental agreement and the landlord would have options with regards to how to proceed.  Eviction proceedings could be started, using a Section 8 notice using ground 12 (Breach of tenancy obligation) or a Section 21 no-fault notice. The Section 8 notice has a two-week notice period, but is a discretionary ground, meaning its success is down to a Judge’s decision. With this in mind, if eviction is the end goal, a Section 21 no-fault notice, with a two-month notice period, is a more reliable option.

If the issue is not quite so severe as to want to evict tenants, but damage has been caused in the installation of the dish, it is possible to highlight this to a deposit protection scheme at the end of the tenancy. Rectifying the issue may require remedial work, the cost of which can be recovered from the tenant’s security deposit.

Alternative options

Before worrying too much about the impact of a satellite dish on the aesthetic of your property, you could look into the possibility of ‘dishless’ options instead.

Sky provide the Sky Q option which is able to be installed without a dish – instead being delivered through a box via a broadband connection. Virgin Media is delivered through cable, which prevents the need for a dish – however this isn’t available everywhere, so make sure to check.

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!

For some reason, switching letting agents is one of those things that you just don’t do. It falls into the same category as changing your bank, your internet provider, or your phone contract: you know you might save a bit of money, but the hassle just doesn’t seem worth it. 

Well guess what? Things are changing. Traditional estate agents might take advantage of your fear of the unknown, trapping you into staying with a service that’s just ‘fine’ – but it’s actually far easier to switch agents than you might think. And there’s a lot for savvy landlords to gain by doing so.

1. You could pay much less

Ultimately, pricing is probably your first priority when deciding whether to switch letting agents. And you’re right to be sceptical of the prices charged by traditional agents. Especially since the introduction of legislation like the Tenant Fee Ban (which eliminates a lot of the fees agents are used to getting from tenants), many letting agents are simply finding ways to transfer that ‘lost income’ onto their landlords.

This is where the new breed of agents come in. Our pricing systems are totally different – instead of stacking fees for each service, repair, or item of paperwork, newer agents may give you a flat fee that covers everything you’ll need as a landlord. (Howsy do exactly that – and our plans start at just £35/month). It could be worth switching just to know all your costs are covered in one place, and especially if it’s going to be cheaper.

2. New ideas and technology

Unlike traditional letting agents, newer agents aren’t set in their ways. We don’t just do things ‘because it’s always been done this way’. Simply put, we’re more likely to be keen, flexible, and eager to impress you – and we’ve got the tools to show the dinosaurs how it’s done. 

Take this quote from Howsy founder Calum: 

‘We don’t indulge in stylish offices and fancy cars. We keep our operational costs low, and use the best technology to automate routine tasks, so our focus is on you and your tenants.’ 

Up and coming tech solutions can save online agents so much time and cost, we’re able to spend more time on building better relationships with our landlords, and reduce the upfront cost for our customers too. So a newer agent’s service isn’t just likely to be cheaper – it could be better, quicker, and more personalised. 

3. Better communication 

Maybe your agent was great at the start, but their service has tailed off now they’ve got your business? Once the honeymoon period is over, it can feel like you’ve been pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. 

Especially compared to more traditional estate agents, online agents can offer quicker and communication on the platforms that suit you best – text, chat, phone, whatsapp, email, online dashboards. Some agents even offer 24/7 availability instead of working strict office hours (we certainly do 😎). 

When you run into issues with late rent payments, maintenance issues or finding a new tenant at short notice, the last thing you want is your agent dragging their feet – so switching agents can be worth it just to know you’ll actually get someone useful on the end of the phone, whenever you need them.

Getting itchy feet? We don’t blame you! Luckily, switching agents can be much easier than you think. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Give notice. 
    • Check your contract for how long this needs to be. It can make sense to wait until the end of a tenancy agreement, but you don’t have to.
  • Pay any exit fees.
    • It depends on your contract, but if the agent hasn’t delivered on what they agreed at the start, you may be able to negotiate these fees down, or in the case of a serious breach of contract, waive them completely. 
  • Keep your tenants informed.
    • Get your tenants’ contact details if you don’t have them, and get in touch to reassure them that it’s just the agent you’re changing, not them (unless they’re part of the problem – then you might need to think about evictions). 
  • Arrange the transfer of the deposit.
    • Make sure it’s securely transferred from one scheme to another, as there are very strict requirements for handling your renter’s deposit – it shouldn’t go anywhere near your personal account! This doesn’t need to be a hassle, though: your new agent should be able to take care of it for you.
  • Collect keys and paperwork from your old agent.
  • Set up your new tenancy agreement with the new agent.
  • Benefit from the level of service you should have been getting all along – at a cheaper price 😉

If that list looks like a lot of hassle, that’s okay – because ALL of this can be handled by your new agent. They can liaise with your old agent on everything from drawing up new agreements to speaking to your tenants, to collecting the keys and sorting out the deposit.

If the honeymoon phase is over and your agent is giving you sub-par service, you don’t have to put up with it. Get in touch with us to find out how much time, money and hassle you could save by switching agents.

Most landlords nowadays aren’t property magnates: they’re landlords ‘on the side’, and have another job they need to keep on top of. Between work, fun and family, there’s not much time going spare – so the last thing you want to waste your free time on is an inbox full of landlord problems! 

Especially if you’re paying for the services of a lettings agent, your property should be fully optimised, from top to bottom, and delivering the most bang for your buck. So we’ve researched the 5 top areas where ‘part-time’ landlords are wasting time or money – just to check you’re making the most of your assets. 

5 mistakes landlords are making

1. Settling on your choice of tenants

They might seem great on paper, but the credit check comes back looking a bit dodgy, or they can’t provide a guarantor. A few months down the line you might find they’re not taking good care of the property, or even subletting. Trust us – it pays to spend a little more time and effort finding the right people in the first place and do a comprehensive background check – this could save you weeks of legal nightmares and missed rent payments later on in the tenancy.

2. Lengthy communications with tenants

How many hours have you wasted just waiting for a response or some paperwork from your tenants? If you can’t get them to answer the phone, or they won’t reply to emails quickly, there could be a simple solution that saves you heaps of time. 

Instead of getting frustrated at the radio silence, try staying in touch on different channels that work for your tenants. If they use Whatsapp, set up a group chat with them (this also allows you to see when they’ve received your message!). Try sending a text if they don’t pick up when you call – plenty of people (especially younger generations) just don’t like speaking on the phone. If they prefer email, try to subtly set deadlines each time you email them – then if they don’t reply, you’re more able to move forwards in whatever process you’re managing.

Simply put, communicating clearly and in channels that work for everyone can save you a ton of hassle, and you could end up with a much better relationship with your tenants overall – it’s a win-win.

3. Shoddy or last-minute repairs

It’s a common phrase for a reason: when you buy cheap, you really do end up buying twice, and deal with twice as much admin. This is called an ‘opportunity cost’. Being a great landlord means truly investing in your property – and investments are a long-term deal. So make sure you’re budgeting enough to deal with repairs properly when they inevitably come up.

Don’t just paint over the mould once a year, don’t buy the cheapest Argos furniture and expect it to last for decades, and always check the reviews on your handyman! You’ll spend less money and time in the long run, and your tenants will be more likely to take good care of a property that’s clearly been invested in.

4. Becoming a legal expert

As a landlord you need to be up to date on changes to legislation that affect you and your tenants. Take the new tenant fees ban – you could end up being prosecuted or fined if you charge tenants for things that would have been totally legitimate just a few months ago!

If property law really gets you excited, you could always keep on top of this yourself, by subscribing to a couple of newsletters like Landlord Today (and actually reading them!).

But for the rest of us, it’s crucial to know that your agent is 100% on top of the latest developments in property law, and keeping you informed of all updates. This saves you a lot of time spent googling, reading and worrying – but the question is, can you trust your agent to keep you in the loop?

5. Waiting for late rent

First of all, if your tenants are late paying rent, there’s the potential time-suck of emailing them and chasing payments. Then, if it continues to be a problem, there’s the potential to claim missed payments back on rent guarantee insurance. Yippee – not only are you out of pocket, you’re also saddled with a ton of paperwork and legal hassle. 

There is a solution for missed rent payments (other than finding the right tenants in the first place – see number 1). Especially if you’re letting in an area with a high tenant turnover, or dealing with less financially stable renters like students, you could benefit from a guaranteed rent policy that offers upfront missed rent payments. 

Ideally letting your property should be a more ‘passive’ source of income for you. So if it feels like your property or renters are taking up too much of your time, it’s worth looking into ways of optimising your process. 

Hopefully the above will give you some ideas for optimising your property yourself. But if you consider the time and effort you could sink into self-managing your property, you might not be breaking even. After all, isn’t this all meant to give you more time to spend on yourself?

It could be even more efficient to let an expert take care of it for you, and you don’t have to pay a premium for the service either. In fact it could be cheaper than your current set-up! With newer online agents like Howsy, the above services and more can be covered for as little as £35/month.

The new Tenant Fee Ban now effects all residential landlords in England. Whether you know much about it or not, landlords can’t afford to ignore the new legislation. Those who do risk facing a big fine. Here’s what you need to know…

What is the Tenant Fee Ban?

The Tenants Fee Act 2019 came into effect 1 June, making it now illegal to charge unfair additional fees — such as an admin fee — to tenants when they take on a new property, or renew a contract.

The ban automatically applies to all new contracts signed after 1 June 2019. From 1 June 2020 it will apply to all other applicable tenancy contracts too.

Why has the Tenant Fee Ban been introduced?

To make renting fairer for private tenants who for too long were being charged unfair fees each time they went to rent a new property.

Private renters in England — including families with dependent children — have been paying £13 million a month in letting fees, says Citizens Advice. One in seven tenants paid over £700, while one shelled out over £2000 for the privilege of moving into one property! 

The old ‘system’ was especially harsh on those forced to look for a new place because their landlord was selling up. In other words, it wasn’t their choice to move.

When landlords use a traditional letting agent to let out their property, the agent would charge to cover the purported costs of credit checks, referencing and drawing up the tenancy agreement, for example. Charges could also include a mandatory inventory fee, contract renewal fee, and an ‘admin fee’.

With so many people moving home every year, such fees could put a huge strain of families and individuals. Research by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau reveals that 42% of renters had to borrow money just to pay their tenant fees.

What does the tenant fee ban mean for landlords?

The government estimates that in its first year it could cost landlords up to £83m, and letting agents £157m.

What’s certain is that landlords cannot now lawfully charge:

  • Viewing fees 
  • All fees associated with setting up a tenancy, including referencing, inventory and credit checks
  • Check-out fees 
  • Third party fees 
  • Gardening services.

You can, however, charge for:

  • Rent
  • A refundable tenancy deposit (maximum five weeks’ rent, or six if the annual is £50,000 or more)
  • A holding deposit (capped at one week’s rent)
  • Replacing lost keys
  • Any changes the tenant asks to be made to the contract (capped at £50)
  • Bills, such as council tax, water, broadband, TV licence
  • Ending the contract early
  • Late rent payments (after 14 days, and only if written in the contract)
  • Cleaning fees in extreme circumstances.

Tenant fees account for about 19% of a letting agent’s income, with some agencies reporting as much as 30% of their annual income from tenant fees alone. Agents will look to recover this by increasing the fees they charge the landlords.

While many have argued that the landlord will in turn increase the rent they charge, there’s evidence this may not happen. The ban was introduced in Scotland in 2012,  yet only 2% of Scottish landlords were able to put up their rents because of the fee ban. Which means the hit is to be absorbed between landlords and letting agents. 

Experts agree that the most likely outcomes for landlords now are:

  • Face longer void periods because they increased rents to cover costs
  • Cut back on making improvements, which will see them unable to raise the rent or attract better-quality tenants
  • Decide to ‘self-manage’ their properties rather than use an agent, which will see many landlords struggling to stay abreast of property rules.

In Wales, agents and landlords will be banned from charging for viewings, signing a contract or renewing a tenancy from September. Northern Ireland have yet to announce a ban on tenant fees.

What is the risk of non-compliance?

Landlords and lettings agents who ignore the ban face an initial fine of up to £5,000. Those committing another breach within five years may be fined a maximum of an extra £30,000, and may possibly be taken to court.

The changes aren’t retrospective, so landlords and agents will not be penalised for fees already paid. They do, however, apply to all landlords, even those who only own one property.

Howsy — the smarter solution

We started Howsy to provide a fairer, kinder lettings service for both landlords and tenants. This is why we don’t charge our landlords or our tenants for:

  • advertising the property on big property search websites
  • referencing and credit checks
  • arranging viewings, or
  • drafting and renewing contracts. 

And we don’t take any ‘admin fees’ either. This was true before the new ban.

In fact, Howsy landlords don’t pay a thing until AFTER the tenants have moved in. And our tenants don’t pay anything besides their rent and deposit.

We offer a complete property management service for just £35 a month anywhere in England, and £55pm inside the M25. As a landlord, you’ll be completely covered for repairs, inspections and rent collections. And even for the eventuality that you’ll need new tenants.

For savvy landlords, this is the time to start looking around for better alternatives to your letting agent. Unlike Howsy’s model, getting out of a contract with a traditional letting agent can take up to six months. 

So, waiting until the last moment to start shopping around could mean facing the double impact of increased letting agent fees and the next Section 24 increase. Act now and protect your profits.

To find out more about what we can do for landlords, email us or call us on 0330 999 1234 today.

Studies suggest that landlord stress is growing year on year. Whether it’s dealing with difficult tenants or late rent payments, landlords face a number of worries.
However, it’s large costs for unexpected urgent repairs that can cause the biggest headaches. A call from a tenant saying they have no hot water and a possible boiler breakdown has to rank amongst high amongst the types of calls landlords do not want to receive!
Being prepared for such an emergency can be a lifeline at a difficult time. Our advice? If you are a smart landlord, get a Landlord Boiler Cover insurance and save yourself the stress.
Boiler cover is there to help the landlord if the boiler in any one their properties packs up. It ensures renters are not left without heating for longer than is absolutely necessary, saves the landlord money and, just as importantly, removes a whole lot of stress.
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure your tenants are not left without heating, but repairs to a boiler can be expensive. Costs can be as high as £2,000 which is why a good landlord boiler insurance policy can be vital.

Choosing the best landlord boiler cover

As with any other insurance product, ‘you get what you pay for.’ Basic options will leave you with only limited cover, but will cost less per month, while the most expensive premiums will ensure all your bases are covered.
In general, you’ll have two options:

  • Boiler cover only: This is a relatively affordable option and will only cover you for the cost of repair to your boiler. Other costs, such as repairs to your pipes, will not be included.
  • Boiler and central heating cover: This insures your entire central heating system including your boiler, pipes, radiator and central heating pumps. It costs more each month but offers the most extensive cover.

You might also choose home emergency cover. This is cheaper than the other options and provides cover for various emergency repairs for your property, including your boiler. This, though, only covers to a limit of £500 which will only insure you for the most basic repairs.

Deciding on the best policy

Boiler cover insurance is often included as part of your wider landlord insurance products. This can be a little cheaper, but it doesn’t always ensure you get the best policy for your situation. Taking out a separate policy will give you a chance to tailor it to your needs. Your energy supplier may also offer boiler cover as part of the service. Again, this takes away some of the stress, but you may not get the best deal for you as a landlord.
You can choose the level of excess you pay – namely the amount of money beyond which you will pay for repairs. This can save day to day costs, although you will need to be certain that you can afford to pay the excess in an emergency.
Many services also include landlord boiler cover with CP12 excess. This policy includes the annual inspection for a gas safety certificate and an annual boiler service, and can be a good way to reduce the burden of fulfilling your obligations. Some insurers, though, may require you to check your boiler with a Gas Safety engineer before they will give you boiler cover.

Things to think about

The costs of boiler cover can vary from around £5 to £20 per month so it’s worth shopping around to find the best deals. Some insurers may not be willing to cover you if your boiler is older than seven years. There are various schemes to encourage you to replace an old boiler with a more energy efficient new boiler which cost less to run and reduce your carbon footprint.
Most of all, this is a low stress way to meet your obligations as a landlord. You have to make all reasonable efforts to provide a good environment for your tenants. Landlord insurance isn’t mandatory, but it will provide peace of mind, save you from call out charges and that can be worth the money alone.