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Comment: April 1 could be no joke for landlords

Electrical safety

Nobody knows why we celebrate April Fools on 1 April or why, for one morning each year, it’s acceptable for us to play pranks on each other. It’s just another one of those traditions whose exact origins have been lost in the mists of time. 

What is for sure, however, is if you’re a landlord who hasn’t had electrical safety inspections carried out on your properties by 1 April, then the joke could be on you.  

From that date, landlords failing to ensure that existing tenancies haven’t received a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report could be in for a nasty shock. And I’m not talking about one of those static ones you sometimes get from accidentally rubbing up against something; I’m talking about one in the form of a potential fine of up to £30,000. 

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) regulations came into force on 1 July 2020 to ensure all landlords were offering high-quality, safe and secure housing. For the first nine months, the standards only applied to most new residential tenancies, but from 1 April they will encompass both new and existing tenancies. 

All rented properties need to be certified as safe by way of an EICR prepared by a suitably ‘qualified and competent’ person. As part of the report, all fixed electrical parts of the property, including the wiring, plug sockets, light fittings and the fuse box need to be inspected and tested, as well as permanently connected equipment, such as showers and extractors. 

Landlords are obliged to provide their tenants with a copy of the report within 28 days of the inspection, as well as retaining a copy of the report until the next inspection is due. They also need to ensure the electrical installations in their properties are inspected and tested at least every five years thereafter. 

Landlords failing to have these checks completed by a qualified professional could be fined up to £5,000 for a first offence and up to £30,000 if they reoffend. 

So where do you turn if you’re approached by a landlord who needs to access the finance to buy a new investment property, but one which needs work to bring it up to the required electrical safety standards before they can rent it out? 

This is the sort of scenario where Refurbishment Buy to Let could be the perfect solution. Precise Mortgages’ Refurbishment Buy to let proposition offers the best of both worlds – the flexibility of a bridging loan to purchase the property and carry out the work quickly, together with the surety of an exit onto a buy to let mortgage once the work has been completed, provided the property meets the expected valuation following the refurbishment.   

Our streamlined process makes it easy for you to place your customers’ cases with us, while our experienced team of underwriters is here to process applications as quickly and efficiently as possible.  

With around 4.4 million UK households living in private rented accommodation and electrical equipment responsible for almost 15,000 domestic fires each year, according to government statistics, the 1 April deadline will ensure even more tenants are protected by the legislation. Brokers can play an important role by making sure their customers are aware of the rule changes and letting them know there is a solution if they need to bring a new property up to standard before letting it out. 

Original Article from Mortgage Strategy 26/03/2021

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Tough new fire regulations for HMOs and multi-tenancy buildings

fire safety

Landlords and managing agents of HMOs could face unlimited fines following new measures being brought in to strengthen fire safety, the Home Office has announced.

Exact details are awaited but the new measures, announced as part of the government’s response to the Fire Safety Consultation, will apply to HMOs and other multi-tenancy premises only.

They will come into force as part of the legislation in the Building Safety Bill – probably some time in 2022.

The measures will amend the Fire Safety Order and will include a requirement for fire risk assessments to be recorded for each building and improve how fire safety information is handed over throughout the lifetime of a building.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh says: “Everyone should be safe in the buildings where they live, stay or work.

“Our new measures will improve fire safety and help save lives, but will also take firm action against those who fail in their duty to keep people safe.”

And Roy Wilsher, National Fire Chiefs Council Chair, adds: “We want to see safer buildings for residents and are committed to working constructively with the Home Office and other partners on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations and other key fire safety policy areas.”

The government says the new measures will:

– improve the quality of fire risk assessments and competence of those who complete them;

– ensure vital fire safety information is preserved over the lifespan of all regulated buildings;

– improve cooperation and coordination amongst people responsible for fire safety and making it easier to identify who they are;

– strengthen enforcement action, with anyone impersonating or obstructing a fire inspector facing unlimited fines;

– strengthen guidance issued under the Fire Safety Order so that failure to follow it may be considered in court proceedings as evidence of a breach or of compliance;

– improve the engagement between Building Control Bodies and Fire Authorities in reviewing plans for building work;

– require all new flats above 11 metres tall to install premises information boxes.

Original Article from Letting Agent Today 18/03/2021

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Supply shortage worsened by eviction ban, claims lettings chief

rentals

The head of a lettings agency says there are up to 60 enquiries for every rental property he lists – and those enquiries typically all come on day one.

Jeremy Miller, director at Millerson in Cornwall, has told the Cornwall Live news website that demand for rental properties in the county was far outstripping supply, with up to a third of enquiries coming from as far afield as Bristol and London.

“There is currently a colossal demand for rental properties and added to that is the fact there is not a lot of rental properties coming to the market. Part of that at the moment is that tenants know that they have protection from eviction as they normally would” he believes.

Miller adds that the working from home habit means people move further, even for rented accommodation. 

“Since May last year at the end of the first lockdown, there’s been an incredible demand for rental properties from both people living locally and nationally” he adds.

“The rental market is very strong at the moment. One of my colleagues put a property in St Austell on the market to rent and by the time they’d returned to their desk they had 68 emails before the property came off the market again within hours.

“This, in turn, is increasing the prices of properties going to rent, because there’s so much demand for what is available people are often willing to pay more.”

The situation is worsened by landlords selling up, deterred by existing taxes and the threat of Capital Gains Tax change.

Miller says the government is making an enemy of small-time property investors due to heavy legislation and punitive taxation making it more difficult for small landlords to operate.

Original Article from Letting Agent Today 12/03/2021

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How to Get Your Chelmsford Property Photo Ready

Camera

Photographs are an essential step when selling your home in Chelmsford and are integral to an effective marketing strategy.

Your photos need to look fantastic and stand out in a busy market. The images need to be an accurate and honest representation of the property, which is why staging your home before the professional photographer arrives is crucial.

If you are not hiring professional home stagers, there are some simple steps you can take to prepare your home in the best possible way before we send our professional photographers out to capture your home at its best!

Pay Attention to the Front of The Property

Even the nicest of cars cause distraction. Remove your vehicle from the driveway to give the viewers the full impact of the outside space and an unobstructed view of the front of the property. Additionally, ensure garage doors are closed. Small changes will make a significant impact on the overall quality of the photography.

If you usually keep the bins at the front of the property, ensure they are hidden away out of any shots. Thoroughly clean windows and windowsills to provide that the all-important front image of the home is immaculate.

Take some time to tidy the front garden, giving the best first impression. Mow the lawn, trim back any hedges and remove any empty plant pots that may be lying around.

Make Your Gardens Attractive

Gardens are often a huge draw for potential buyers, both those who are breaking free from the rental market and those climbing up the property ladder. Gardens are subject to personal taste, but neat lawns, clean decking, smart patios and clearly defined eating areas are what buyers want, so take time to prepare them before the arrival of your photographer.

Showcase Your Bedrooms

Remove any signs that may be stuck on bedroom doors, especially common for children’s rooms. Store away any children’s toys which may eliminate part of your target audience. If you don’t have the storage room, hide them in the car while the photographer is working!

Make all the beds and plump up the pillows. If any cushions are looking past their best, hide them out of shot. Items like this can do more harm than good and make the whole room look tired.

Add Sparkle to Your Bathroom

Bathrooms and kitchens are the main rooms that can really draw viewers to a home. Simple hacks in the bathroom can drastically elevate your photographs. Simply make sure the toilet seats are down, and mirrors are sparkly clean with no watermarks or smudges.

As bathrooms are often small, create space by being as minimal as possible. Store away cosmetic items such as shampoo, lotions, or razors. The bright colours of the bottles can be unattractive and distracting when photographed.

Remove Kitchen Clutter

Kitchens are the heart of the home, and a beautiful kitchen is often the factor that convinces unsure potential buyers. Clear all surfaces, leaving minimal appliances in view. This will prevent clutter from causing distraction and give the illusion of a bigger and fresher space with plenty of work surfaces.

Don’t Distract with Electronics

Turn off the TV and any computers and make sure there are no loose electronic devices left on countertops, which are distracting for people viewing the images. The last thing you want to see are beautiful images of your home with a distracting TV show in the corner of the otherwise perfect image.

Let in The Light

Open curtains and blinds wide to let the natural light flow through the home. Your photographer will then be able to manipulate the light to show your home in the best, most natural way possible. If you have blinds, open them tilted upwards. This will push the natural light towards the ceiling, allowing it to illuminate without being too harsh for photography.

Give Your Pets a Day Out!

Although you love them, it is best to keep pets out of your listing photographs whether it is a cat, dog or hamster, if possible, remove the pet from the home for the whole day, as this will give you an excellent opportunity to clean, ready for staging, and prevent them from getting in the way of the photographer.

In addition to the pet itself, make sure any pet toys, food bowls and beds are out of shot. Furthermore, tidy up the garden, ensuring no waste or pet toys are lying around.

Call the friendly team at Essex Homes And Lettings now on 01245398466 – we use professional photography as standard!

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How to Prepare Your Property for Rent in Chelmsford

rent

Understanding how to prepare your property for rent is an important part of the process for landlords. Getting the preparation right can make all the difference if you want to find a tenant quickly. 

Our extensive experience and knowledge of the property rental market in and around Chelmsford will help you prepare your property for rent stress-free.

Remember, if you’re a landlord, we can help you market your property, and we can manage it too. Email us at sales@essexhomesandlettings.co.uk or call 01245398466.

Make Sure Your Property is Clean

This sounds basic, but you need to give your property a good clean. From the carpets to the kitchen cupboards, and from the oven to the bathroom, go through the property and make sure the standards are high. You want the place looked after so you need to get it right at the start so that you attract the right type of tenant.

Top Tip You could do the work yourself and save money, but you might want to get the professionals in, particularly if the place is really in need of a deep clean.

Get Your Certificates in Order

As a landlord, you have legal responsibilities to the tenant. You will need to make sure the property has: 

  • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • A Gas Safety Certificate 
  • An Electrical Installation Condition Report 

These tests must be done by proficient professionals, registered with the regulatory bodies – failure to get these certificates means you could be fined.

Top Tip Ask around to see which qualified plumbers and electricians are recommended. They must be competent of course, but you also want tradespeople who will do an efficient job at the right price (particularly if they have to make necessary repairs).

The Devil is in the Detail

When you find a tenant, you hope they will stay in your property for a while. But, when they do move out, you want to be sure that they haven’t damaged or disposed of any of your items. The best approach is to use a professional to complete a full inventory of the property. This will save you time and money at the end of the tenancy.

Top Tip Put your mind at ease by taking photos of the interior and exterior of the property or recording a video on your phone. You’ll have a record of the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.

Complete all Repairs

Carry out all repairs before a tenant moves in. Get the place decorated if need be. It will be someone elses home, but it’s your asset, so look after it.

Top Tip You should expect to make repairs as a result of wear and tear, but, if the repairs are required due to the result of a tenant’s actions, you can claim the money back from their deposit.

Put Insurance in Place

When letting your property in Chelmsford, make sure it is insured properly. Cover the rebuild, and the contents if you are letting the property furnished. Speak with an insurance broker who specialises in landlords insurance. If your property has been empty, notify the insurer that someone is moving in as your policy may need to be changed.

Top Tip Getting the paperwork in order is absolutely essential to the successful running of a property, whether it is a buy-to-let or a home you’ve inherited. Be organised and diarise when insurance needs to be renewed.

Choose a Letting Agent

You’ll need to choose a lettings agent, but first you need to decide what you want them to do for you. 

  • Is it just to market the property and find a tenant? 
  • Do you want them to deal with right to rent and financial checks too? 
  • Do you need them to manage the property for you too? 

Top Tip Seek recommendations and look at online reviews on social media and Trustpilot to find the best letting agent in Chelmsford. 

Consider the Profitability
  • Do you know what the rental income will be? 
  • Have you worked out the yield? 
  • Have you got a mortgage on the rental property and need to make a certain amount? 

These are all questions that need answers. You need to have done your homework on similar properties nearby and your expectations should be based on reality, and not on a rent you are dreaming about!

Top Tip Work with a lettings agent who knows the area, knows the market, and knows the right kind of tenant for the property.

Get your property up to scratch, and you’re more likely to attract the sort of tenant you want in your property. Being a landlord can be rewarding but there’s paperwork to get right and responsibilities too.

We are local lettings experts for Chelmsford. Speak with as we can help you through the process of finding a tenant and managing your property. Email us at sales@essexhomesandlettings.co.uk or call us on 01245398466.

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Our Top 10 Tips for Finding the Perfect Rental Property in Chelmsford

rental

Renting is definitely having its moment, with the number of households living in the private rented sector continually increasing. 

In fact, an estimated one fifth of the UK population now live in rented accommodation. 

Some may claim that this is because UK families have been priced out of the buying market. However, the latest English Housing Survey states otherwise, with 84% of respondents saying that they are satisfied with their rented accommodation and 72% stating that they are happy with their current landlords. 

So, having established that renting is in – how do you go about renting the perfect home in Chelmsford? 

1.   Establish your budget

There is little point in starting to look for properties if you do not know what you can and can’t afford on a monthly basis. Imagine if you found your ideal property, only to find that you do not earn enough to be able to rent it?

Avoid unnecessary disappointment by going through your finances first and working out exactly what you can afford. Make sure you take into consideration your utility bills if these are not included in your rent.

2.   Location, location, location 

For most people looking for a property, the most important aspect of their search is finding a property in their preferred area. Think about how far you are willing to commute to work and if there are any family or friends that you want to live close to.

Try not to get tempted by properties outside your preferred area, even if they are cheaper or larger, as you may regret it once you have moved in.

3.   Do your research

Once you have established where you would like to live, it is a good idea to thoroughly research the area. If you have children, or are planning to have them in the near future then you should take into consideration the local schools as well as any nearby amenities for children such as parks and leisure centres. 

4.   Do not rush the viewing process

Most property seekers now carry out their searches online, but this can often lead to people disregarding properties before they have really given them a chance. Of course, searching for rental properties online has its advantages, but it is also important to visit potential properties in person to see if they could work for you. 

5.   Enlist the help of a letting or estate agent 

You could choose to rent directly from a landlord, however this is not without its risks. You may be lucky enough to encounter an experienced and trustworthy landlord, but it’s always best to rent your property through a professional and reputable letting agent. 

6.    Ensure your deposit is protected 

If you have not rented before, then you may not be aware of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. Basically this scheme protects your deposit as your landlord is now legally obliged to place your money into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme, as well as inform you of their chosen scheme within 30 days of you handing over your money.

7.   Always pay your rent on time

This goes without saying, but not only will this keep your landlord happy, meaning that they are more likely to help you out quickly if you encounter a problem with your property, but it could also boost your credit score. 

8.   Carry out a full inventory check 

Although it is highly likely that your landlord has already carried out their own inventory check, it is a good idea for you to do one also. Otherwise you could leave yourself open to disputes over damages and breakages when you decide to move out. 

9.   Take out contents cover 

As a renter, your landlord is responsible for taking out buildings insurance, however, it is up to you to take out cover for your own belongings. Make sure that you shop around for the best contents cover as the costs can differ significantly from one provider to the next. 

10.  Keep an open line of communication with your landlord 

You want to be able to rely on your landlord in case of an emergency, or if you are experiencing any issues with the property, and they need to place their trust in you too. They will want to retain reliable tenants as it can be both expensive and time-consuming for them to find new ones, so it works for everyone if the relationship is good.

If you are planning on renting a property in the Chelmsford area soon, why not telephone us or call in. We’ll be happy to advise you on our available properties in the area. Contact us on 01245398466 for more information.

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2021 Interior Trends: Furniture, Colours and Styles for Your Home in Chelmsford

interior trends

Are you planning on giving your Chelmsford home a makeover in 2021? Maybe it’s time to ditch that tired old rug and sofa you’ve been hanging on to for years and drag your home into a brand new year?

For inspiration, here are some of the top interior trends coming for 2021 that we absolutely love!

Vintage

Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways in which to make their homes stand out, instead of the usual mass produced, flat-pack furniture that’s functional but not unique. Think antique sideboards and cabinets in dark shades of brown.

And the more unique the story is behind it, the better! Mooch around antique shops to find that perfect quirky piece.

Sustainable

As a society we’re more aware than ever of the damage that’s being done to our planet, and that’s reflected in the growing trend of buying individual items of furniture, instead of mass-produced products.

This also ties in with the vintage trend. Furniture that was built 50 years ago not only has its own story, but it will also have been built to last. A few scratches add to its character and it won’t fall apart and get discarded so easily.

Multi-Functional Space

With the huge increase in people working from home, our houses have increasingly become our offices too.

For those who aren’t lucky enough to have a dedicated space for a home office, the demand for multi-functional furniture is increasing.

Consequently, items such as storage ottomans are perfect for using as both a footrest at the end of a long day and also a place to store your laptop and any paperwork out of sight in the evening.

Minimalist

Not only have people been working from home more, they’ve also been spending more time at home in general, with many living rooms serving as an office, gym and bar at times, often on the same day!

As a result of this increased time spent indoors, the desire to declutter and make more use of the space available will be a growing trend throughout 2021.

This also relates to the trend of having multi-functional furniture and space.

Natural Materials

Furniture that’s made from natural materials is also set to be a big hit in 2021, with designers constantly coming up with new ways of combining natural materials.

This can be anything from wood and marble to ceramics and metals as designers combine textures and styles.

Earthy Colours

One of the biggest trends that’s set to drop in 2021 is the use of earthy colours such as mustards, greens, beiges, blues and browns.

With so many people having spent so much time indoors recently, colours that we associate with nature and the outdoors are going to be popular as people reconnect with the outside environment and try to bring it into their homes.

Shades of Pink

Love them or hate them, soft and neutral shades of pink are another top trend when it comes to colours in 2021.

It’s light and airy, which gives rooms a more spacious feel, and it goes with most other colours, so finding furniture to complement the colour scheme will be easy.

Ocean Waves and Distant Shores

The increased time we’ve all spent indoors has heightened many people’s longing to get away and take a break, and that’s reflected in the trend for colours that relate to soft sea blues and cloudless skies.

Blue is also a very tranquil and calming colour, so it’s perfect for anyone who’s spending more time indoors and looking to destress.

House Plants

Following on from the trend for earthy colours, indoor plants are also back in fashion.

Not only do plants add colour and life to a room, they also freshen the air and bring the outdoor environment into the home.

And with such a wide variety of plants to choose from, there’s something suitable for any room in the house.

Individuality

It’s not just vintage furniture that’s trending for 2021, any items that could be considered unique and individual are currently in fashion.

As we’ve been spending more time in our homes and less time in the office and out socialising, there’s a noticeable shift towards stamping our own imprint on our homes. Rather than go for the tried and trusted functional furniture that we might have previously chosen, there’s an increased trend towards individual furniture that reflects our own personalities.

Think animal-shaped lamps and tropical theme light shades for example, or bright and bold statement rugs.

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Rental growth ‘slightly positive’ for 2021 say surveyors

rent

Rental growth expectations remain “slightly positive” across most of the UK according to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors market snapshot.

The assessment is based on surveyor sentiment rather than hard data, but RICS says its lettings sector members in most parts of the country anticipate an increase in volumes and rent from early in 2021.

However in December – for the third consecutive month – a net balance of in excess of 60 per cent of respondents expect rents to fall in London over the coming three months, making the capital city a clear exception to the rest of the UK.

There’s also bad news for London from the Home website, which runs a monthly monitor on the lettings market.

Its December index says overall supply in the UK rental sector is 1.4 per cent down year-on-year, with particularly severe shortages are to be found in most English regions and in Wales, forcing up rents. 

The largest annualised hikes are in Wales (up a huge 16.2 per cent) and the West Midlands (up slightly more at 17.0 per cent).

But Home says the Greater London area now shows acute oversupply in properties available to rent – a rise of 54 per cent over the year. 

Rents in the capital are in freewill, claims Home, down 16.0 per cent in 2020. 

“This dire situation is having a severe knock-on effect for the capital’s buy-to-let sales market” the site concludes.

Recent research by flat sharing website SpareRoom also spells bad news for London’s lettings market in the near term at least.

According to the research, 27 per cent of renters in the capital plan to move after the pandemic has come to an end, with half of them determined to leave the city completely. 

“With 60 per cent of all renters who plan on moving post-Covid-19 are not looking to move to a major city, a wider shift away from city living looks likely” says the website.

Original Article from 22/12/2020

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Revealed – the biggest cause of claims by landlords against deposits

landlord

Just over half the claims made by landlords against tenancy deposits in 2020 cited a need to clean or make repairs to the property or its contents, The Deposit Protection Service has revealed.

Costs for damage made up 27 per cent of claims, while cleaning was cited in 25 per cent and outstanding bills in just two per cent.

DPS managing director Matt Trevett says: “It can be very frustrating for both parties when a landlord feels they need to charge a tenant for problems that could have been addressed before they left the property.

“We always encourage landlords and tenants to stay in touch throughout the tenancy so everyone understands their obligations and can work together to find solutions before a tenancy ends.

“This includes an awareness of the standard to which a property must be cleaned when tenants vacate as well as the need to address any damage or wear and tear beyond what you might reasonably expect to have occurred during a normal tenancy of its length.”

Figures for 2020 from the DPS’s dispute resolution service show landlords who entered dispute were awarded at least some of their claim in 75 per cent of cases, with tenants awarded at least part of the amount claimed in 80 per cent of cases.

The DPS adds that around £4m of deposit money had gone to landlords through its resolution service process during 2020, although just three per cent of all tenancies had ended in dispute.

Original Article from Letting Agent Today 30/12/2020

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ONS: Rental prices hit an all-time high

ONS

Rents have increased to their highest level on record, according to the latest price index from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Private rental prices paid by tenants rose by 1.4% in the 12 months to November 2020 to hit an average of £725 a month, the data shows.

Unsurprisingly, London is once again home to the highest rental rates at an average of £1,435 a month — almost double the rate for the rest of England. 

The monthly rate for inner London was £1,690, while in outer London it was £1,300.

In contrast, the North East recorded the lowest monthly rate at £495. 

David Alexander, the joint chief executive officer of apropos by DJ Alexander, commented: “This data shows that, despite this being an extremely difficult year, rents within the private rented sector remain buoyant.”

But he pointed out that it is important to recognise that within these figures lie enormous regional and country variations with England increasing by 1.4%; Wales by 1.6%; and an increase of just 0.6% in Scotland.

Scotland’s rental growth has consistently been below that of the rest of the countries of the UK since August 2016. Indeed, the figure for November 2020 is below that of the lowest English region which is the South East which saw annual growth of 0.9% whilst the highest performing area is the South West at 2.3%.

Alexander continued: “The private rented sector is the second largest provider of homes in the UK yet is often treated as an outcast by politicians when discussions on how to provide sufficient housing for the future. Given these modest rental increases it is clear that landlords and investors may be making a living, but they are not earning a fortune.”

He added: “I would urge governments, regulators and legislators to engage closely with the PRS to ensure that it continues to be supported in providing millions of homes for people across the country. The PRS is an essential part of the housing mix in the UK and needs support now and in the future. Landlords, property investors, and individuals must be helped to get through the pandemic and out the other side if we are to have a stable, viable and healthy housing sector in the future.”

The traditionally quieter winter months for the lettings market could this year “be silent enough to hear a pin drop”, according to Franz Doerr, CEO at rental payments platform flatfair.

Doerr added: “Cooling demand means landlords, particularly those in more central areas, could struggle to quickly fill voids if tenants hand in their notices over the coming weeks.”

Original Article from Property Industry Eye 17/12/2020