Thursday, 28 April 2016

Tenants vent their renting experiences

Renters are publicly shaming their landlords over 'rip-off' rent prices in London in a new social media campaign.
The hashtag #ventyourrent was launched by campaign group Generation Rent, which has urged fed-up renters to tell their stories using the hashtag on Twitter, or by uploading photos to the Vent Your Rent Tumblr page.
Tenants have tweeted photos of themselves holding up pieces of paper and card, on which they have written how much they have paid to live at different locations across the capital and the problems they have experienced.
One person Tweeted: “Rent: £700. Location: Brixton. Worst renting experience. Letting agent broke the lock, locking me out. Immediately before closing for a week over Christmas.”
Another renter Tweeted: “One week’s notice before decorators started work, two months living in a building site, 0% discount, 30% rent rise after.”
On Tumblr one renter is holding up a piece of cardboard saying: “Rent £700 pcm, location: Deptford. Landlord continues to refuse to treat mould-infested flat, I’d move but I can’t afford to. Also the landlord insists we pay our rent in cash.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Biggest monthly drop in Scottish rents on record

March saw the sharpest month-on-month fall in Scottish rents on record, according to the latest Scotland Buy-to-Let Index from Your Move.
Average residential rents in Scotland dropped 0.7% in the month to March, the steepest monthly fall since the index began. This also represents the first monthly drop in rents witnessed since September 2015, when average rents were down 0.3% on August levels.
In absolute terms, this £4 drop between February and March takes the typical rent in Scotland down to £544 per month. Scottish rents have not been this low since May 2015.

This has also suppressed annual growth to just 1.1% in March – a significant downturn from 2.1% in the year to February 2016. This also takes the annual change to a thirteen-month low, on par with the 1.1% yearly increase recorded in February 2015. 
Brian Moran, lettings director at Your Move Scotland, said: “Those who signed a new tenancy in March will be feeling confident they snapped up a competitive deal, and will be enjoying a little extra cash in their pockets at the end of every month. It’s been a rare break for cover and it’s unlikely to hang about for long as the Scottish rental market begins to gear up towards the annual autumnal peak. Tenants in big cities like Edinburgh haven’t enjoyed the same reprieve at all, with the ratio of supply and demand still stacked greatly against them. Investment from landlords needs to follow the tune of the jobs market and economic activity.
“Affordability is the main warning light to watch out for on the dashboard, and with the frequency of arrears on the rise once again, this reminds us of the considerable obstacles ahead. With landlords now facing an additional 3% Stamp Duty on property purchases, and the Private Tenancies Bill passed through Scottish Parliament, we’re entering unchartered territory. What we do know, is that if landlords hit the brakes and cause a roadblock of supply in the private rented sector, tenants will be the casualties paying higher rents in the longer term.”
Rents fell across the majority of Scotland month-on-month in March, with only Edinburgh & the Lothians seeing a rent rise since February.

The steepest monthly drop in rents was experienced in Glasgow & Clyde, with the average rent in March 1.5% lower than in February. In cash terms, this represented an £8 drop, taking the average monthly rent to £544.
The Highlands & Islands saw a similarly steep 1.4% fall in rents since February, and rents in the East dropped 0.8% on a monthly basis. The South of Scotland saw a more modest 0.2% dip in rents month-on-month.
Edinburgh & the Lothians was the only region to buck this trend, with the average monthly rent climbing 0.2% (£1 in absolute terms) on February to reach a new peak price of £645 per month in March.  
Despite the widespread monthly falls in rents in March, the proportion of late rent in Scotland has risen for the first time since October 2015.
Reversing the recent trend of improving tenant finances, tenant arrears rose to 11.3% of all rent due in March – up from a seven-month low of 10.9% in February.  This also shows a lapse from a year previously, with the proportion of late rent in March 2015 just 8.6%.
“March has seen a very unwelcome about-turn in the direction of tenant finances. Up until now Scottish tenants have been making good ground over the spring months, and paying down levels of late rent – but there’s still a mountain to climb for many households,” said Moran.
“External factors and the wider economic climate obviously have a vital impact on tenants’ bottom line and the delicate balancing act between monthly income and outgoings, but landlords on the ground can help keep a lid on affordability pressures too. Good management of buy-to-let properties and regular communication between landlords and their tenants is crucial to signpost any early concerns and avoid the likelihood of rental arrears. Tenants need properties they can afford, and landlords need tenants with a healthy grip on their household expenses, so it’s about striking a fair deal for both.”

Friday, 22 April 2016

Right to Rent guidance to change

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) understands the Government is planning to update its Right to Rent guidance following the roll out of the scheme across the country.
The controversial checks came into force in February this year for landlords in England and require them to check that all new tenants have a right to rent in the UK.
The RLA is now appealing for landlords to share their experiences of Right to Rent and is encouraging members to get in touch, so that this information can be passed on to the Government.
In a victory for the RLA, the Government announced last month that landlords will no longer be immediately criminalised for failing to pick up illegal tenants. Changes to the Immigration Bill now provide protection for landlords who take reasonable steps in an appropriate time frame to terminate tenancies of those living in the country illegally.
RLA chairman, Alan Ward said:  “We are delighted that the Government is willing to listen to landlords with regards to Right to Rent.
“What is vital now is that we have details of real experiences that we can feed back to officials before the guidance is updated.”
Anyone who would like to share their experience can email the RLA on

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Cash boost for rent-to-buy provider

Affordable housing provider Rentplus has secured up to £70 million funding to support the delivery of thousands of new rent-to-buy homes
The funding will help Rentplus deliver 580 homes out of its initial target to build 5,000 new affordable homes by 2020.
BAE Systems Pension Funds Investment Management Ltd (“BAE Pension Fund”), through two of its pension funds, has approved an initial £35 million private placing of an inflation linked bond for the Plymouth-based company with the possibility of an additional £35 million commitment.
Rentplus, which currently has a national pipeline of 8,500 homes, will use this funding to help tackle the UK’s housing affordability crisis. The company provides aspirant home owners with privately funded intermediate affordable rent-to-buy housing, with real prospects to achieve ownership benefitting from affordable rents (80% of open market rent) and a 10% gifted deposit from Rentplus.
The Rentplus model provides its tenants with the option to purchase their home after five, 10, 15 and 20 years of their tenancy period, with all homes sold after 20 years. Rentplus aims to replace all homes that are sold in order to maintain the level of affordable housing in the area at the required level.
Rentplus requires a total of £1 billion of institutional and pension fund investment in order to deliver its ambitious 8,500 pipeline and is in conversations with a number of other potential funding partners.  
The funding from BAE Pension Fund is the first to contribute to that target. The Rentplus model provides steady growth through the virtuous circle of investment in a local area (homes being sold after 20 years and then replaced by Rentplus) and the mixture of rental income and capital return.
Numis Securities Limited advised Rentplus on the raising of this funding. Savills plc acts as property adviser to Rentplus.
John Gildersleeve, chairman of Rentplus, said: “As is widely recognised, the current affordable residential property market model in this country is not working. Home ownership is overwhelmingly the first choice across the UK, however 48% of households in the 25-34 age group currently live in the private rented sector compared to 21% in 2003-04. 
“The primary reason is lack of affordability, the driver of which is lack of affordable housing supply. We must therefore fix the model and innovative solutions such as Rentplus’s intermediate rent-to-buy are absolutely crucial in a climate where rents are increasing and deposits required to buy continue to climb – reports earlier this year put the average deposit to buy a home at more than £80,000.  Our rent-to-buy model is designed to solve both of these issues.
David Cryer, portfolio manager at BAE Pension Fund, said: “We are delighted to provide the first tranche of institutional funding for Rentplus. Rentplus offers a great solution for local authorities and housing associations to provide an affordable housing product – we have a strong commitment to both sectors and therefore this is an excellent fit for the pension fund.
“Having worked closely with Rentplus to create a funding strategy to suit both sides, we look forward to continuing our excellent relationship.”

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Retirees would struggle without BTL income

Almost three quarters (72%) of pensioners who have an investment property said they would struggle to make ends meet if they didn’t have the income from their buy-to-let, according to a poll carried out by Responsible Equity Release.

The reliance on income from buy-to-let in retirement is revealed, with eight out of 10 (81%) pensioners aged over 65, who own a buy-to-let, admitting their properties provide an important, even vital, boost to their retirement income, especially with low interest rates hammering retirees’ savings.
Responsible Life polled more than 1,000 retirees about owning a buy-to-let property. The majority, more than nine out of 10 (92%), said they are worried about the changes to mortgage interest tax relief and the impact on the profit they make from their investment property.
The buy-to-let tax changes coming into force have left many pensioner landlords considering whether it’s worth holding onto their buy-to-lets at all. Four out of 10 (41%) said although their buy-to-let property was a valuable income generator, they are now thinking seriously about selling it.
Steve Wilkie, managing director at Responsible Equity Release, said: "For many pensioners, having a buy-to-let property has been a life saver in this low interest environment. While their savings have languished, earning very little interest, and pension income has been hit hard by falling share prices, property income has remained strong.
“Without the income boost from their buy-to-let, many would really be struggling to make ends meet. But the Chancellor has yet again ignored UK’s retirees when he announced changes to the way buy-to-let would be taxed.
“George Osborne was so focused on taxing the rich, he forgot that a new tax on buy-to-let won’t just hit the wealthy, it will also hit those honest, hardworking people, who may have a single buy-to-let property, and were just hoping it would earn them a little extra income in retirement.”

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Phase two of Tenant Tax campaign launches

A group campaigning for the abolition of the buy-to-let tax grab have launched the second phase of its crowdfunding campaign and announced a major event in London to support the cause. 
The ‘Judicial Review of Section 24 – Tenant Tax’ campaign aims to raise an additional £250,000 to fight the Government in court. Its initial crowdfunding campaign saw £50,000 raised in just eight days to launch a legal case against the Government’s buy-to-let tax relief changes.
The group will hold the ‘Tenant Tax Summit – Landlords Fight Back’ on 9 June at the ILEC Conference Centre in Earls Court. Confirmed speakers include Lord Howard Flight, and representatives from Platinum Property Partners, SpareRoom, Shawbrook Bank, Property 118 and Property Tribes.
Steve Bolton, founder and chairman of Platinum Property Partners, and fellow landlord Chris Cooper are calling on all landlords, tenants, letting agents and others who will be adversely affected by this new legislation to support their cause.
The ‘Tenant Tax’ campaign is now reopen for pledges via the Crowd Justice platform ( and aims to raise an additional £250,000 to fight Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015, which plans to turn a ‘normal  business expense’ (finance costs) into a taxable revenue. 
The ‘Tenant Tax Summit – Landlords Fight Back’ will highlight the plight of both landlords and tenants, with a common objective in mind – the abolishment of “ludicrous” legislation that will force the worst affected landlords to either sell their properties; thereby reducing the supply of rental properties and forcing tenants to find new homes; or increase their rents far more aggressively, making renting even more unaffordable.
Tickets for the event are being offered through the Tenant Tax crowdfunding platform only and anyone who makes a minimum pledge of £100 will be given a complimentary ticket. This is to ensure that 100% of ticket sales can be channelled towards the legal challenge. Event costs will be covered by corporate sponsors, partners and patrons.
A full application for a Judicial Review against Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015 was submitted in February and a joint Acknowledgement of Service was received from HMRC and the Treasury on behalf of the Government.
Steve Bolton said: “The days where ‘nobody loves a landlord’ must come to an end. We need to unite to show that we will not accept the victimisation of landlords and tenants by the out of touch political elite. They are deluded if they believe that they will go unchallenged when trying to reclassify ‘mortgage interest’ as anything other than a ‘normal business expense’.
“The Tenant Tax is wrong on every level and if we allow a normal business expense to become a taxable expense for landlords, who will be next; Corporate landlords?  Shopkeepers?  Small business owners? Anyone who has used finance to help expand their business?
“We aim to make the Tenant Tax Summit a very enjoyable, inspiring, interactive, uplifting, informative, educational and motivational day. It is a unique chance for our grassroots supporters to come together, support each other, share ideas and shout from the rooftops. We want to show politicians, the media and the country at large that we truly are a force to be reckoned with.
“This is a not-for-profit, volunteer-driven campaign and we encourage all landlords, tenants, lettings agents and other industry organisations and businesses to find out more and support our cause by visiting”

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Rent rises on the way, warn landlords

Almost all landlords are considering increasing rents to pay for the higher taxes they now face, according to a survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA). 
It found 84% of private sector landlords are likely to consider increasing rents following the Chancellor’s recent tax assault on the buy-to-let sector.
The survey found that 78% of landlords felt that the changes would deter them from investing in more properties to rent, with half considering getting rid of properties. This is in the face of rising demand for rented housing with the agents, Savills, predicting that one million new homes to rent will be needed by 2021.
In a statement the RLA said that whilst fewer buy-to-lets being bought might meet the Chancellor’s desire to free up some properties for home owners, for the increasing number of people who cannot afford to buy or who prefer not to, the tax changes will make it more difficult and more expensive for them to access housing.
The RLA says that in forcing rents up the Government is hitting those it is keen to support into homeownership by making it more difficult for them to save for the deposit they need.
The association is calling on the Government to exempt all rental property making a net increase in the supply of new housing  from the 3 percentage point stamp duty levy.
A total of 39% of landlords reported that they would be more likely to invest in new build rental housing if this was exempt from the levy.
RLA Chairman Alan Ward said: “The Chancellor’s tax policies are impacting on tenants’ lives – not only are more than four in five facing rent increases but half of landlords may be selling rented property, which might result in tenants being  given notice to leave their properties.
“Ministers need to end the myth that landlords are to blame for the country’s housing crisis and base policy on fact, not political expediency.”

Thursday, 14 April 2016

New section 8 notice and my new critical information service

The government have amended the section 8 prescribed form AGAIN.  This is the third change in about a year.
If you want to serve notice on your tenant using the section 8 notice (which you need to use for all claims based on one of the ‘grounds for eviction’ set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988) have to use the ‘prescribed form’.  The most recent prescribed form.
The significance of a prescribed form is that you can ONLY use the wording and format that has been prescribed.  You can change the font and layout slightly but essentially it must be in the prescribed format.  If you don’t use the prescribed form or if you leave any bits out – your notice is invalid and you may lose your claim for possession.
The section 8 prescribed form was amended last April (2105) and then  was amended again for  tenancies which started on ended on 1 October 2015.  Now for tenancies in England, it has been amended again, courtesy of the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, with effect from 6 April 2016.
So from 6 April (tomorrow as I write this) you have to use this new form.  If you are in England.  If you are in Wales you can carry on using the old ones.
I do hope this is the last amendment we have for a while as inevitably it takes a while for  people to catch on to the changes – someone told me only yesterday that they had been sold an out of date form last summer for example.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

What happens to your tenancy if the property is sold to a new landlord?

Sitting tenants’ rights

I had an email from a distressed tenant recently who said that she had a protected tenancy but that the property had recently been sold and her new landlord was trying to make out that her tenancy did not exist anymore.
Far from it. Although it is certainly not unknown for new landlords to have unrealistic ideas about their rights over sitting tenants.
Here are some home truths.
  • Selling a flat subject to a tenancy or lease does not end the tenancy or lease. As I have written earlier, a tenancy / lease is a legal interest in the property. It cannot be destroyed by a change of landlord.
  • The landlord does not get any new powers to deal with or evict the tenant that the previous landlord did not have. He ‘stands in the shoes’ of the original landlord and is bound by the tenancy in a similar way
  • Indeed, not only does he have no extra benefits – your landlord is actually in a WORSE position, as some grounds for possession do not apply to landlords by purchase. In particular ground 6 which is the mandatory ground which allows the original landlord to recover possession if he needs vacant possession in order to do substantial building works.
  • So you if your landlord sells the building where you live on to a developer – he will find it difficult to evict you without re-housing you.
  • Your landlord may also find it difficult to prove which tenancy type you have or what notices were served on you in the past. As he did not own the property then and may not be able to prove anything.

So what can a new landlord do?

  • If the property is an AST, he can serve a s21 notice and evict you under the accelerated procedure (although see the comment below), but
  • If you have a protected or assured tenancy he will find it hard to evict you (unless you fall into arrears of rent)
  • He can increase your rent provided he follows the proper procedures
Of course he can also try to make your life a misery if he really wants you to go – but if you have a secure tenancy he can’t actually evict you, unless he provides you with suitable alternative accommodation.
So don’t let him bully you!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Why do landlords refuse to let to housing benefit / DSS tenants?

And what can be done about it?

The tenants organisation DIGS is organising a #YesDSS campaign this month.  They are angry that so many landlords and letting agents in London refuse to let to DSS tenants.
This is set out on the DIGS website here in a post which makes several points:
  • That ‘No DSS’ is a form of discrimination
  • Many people have no choice but to claim benefits
  • Social housing is being reduced and is ‘under attack’ by government
  • ‘No DSS’ leads to homelessness and increases stress, and
  • Landlords and letting agents have got away with too much for too long
The article ends up by saying
Letting agents blame “No DSS” on landlords; landlords blame it on council bureaucracies, mortgage lenders and insurers. Yet the truth is that all of these people need to take proactive responsibility for ensuring that no-one is denied a decent, secure and affordable place to live simply because they don’t earn enough money.
The article links to David Lawrenson’s (rather good) article in the guardian on why landlords won’t let to DSS tenants but does not really address the points he makes.

The problem

I agree that it is disgraceful that so many decent hardworking people are unable to find somewhere to live, just because they need to claim benefits to support themselves.
However, I think that the DIGS campaign is targeting the wrong people.
There is a big difference between the private and the social sector.
  • The private sector is largely made up of ordinary people who have purchased one or two properties as an investment – for example, to supplement their pension or provide for their families
  • The social sector consists mostly of not for profit organisations whose ‘raison d’etre’ is to provide modest cost accommodation for people of modest means.
Now clearly it is the social housing sector which is best suited to provide housing for housing benefit tenants. Unfortunately though, it is currently haemorrhaging properties through right to buy which are not being replaced.
As DSS tenants are clearly unable to buy their own home, this leaves them nowhere else to go but the private sector.

Why private landlords won’t / can’t let to DSS tenants

It’s all very well for the author of the article on the Digs site to brush off the points made in David Lawrenson’s article, but this is not something landlords can do.
For example – insurance. It is essential that landlords insure their properties – this is both for their benefit and for their tenants benefit. However, many landlords will understandably baulk at paying extra insurance premiums if they  take DSS tenants.
Then, if their buy to let mortgage prohibit DSS tenants, they can’t do anything else BUT refuse to take them. If they don’t, they risk increased interest payments or (worst case scenario) foreclosure by the mortgage company. THAT is not going to help the tenants either.
However, I suspect that the biggest problems faced by landlords with DSS tenants are the problems with local authorities.
For example, comments on the Landlord Today report here make the following points:
  • They change the allowances to tenants with no warning,
  • They backdate enormous (and often fictitious) overpayments which the tenant has no hope of paying.
  • They start and stop payments as they wish with no regard for the landlord’s contract with the tenants
  • They insist on paying in 4 week cycles instead of calendar month like everyone else
  • The council teams are incredibly rude and aggressive to agents and Landlords alike
  • They actively encourage defaulting tenants
The first commenter ends by saying
After 10 years of accepting DSS tenants we stopped in Jan 2015 after too many bad experiences- not with tenants but with councils
You may also want to take a look at Kate’s Story on this blog – a true story where a landlord tried to help a DSS tenant but ended up losing out.

Why SHOULD private landlords act to their disadvantage?

Why would any landlord voluntarily let to a tenant where there are likely to be all these problems, when there are plenty of non-DSS tenants around?
To answer the comment from the Digs author
all of these people need to take proactive responsibility for ensuring that no-one is denied a decent, secure and affordable place to live simply because they don’t earn enough money.
I would say ‘why should they?”. They are private individuals, not charities.  It’s not their job to house the homeless.
And unless they are ‘stinking rich’ (which most small landlords are not) I don’t even think they have a moral duty to do this.  Their duty is to their own families.
Letting agents are of course just the businesses who manage the properties, and are duty-bound to get the best financial return for their customers – they would be negligent if they didn’t and could be vulnerable to compensation claims. Although no doubt their staff will also want to avoid problems with ‘difficult’ local authorities.

The real problem

The real problem is that instead of social housing stock being increased, which is what is desperately needed, it is actually being reduced.
Government seems to be hell bent on doing all it can to increase the ‘right to buy’ sell-off and make it difficult for Housing Associations and other social landlords to build any more.
Thus completely ignoring the needs of DSS and other low-income families who have nowhere else to go.  For example, they can hardly stump up the 1/2 million or so needed for an ‘affordable‘ property in London.

Possible solutions

It goes without saying that Local Authorities and Housing Associations should be encouraged to build and acquire property to let to benefit tenants.
There are also other traditional and innovative solutions that could be looked at, such as
  • Compulsorily acquiring some of the many properties lying empty
  • Using unused areas of land to house the homeless in cheaper and quickly erected ‘container’ and ‘popup’ housing such as is being done in a few places
  • Encouraging people to build their own homes from standard parts, as was done here
(Give us your suggestions below!)
These are the sorts of things that tenants organisations should, in my view, be focusing on.
Finally, there are still (I hope) some private landlords, generally landlords with larger portfolios, who are prepared to take on DSS tenants. However, they are generally very experienced in this work, will usually insist on payments being made via a credit union and invariably require a home owning guarantor.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Need To Change Things Up? Try These Home Improvement TipsTry These Home Improvement Tips
 Home Improvement Tips – Remember, to be successful, you’ll need to know as much as you can about what your specific project will entail. You can improve the look and feel of your home by applying the ideas you’ve learned here.  Home Improvement Tips – Getting through a home improvement project is a thing that can do a lot for your family.

TIP! To save money, refinish dreary cabinets in lieu of replacing them. Paint the bases, replace fixtures and get new doors for a brand new kitchen.
Look at what you want to accomplish, this is a great tip to assist you on your journey towards home improvement. You can improve your home through personal panache.
TIP! When improving your house, take the neighborhood’s character into consideration. A Victorian-styled home amongst a row of small, cute saltbox cottages stands out, and not in a good way.
When it comes to managing your home during the summer, use all of the fans that you can. Ceiling fans are great for air circulation as well, and they also cool a room. Using fans will lower your electricity costs.
TIP! If you want a simple project that will really make a difference, think about painting your home. Freshly painted rooms feel crisp and new with very little investment of money or time.
If you are looking to reduce you energy costs, you could change your lighting system to operate on motion sensors. You can still turn the light on manually when you need to, and most models also let you fine tune the sensitivity.
TIP! Before buying “quality” supplies, see to it that you shop around for the best deals possible. If you plan to replace flooring in multiple rooms, prepare to spend a significant amount of money.
When planning your home improvements, it is important to pinpoint which room you want to start on. You may find that working on a single room is much easier to manage in terms of funds and scheduling. Do some advance planning when it comes to remodeling, and watch for sales and deals on construction and labor. Long-term planning can help you achieve great home improvement results on a modest budget.
TIP! Thinking about installing a beautiful hardwood floor? Have a professional check out the existing floors in your home first. Sometimes you may have beautiful, natural hardwood hiding underneath layers of carpet or linoleum that is just waiting to be refinished.
Tile can wear out over time. You can clean most types of flooring safely and effectively with a simple solution of vinegar and water. Just put some vinegar in a bucket of water and scrub. Your floors will look brand new after the dulling residue is removed.
TIP! Whatever your home improvement project, you need a designated space for all waste and debris that piles up as a result of your projects. It can be expensive to remove all that rubbish, so having a plan ahead of time is essential to saving you money and ensuring that your project continues as scheduled.
Focus on your entryway or porch for a bit when making improvements to your home. When someone comes to your house it will be the first thing they see, giving them an impression of what lays inside. Remove all debris and clutter and add some decorations, such as furniture, lights, or flowers. This is a great way to increase the value of your home.
TIP! Seek professional advice before you engage in your project. Many times, that opinion will save you quite a bit of money and time.
Safety first! If your windows are covered with blinds, you should always tie or snip the cords. You can avoid a disaster by a child or pet becoming tangled in them and potentially strangling. Make sure that you leave some length so that you can open and close your blinds, though not any more than you need. Give it a snip or tie it off to avoid accidents.
TIP! The sharp edges of furniture can be a hazard for younger children. Pad the corners to prevent any injuries.

Garage Door

TIP! Instead of using a table lamp, choose a floor lamp; this will free up much-needed space on your nightstand. Consider replacing any table lamps you might have with floor lamps.
Repainting your dingy old garage door can boost the curb appeal of any home. Since a garage door suffers from constant exposure to the weather and sun, the color quickly fades and the door looks dingy. Fresh paint can make your entire home seem more newer, and makes it more valuable. Try choosing a color that will compliment your home for use on your garage door.
TIP! When you are considering any major home improvements, look for “age-in-place” projects you can use in your home. Age-in-place is a design philosophy which considers the homeowner’s age over the amount of time they own the home.
It can be very rewarding to invest some time into improving your home. To get the results you want, you should get as much information as you can. Consider this article a starting place, and use the tips that have been provided here to get you off to the right start as you journey down the road to home improvement.

 TIP! Maintaining a home improvement budgets goes a long way toward maintaining or increasing the value of your home, so aim for setting money aside as a budget for handing any repairs or upgrades. A homeowner who allocates a manageable annual budget for home improvement will maintain his/her home in better condition.
New to Property Investment

Do You Want to Invest in Property? Is now a good time to invest in property? Are we still in a property bubble? Are there better ways to invest: pensions, stock market? Will property prices stagnate for years to come? Doesn’t owning property create too many headaches? Although we cannot predict what will happen in the short term, history shows us and there’s much convincing evidence to prove that over the next 10 to 20 years property prices will continue to add to your wealth. 

Property has two things that generally other forms of investment don’t: You can borrow safely against bricks and mortar using the property itself as security Property produces a very respectable positive cash flow income, month on month, year on year The housing market is still feeling the effects of the massive overcorrection brought about by the lending debacle and the economic recession of recent years. If you can see past this, you may begin to expect average annual rates of return for property to stabilise and increase because a growing and expanding population will always need housing and roofs over their heads. 

Becoming a landlord can be a daunting prospect at first, but with a little experience and a bit of effort applied to getting yourself organised, you will find that property management is quite straightforward. Many do it as a side line to a full-time job, and some go on to make their growing property portfolio a full-time occupation. Generally property can outperform all other types of investment for the following reasons: Provides dependable and growing rental income You can borrow against the property and effectively your tenants buy your asset over a number of years You can make a big gain when you buy – buying below market value and getting a bargain should be the aim of all property investors – that way you make a profit when you buy. Over the long term the value of your property will increase and is the best hedge against inflation. You can add value to your investment by making sensible improvements – adding a bed room, improving the view, landscaping grounds, the possibilities are endless. As landlord you enjoy certain tax concessions like being able to claim expenses for managing your property. What should I consider before Investing in Property? 

History shows that those with the courage to go against the crowd, to buy when the market in down, the so called contrarian investors, are the ones that make the real money. In reality, most people do just the opposite. They only get interested when the media frenzy of a property boom shows that everyone and his dog is making a killing, so, eager not to miss the boat, they jump in at exactly the wrong time, when the market is beginning to peak. There are three keys to success with any investment: research, research, research! 

Talk to other property owners and get their views. Find out what it’s like to be a landlord and the business prospects. Find out how they did it. Consider joining a local landlord’s association and go to their meetings. 

Research the local market and get comparables: walk the streets, talk to letting agents, search the rental ads and see what demand there is, what prices and rents they are asking. You may even pose as a prospective tenant, making enquiries and doing some viewings – it will give you a chance to see just what’s on offer and what competition you will have. 

Beware of “hand-holding” so-called investment advisers and properly sourcers. Some are good, but many are out to make a “quick buck” and will put you into any old rubbish so long as they can make a profit out of you. Take responsibility for your own research and decisions, even if you do use an adviser. Always ask to speak with their previous investors before committing to anything an advisor brings to you. 

Think about distance. Managing a property at the other end of the country, or even 40 miles away, is difficult unless you use an agent. Agents are fine so long as you employ a good one, but make no mistake, there’s no such thing as a passive “arm chair” property investment, even when you pay an agent to manage it for you. Don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise. 

Keeping things local means you are in a position to not only know the market well, you can save yourself a lot of money, usually around 15% of the rental income, by learning to market and manage tenancies yourself. If you can do a bit of DIY, most landlords do, and then you save yourself even more. Rentals will always need a “lick of paint” between lettings, and wielding a paintbrush and roller should not be beyond your skill level! 

Be comfortable with your financing arrangements. 

The services of a good finance broker – see the long established – one who knows the mortgage market inside out, is invaluable. You need to consider carefully whether you can afford to take on a significant investment, so the experienced advice from the broker will be very important. 

Be prepared for a lot of extra work in the early stages, especially if you want to embark on improvements and refurbishment work, so assessing your free time is important. Make sure your family are fully supportive of your venture, and see the long term benefits, otherwise it can put intolerable strain on a relationship and children might miss out on family time. 

Be prepared for a period with no rental income whilst your property is being prepared and during a period of marketing.

 Your research should tell you roughly how long it will take to find a suitable tenant, but there’s no guarantees here. 

Budget for income and expenditure over a 12 month period into the future. You do this using a cash flow forecast – a spread sheet that lists income, minus expenses leaving a remaining balance in the bank, month by month. With experience you will be amazed how accurate you can get with this forecast and it puts you in good stead to run any business. You lenders can see that you are “on top of the game” and know exactly what your future finance need will be. This exercise will give you a good idea if your investment is viable – cash-flow positive – before you commit. 

Make sure you have good insurance cover and factor in the cost, especially during any refurbishment / development phase, but also once the property is tenanted. Your biggest risk as a landlord is third party liability – someone being killed on injured on your premises – you need £5 million cover. 

Allow for the cost of marketing you property, or if you decide to use an agent, the cost of the agent’s fees. Always check out potential agents to make sure they are members of recognised professional associations. If they are not your rent and deposit monies may be at risk – members of the main professional association must have an insurance bond and use separate client accounts. 

Don’t go overboard on the quality of kitchens, bathrooms and other facilities when refurbishing – remember this is a rental which need to make a positive return, not your own home. You need to factor in that kitchens and bathrooms may need replacing after 10 years or less and carpets may need replacing after 5. Estimate the cost of maintenance and repairs over a 12 month period. Keep some cash in reserve for unexpected bills. Do your homework and learn the skills necessary to become a successful landlords. There’s lots of information on LandlordZONE® to help you do this. Exercise Caution 

Not everyone is suited to be a landlord, so you must factor in the cost of using help, agents, trades people, if you are to go ahead. You should be cautious; otherwise your rental property investment could lead to financial problems. Taking on a large mortgage commitment is long term and should not be taken lightly; you just can’t afford it without a positive cash flow investment.

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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

What Furniture Should Landlords Provide?

My answer: None (kinda’).
Failing that, assuming there’s a gun the size of a dinosaur pointing at your head, provide the very bear minimum. My general rule of thumb is to always keep it simple.

To be honest, I’m not even going to try and do the honourable thing by being objective about the issue; I’m going to be a complete ignoramus- this will be going all one way.
While I’m sure many of you can provide glowing furniture-based success stories, I can say through personal experience that for the most part, none of the pros outweigh the long-term reasons for avoiding the practice like a pile of dogshit. In 97% of cases, providing furniture doesn’t make any sense. I’m actually surprised so many landlords provide furnished properties, and I say that on the basis that the vast majority don’t do it, and with impeccably good reasoning.


Let’s sling the obvious out of the way.
Mo’ furniture, mo’ problems.
I’m sure many landlords can quickly and actively make their lives a lot less difficult and expensive by removing the unnecessary fittings and furnishings they pointlessly provided in their BTL. Not mid-tenancy obviously (although that would be hilarious), but next time round.
The blatantly obvious point to remember is that the more you provide with your property, the more you’re making yourself responsible for; the more reasons you’re creating to be called upon when something falls on its knees and crumbles into disrepair. Each item you provide is like a loaded gun. If that concept doesn’t make you want to burn your furniture to ashes, nothing will.
I’ve discussed ‘minimising risks’ before (although I can’t remember in which posts for the life of me), particularly the benefits it can have on our health and profits, and how we should be looking to do it across the board with every decision; from finding tenants to furniture and fittings. MINIMISE RISK!
I think we can all agree that being contacted by a tenant because, for example, a £20 Ikea bedside table (…or a cool disability table) is ‘wonky’ and in need of maintenance sounds irritating beyond belief- and that’s because it is. It only gets more infuriating when it actually happens. So why put yourself in that position where you’re prone to that kind of senseless attack?
How many of you have actually been summoned because of a broken item that you actually didn’t need to provide in the first place for a successful let?


I hear too many disputes about broken furniture and responsibilities. Not to mention, it’s not unheard of for items of furniture to miraculously go walkabouts. Either way, it’s usually such a gigantic waste of time
Generally, the tight-fisted landlord is the first to point blame for a broken item and the tenant is just as quick to deny all acknowledgement, so you end up with two disgruntled and unreasonable assholes pointing fingers at one another. That’s no fun.
The situation then escalates onto the tenancy deposits dispute resolution protocol, in which case the tenant almost always wins, usually because the landlord failed to compile a reliable inventory, or because the damage gets drawn up as fair wear and tear(even when it’s not).
You’ll be a blubbering mess then, won’t you?
Really, what’s the bloody point?


This is just so typical. Humans are natural born hoarders.
Landlords can’t be arsed to dispose of old/unwanted furniture, or they store items in their BTL believing they’ll call upon them in the future for personal use. However, the latter rarely ever happens, just like when we store junk in our lofts for later use, it almost always inevitably remains to collect mountains of dust and/or succulent rat-food.
Ultimately, you’re left with a delusional landlord that believes s/he’s hitting two birds with one stone; free storage and extra incentive for tenants. In reality, the hassle of providing furniture will trump both the mentioned ill-informed benefits.
Again, you’re creating more responsibility and maintenance unnecessarily. Either sell or dump your unwanted furnishings; stay clear from transforming your BTL into a storage unit for your own shit.


Furniture can be alienating if it’s total junk or doesn’t suit your prospective tenants taste, especially if it’s out-dated, worn or cheap. And if it’s not out-dated, it will be soon enough.
One of the best ways of minimizing void periods is to make your property suitable for as many prospective tenants as possible, furniture generally does the opposite, it creates limitations because you’re now catering to taste.


Depending on the politics of your local council, you may or may not be able to benefit from council tax relief during void periods. However, generally, exemption is usually always unavailable for furnished properties, because in theory, the property is still in ‘in use’… albeit, a glorified storage unit.
In real terms, if you have a furnished BTL property vacant for a month, you may have to pay the full £100 (approx) council tax fee.


Over time, through historic and wisdom-filled events, you may realise that some furnishings and fittings are more prone to fair wear and tear than others, so you intelligently come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make any economic sense to continue restocking/repairing those items.
However, you stupidly sold your property on the basis that it comes with those items, so that means you need to ensure your property always has those items in exchange for the agreed rent…
What a glorious waste of money. What a freakin’ pickle.


If most rental properties are unfurnished, that means most tenants will have their own furniture and look for unfurnished properties. From my experience, most tenants want to transfer their own furniture, as opposed to sell their own before relocating, so they naturally look for ‘unfurnished’.
So again, you will drastically reduce the amount of interest in your property if you’re providing furniture, which could create longer and unnecessary vacant periods.
However, I will say one thing, in this booming rental market, where getting on the property ladder is near impossible for the average Joe, there shouldn’t be any real difficulties filling any type of vacant property, despite using ‘furnished property’ as bate. But it is a smaller audience, that’s all I’m saying.


This is my main gripe with providing furniture, the fact it usually doesn’t generate any extra income in the long-run. I’d actually go as far as to say it costs more by eating into profits.
Sure, you can charge more for furnished properties, but the extra you make usually won’t compensate for 1) the added time required to repair and maintain 2) the extra overall cost for maintenance 3) longer vacant periods 4) the increased potential for disputes 5) the extra admin required e.g. a more comprehensive inventory.
I’ve even gone as far as paying extra to remove features like a fireplace or air-con units, because I know that over the duration they’ll cost more than they’ll make me. That’s the key, calculating how much money the furniture will actually make you.
But let’s be real, furniture adds very little intrinsic value, if any.


From what I understand, there’s no real legal definition of what constitutes as ‘furnished’, ‘part-furnished’ or ‘unfurnished’. But as a general consensus, we can assume that part-furnished implies a few randomly provided items like a table and a chest of drawers, minus a sofa, chairs and beds, just for example.
Opting for part-furnished is probably the dumbest biggest mistake of all potential scenarios, and it usually occurs because of my previous point, where landlords use their BTL’s as storage units.
The reality is, those part-furnishings won’t warrant or generate a single penny in extra rent, and will provide ZERO extra incentive to convince prospective tenants to pick your property over a completely unfurnished property- a singular chest of draws tucked away in a bedroom corner won’t have any impact, and you’re probably clinically insane if you think otherwise.
So the question has to be asked, WHY provide the random part-furnishings items? If the furniture isn’t making you money, it’s costing you money! Don’t fall victim to using your BTL as a storage unit, stick your shit on ebay or take a trip to your local dump…. or just start a fire and vaporize it all. Burn it all to the ground (safely and responsibly).
It has to be said, I’ve been guilty of this crime to some extent. I remember I used to leave random pieces of furnishings and fittings in my properties, usually clean/useful items that were left behind by previous tenants, stupid items like garden plant pots. In hindsight, I was just opening myself up for senseless attacks.
Now I ensure my tenants remove ALL their belongings during checkout. Any form of excess fat is a liability. Keep it lean and clean!


Depending on the quantity and value of the furniture provided, it may make good sense to extend your standard landlord building insurance to cover contents.
More costs. More costs. And more costs.


I’m not entirely sure why this reason popped into my puny mind at the closing stages of my list- I may currently be dangerously dehydrated- because it probably should have been at the top. It’s so obvious.
Forget escalating repairing and maintenance costs for a moment, let’s go back to the very beginning, where buying furniture in the first place requires more start-up capital.
If you really need to spend that money (I have no idea why that would be the case, maybe some dumb tax surplus benefit, or something), it can definitely be spent in better areas. For example, I’d rather spend my hard-earned money on a workhorse boiler that will withstand the test of time. Trust me, the tenant will benefit far more, whether he/she realises it or not.


Moving is a pain for everyone. Period.
I can think of a billion other sadistic and painful things I’d rather do to myself than pack all my shit up and move.
It could be argued that tenants with their own furniture will be more inclined to stay longer, purely because the prospect of moving is that much more profusely sickening (and potentially expensive). I’m not just talking about the agony of lugging it around, but also furniture is typically purchased to fit around specific room dimensions, and often retrofitted to make the perfect fit. Furniture can act like shackles in that sense! Brilliant.
Of course, this could either be an incredibly good or bad thing. But generally, we all want long-term tenants as long as they’re not utter idiots.
If a tenant’s worldly possessions consists of clothing and a few appliances and can be contained in a few boxes, there isn’t much of a barrier to relocate.


The last thing a tenant wants to do is sacrifice their deposit because of a broken piece of furniture, and who can blame them?
Hello “bodge-job repairs”!
Tenants will do almost anything to recover their deposit in its entirety, and that includes patching together a broken table leg with a bit of pritt-stick. It’s usually good enough to fool the landlord on first inspection, but the reality surfaces after the deposit has been returned and the in-between cleaning/tidying preparation commences. Even worse, the next set of tenants fall victim to a collapsing table while indulging on spag-bol, and now they’re angry at the piece of shit furniture you’ve provided and the shit on the floor they’ll have to clean.
Well, you get the idea.


I’m not sure how fair this final point is, but I can see the logic behind it, so I’m going to toss it onto the pile, even if it’s just food for thought.
If a tenant is prepared to rent a £1,200PCM 2 bedroom property, but makes it clear they can’t afford to furnish, it could give you a good inclination of their state of finances. This could be a dangerously poor assumption to make, but something about the concept makes sense, especially when put into the right context. So unfurnished properties could act as a detoriant for tenants that don’t have much disposable income.
So there you have it, 14 solid reasons to fuck furniture right off, right?
I hear the pro-furniture brigade are like animal-rights activists, a proper lively bunch, so go easy on me if I triggered any chemically imbalanced rage. Despite popular belief, I’m here to love. Hard & fast.


I can think of a few scenarios where providing furnishings can make sense, but generally speaking, these account for a very small portion of landlords in the grand scheme of things, and cover areas of landlording which I have no involvement with…


If you’re looking to let your own home for a short-period, for 6-18 months, because you’re having a mid-life crisis and consequently wanting to travel the world, it can make sense to leave all the furniture in there. But don’t for one second expect them to be in the same condition as you left it.
No one will care about your precious possessions as much as you do, and that means no one will care if your chest of draws is an inherited family heirloom. It’s just another shitty chest of draws to everyone else.


I’m not all that familiar with larger bedroom BTL properties. I don’t think they make for good rental investments, I think the sweet-spot is anywhere between 1-3 bedrooms. However, I can’t imagine many private tenants looking for a 4+ bedroom will have the means or urge to furnish such large properties, purely because of the ball-ache involved. For those without furniture, it could mean an extra 2k investment.
So if you’re letting a large property, it can make sense to furnish it. Having said that, since more and more people are being completely priced out of the market, including many families (that come with their own furniture), I suspect that larger rental properties are becoming more sought after, especially in ‘family-friendly’ neighborhoods.
So who knows, maybe unfurnished 4+ bedroom properties have hope. If so, definitely go for it (I would).


Houses of multiple occupation generally come furnished, or at least, the communal areas do, similarly with communal lodgerareas.


This goes without saying, and it’s a completely different kettle of fish from standard BTL’s.
By all means, furnish your quaint little cottage in the Cotswolds with your best china and Grandpa’s rocking chair.


I guess this accounts for not only students, but also people in their early-mid twenties too, both of which whom usually don’t have the experience or means to come attached with their own possessions beyond a camping bag full of grungy clothing, and a couple of novelty shot glasses.
To be more specific, I’d say this applies to flats in student/trendy areas, that attract the youth by the masses, areas like Shoreditch and Bricklane- areas my sprouting grey hairs would stick out like a bunch of sore thumbs. Sigh.
Whatever the exception, I’d keep the furniture to a bear minimum. And it’s always worth asking, “will providing furniture actually make a difference to the rentability?” In many cases, it won’t.


Most of the following doesn’t constitute as “furniture” in my opinion, but I do want to make the distinct clarification, just in case some plonker walks away from here with completely the wrong idea- they wouldn’t be the first…
  • White goods
    ‘White goods’ are pretty essential, and can make all the difference to desirability.
    Most rentals come with some form of white goods, and it’s unlikely a tenant will want to splash out an extra £1k to buy their own. I’m sure they’d rather spend that extra money on a better property that comes with them supplied.
    I typically provide a fridge-freezer in my properties, I believe most tenants expect that at the very least. Anything more and you’ll notice a difference in maintenance costs and ’emergency calls’ from your tenants, because white goods are usually used and relied upon regularly (e.g. washing machines), so they’re prone to breakage, and when that happens, you’ll be the first to know.
  • Oven/Cooker
    All my properties have built in or free-standing cooker/oven combo- pretty standard as far as I’m concerned.
    Does anyone actually go without providing an oven/cooker? That’s taking ‘unfurnished’ to the next level. If so, may as well get your tenants to supply their own toilet, too.
  • Beds
    I can get on board with providing beds, particularly with in certain demographics, like flats in a student/trendy area. At least, providing a bed in the master bedroom should be enough.
    I think they can make a useful addition, and generally, a good sturdy bed won’t just collapse and die, so the investment won’t be excruciating. Of course, the good thing about beds is that they can mostly be styled by the duvet, so they shouldn’t cause any offense.
    Since everyone needs/wants a bed, it’s one of those features that can play a factor in winning over the crowd. However, mattresses, that’s another issue altogether, their life-cycle is horrendously short as they generally get covered in all kinds of congealed shit. Literally. So if I do provide a bed, it comes without a mattress.
  • Curtains/Blinds
    Believe me, it’s better that you properly fit curtain rails and provide neutral curtains yourself, as opposed to leaving it in the capable hands of your heavy-handed tenants. From my experience, that’s a sure-fire way of repossessing your property with nasty gaping holes above the window frames.
    I provide curtains with erectile joy (I have no idea what I actually mean by that, but assume it’s inappropriate).
  • Bathroom mirror and bathroom fittings
    For the same reasons as providing curtain rails, I provide a bathroom mirror. There are a few other fittings that can fall under the same scenario – inexpensive items that all tenants will inevitably need, so it’s easier/safer just to provide them- but it usually depends on a case-by-case basis, so I’ll leave it to your better judgement.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you provide furniture? Can you think of any other reasons to avoid furniture like the plague?
If you’re one of the weird one’s that do provide furniture, I’d also love to hear your stance (“love” is probably a grossly inaccurate description, but either way, go for it) xo