Jul 27

The AIIC call for mandatory independent inventories

After another truly busy student season, and July isn’t quite over yet, I thought I’d add a blog post. As I was wondering what fascinating aspect of the job I could write about I received this in my email. Food for thought!

https://www.landlordtoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2018/7/aiic-continue-to-push-for-mandatory-independent-inventories

I am biased, I chose to be a member of The AIIC as it made sense to me that clerks should not be tied to letting agencies and that landlords are better off not trying to make their own reports, not to mention tenants can better rely on independent schedules of condition. I wonder if anyone other than us clerks ever actually think about this?

Feb 11

How To Rent update

The government updated the How To Rent booklet in January this year.

Link to government website here

I was asked if this means that all tenants should be given a copy of this, after all page 2 does include the sentence “Your landlord must provide you with a copy of  this booklet, so use the checklist and keep it safe to protect yourself from problems at every stage”. The tenant who asked me was wondering if her landlord had broken the rules by not giving her the new version.

PRS_Logo_high-smallI had no idea, so I did a bit of research. Happily the Property Redress Scheme have issued some clear guidance on this so I have been able to reassure the tenant that her landlord does not need to issue her with every update. What landlords must do is issue the most recent version of Right to Rent to all new tenants and to any existing tenants at renewal of a tenancy.

You can read their advice here

 

Jan 26

Let’s Talk About Lights

The Problem of Light BulbsPendent

Somehow the simple light bulb causes a lot of issues for tenant and landlord alike. I often get asked “Who is responsible for making sure that the light bulbs in a rented property are working?”

The answer is as simple as:

  • Between tenancies the landlord should make sure that all bulbs in the property are working
  • During the tenancy the tenant will need to replace all bulbs, fluorescent tubes (and fuses and any replaceable filters) as and when necessary. The landlord should supply any User Manuals, if required.

Wall

But, I hear you cry, what if the fitting is weird, too high, too expensive?

Well, that depends. For example, this wall fitting has normal bulbs and only takes a moment to change the bulb.
Chandelier
This chandelier also has ordinary fittings and bulbs and so the tenant would be expected to replace them, each and every one. Although it gives off adequate light it does look very sad with only half of its bulbs working.

 

IMG_4297Unusual Fittings

But what of this glorious fitting?

Well! For one thing the ceiling was double height and a step ladder should have been needed. For another, that thing looks very heavy and very expensive. This is one that I would recommend the landlord maintains. That would also be my advice if a fitting was in any way difficult to access; if the fitting was unusual or the bulbs in any way unusual.

The landlord would always have the the choice of providing a user manual, and maybe a demonstration of how to change a particular bulb, or to hire a maintenance company to maintain any unusual or difficult to access light fitting.

If you do have an odd light fitting then the best starting point is at the viewing. Ask the landlord, or agent, abut the fitting. Ask them who is responsible for its maintenance. Then, before signing, check in your tenancy agreement. What does it say about that fitting? If in doubt ask the landlord or agent to clarify the situation.

Remember, at the end of your tenancy you are responsible for making sure that all the bulbs are in place and working. Deductions from your deposit can be made for the cost of replacing any bulbs.

Sep 09

Crikey! What a busy time that was!

I know, I should have expected it, but July and August, and even the first week of September, have been really, truly busy. All of my clients have had so much work, from student lets to the largest of houses, it feels as though all of them have been vacated, spruced up and re-let in just 10 weeks!

So maybe this is something tenants and landlords might need to know: your local, friendly clerk may be fully booked in July / August, so remember to book early.

I have had a few queries from new landlords who were uncertain as to whether they needed my services or not. Happily the DPS have a great poster about inventories:

DPS Inventory Tips

DPS Inventory Tips

 

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Apr 30

One of those things!

Just a quick post.

What is this? Can you tell? And if you can, can you tell me why??

Hint: In a ceiling… but I had no idea why. Fortunately  the landlord did 🙂

What is it

Apr 21

Property Scam Awareness Week

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April 24th to 28th

Anthony Gold Solicitors and website Property Tribes are running a property fraud awareness week. The aim is to promote public awareness of how to avoid being a victim of property-related fraud.

They will highlight scams including the  ‘sellers’ who do not own the property; agents taking deposits for non-existent tenancies; rent-to-rent and sub-letting scams; and massive returns being promised for investments in property that will never materialise.

To see videos, articles and case histories go to the Property Tribes website http://www.propertytribes.com

The schedule is as below:

Monday: Psychology of scams, with David Wedgwood

Tuesday: Property investment and mentoring scams, with Clifford Tibber

Wednesday: Rent to Rent scams, with David Smith

Thursday: Identity theft scams, with Beth Holden

Friday: Lettings agent scams, with David Smith.

 

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Apr 03

MyDeposits warns about deposit scheme scam!

WarningMydeposits says it is aware of a new scam being used by a fraudulent company imitating mydeposits and targeting landlords and letting agent members of the mydeposits Custodial scheme in England & Wales. Read more about it here:

http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/news/mydeposits-issues-deposit-scam-warning

 

 

Mar 09

Checking Out: From The Top

STEF-COOKE-LOGOWhat Happens During a Check Out?

Leaving a rented property can be an exciting time, moving on to new possibilities. It can also be sad, leaving behind the scene of all those good times. But it is always an anxious time, for landlord and tenant alike.  Will the property be as it was at the beginning of the tenancy? What was it really like at the beginning of the tenancy? Well, that’s why it’s a good idea to get an independent inventory clerk in to do a check in and check out.

We develop an eye for detail, a nose for issues, a list of things tenants and landlords always seem to want to discuss.

So, from the top: What will I be looking for at Check Out?

From The Top: Ceilings

What is on a ceiling? No, not spiders (or I will have to leave)! Light fittings with or withoutLights lightbulbs. I turn on every single light in a property and make note of whether or not it works or not. I also note every missing lightbulb. Even if your light fitting looks like this. There were three of these and one single, solitary light bulb was not working. I am proud to say that yes, I did notice!

When you leave there should be the same number of working light bulbs as there were at check in. If not I will leave a note “Tenant to replace at cost”.

If you think counting light bulbs is a funny thing to do for a living, I also count every light switch and plug socket!

Smoke/Heat/CO Alarms:

  • Every inhabitable floor should have a working smoke alarm.
  • Every room with a solid fuel burning device should have a CO alarm.
  • A heat alarm is not the same as a smoke alarm and can only be used in addition to a smoke alarm, not in place of one.

Following a recent calamity, involving water sprinklers, The AIIC have advised all Clerks not to push the test buttons on mains wired alarms. So, if your alarms are mains wired I will make note of there being an alarm in place and whether there is a power light visible. However, if your alarms are battery operated I will push the Test button and record if they sound or not.

When you move in the alarms should all be in place and work. That is your landlord’s responsibility. If a battery operated alarm needs new batteries during your tenancy, it is your responsibility to replace the, keeping all fitted alarms in good working order. That includes not removing or covering them!

 

Next in this series: Walls. What’s on Yours?

Mar 06

Preparing Your Property To Be Let

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 So, you want to rent out a property for the first time. I won’t pretend to be able to lead you through all of the legalities of Right to Rent etc, but I have seen a lot of properties and have a good idea of what issues can occur. From cleaning to insurances, gardens to trickle vents, I have tried to cover much of it here.

 

Is it clean? Is it really clean?

I can’t recommend that you look for a good, professional cleaner enough. Interview a couple, see what they have to say about end of let cleans, choose one you think best matches your own ideas of the perfect clean. For your own peace of mind this is one expense that is, in my opinion, well worth factoring in to every new lTDS statset!

I would definitely recommend that you have a professional clean including carpets before letting your property for the first time. This will help you to ensure that tenants see the need for a professional clean on exit. Since its inception the TDS have dealt with more cleaning/damage issues than any other!

 

Furnished or unfurnished?

If you provide kitchen appliances and furniture these form part of the tenancy and, as the landlord, it is your responsibility to repair or replace them.

Before letting make sure furniture, equipment, fixtures and fittings are in good working order. Collect together all possible instruction leaflets / user manual, many can be downloaded from the internet. Put all user manuals for all equipment, including central heating system, ovens, washing machines, into a folder and mark it “User Manuals, Do Not Remove”. I will repeat that in the inventory and check it is still there at check out!

 

If you are providing soft furnishings then anything which is upholstered or has a filling i.e. mattresses, pillows, padded headboaFire labelrds, cushions, sofas, armchairs etc., must carry permanent labels indicating that they meet official fire resistant standards. I will only add, please don’t cut them off or tuck them in so that I can’t find them! Make sure the fire labels are still in place, and that I can access them! I would recommend you provide mattress protectors, but not necessarily bed linen.  If you want your table tops to be protected then you could also provide table protectors.

Flooring

If you choose carpets they will become use worn, Doorways and other natural walk ways will show signs of heavier wear. It is inevitable that there will eventually be some furniture indents. Wooden and laminate floors will also become marked with use, furniture will inevitably leave marks. You can ask that your tenants use castor cups and/or furniture pads, you may want to provide them. You can even make sure your tenancy agreement makes it clear they must be used. You can also give clear instructions about wearing of shoes indoors.

But, I hear you ask, won’t that put off some tenants? Yes, it will! Mainly the ones who won’t be quite so careful about your carpets and laminate flooring.

 

VentilationTrickle vent

If your windows have trickle vents, please leave instructions on how to use them. You could also leave a note on use of any extractor fans used. Simply leave written instructions in the User Manual folder, explaining how tenants can sue them to avoid condensation and damp issues.

Be assured that I also add notes on this to every Inventory.

 

Paperwork

Then there are the legal requirements for paperwork:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent/how-to-rent-the-checklist-for-renting-in-england

This clearly states that the Landlord MUST provide every tenancy with:

  • A copy of this guide “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” either via a link or as a printed copy.
  • A gas safety certificate. The landlord must provide one each year, if there is a gas installation.
  • Deposit paperwork. If there is a deposit, the landlord must protect it in a government approved scheme and provide the official information from the scheme.
  • Energy Performance Certificate. This will affect energy bills and the landlord must provide one (except for Houses in Multiple Occupation).

It also clearly states that a landlord cannot evict a tenant until all of the above has been supplied.

 

For any and all electrical installations and equipment the following legislations apply:

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

  • Any property over ten years old should have a fixed wiring test carried out by an electrician employed by one of the statutory Electrical Companies, or who is recognised by the NICEIC.
  • All portable appliances being left in the property i.e. washing machine, fridge, freezer, microwave, kettle, lawnmower etc. must have a Portable Appliance Test carried out on them.
  • Gas fittings and equipment should have a gas safety certificate.
  • The checks and necessary work must be carried out by CORGI registered or engineers employed by the statutory Gas Companies.

 

Smoke and CO Alarms

You MUST supply the correct smoke and CO alarms, according to The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. That is a smoke alarm on every inhabitable floor and a CO alarm in every room that has a solid fuel burning device, such as a coal fire or wood burner. It is your responsibility to ensure they are all in place and working at the beginning of every tenancy.

I include them in every report I make: inventory, check in, interim and check out.

 

Gardens

Beds, lawns etc, should be neat and tidy at the start of the rental. If the tenant is to maintain the garden this should be stated in the tenancy agreement and appropriate equipment provided. But, you do have to remember that the tenant may not have a green thumb and may not be able to provide the living tender care some plants need to survive.

I will add a more detailed information sheet on this later’.

 

Insurance

You should make arrangements to insure both the building and any contents you intend to leave. As landlord you must ensure that you have informed your insurers of your intention to let the property. Insurance for both buildings and contents will provide the necessary cover for Property Owners Liability and essential Public Liability Cover.

 

Utilities & meters

In the User IMG_8885Manual folder you could also leave details of the location and accessing of all meters and their reference numbers.

I always look in that folder for this information, especially if I can’t find a water meter. I can’t tell you how often I have spent 10 minutes or so looking for a water meter that does not exist!

 

Maintenance / Repairs

Check that you are sure about your responsibility for maintenance and repairs. It may be a good idea to talk to a few repair men and home service engineers, to start building a good relationship with them, or to buy the necessary insurance covers, where appropriate. Landlords are normally responsible for repairs to the property. It is a legal condition of any tenancy that the landlord must keep the structure of the premises inside and out in good repair, to include decoration, gutters and drains. This also includes all installations supplying water, gas, electricity, oil, sanitation, hot water and space heating should be kept in working order.

 

Inventory

And finally! Before you call me to make your first inventory please ensure that all works are completed and that the property is presented as it will be when the new tenant moves in. I have worked around a carpet fitter, edged past decorators and even agreed to inventory a bathroom an hour before the check in, the shower cubicle hadn’t arrived when I did the inventory. But it really isn’t best practice and could cost you more money if I have to do a revisit to include the last piece of work after completion.

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Jul 07

We are now members of The PRS

 

STEF-COOKE-LOGOPRS_Logo_high-smallAs members of the AIIC we are now also members of the PRS, one of the three consumer redress schemes authorised by the Department for Communities and Local Government and National Trading Standards Institute, whose role it is to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes between members of the public and property agents and professionals.

smallShould we receive a complaint, the AIIC Complaints Procedure should be followed in the first instance. However, should the complainant feel they have suffered a financial loss, they will be able to seek an independent adjudication and financial redress through the PRS.

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