10 things EVERY tenant should do when renting a property

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You've finally found a property to rent and call your home.

Once you’ve sealed the deal and moved in, here’s our 10 top tips to enjoy a successful spell in your new accommodation...

1. Ensure your deposit is protected by your agent or landlord

If you’re handing over any cash to the landlord or agent, make sure your deposit will be protected in a government-approved scheme. Some insure the money, other schemes hold on to it. Either way, it should give you peace of mind that your money’s safe.

2. Confirm the ‘house’ rules

Children, smoking and pets are three of the biggest things that most landlords want to know about. Some will allow them, others won’t. If you’re renting a flat in a shared complex, it’s also a good idea to ask about things like where to keep bikes or whose responsibility it is to deal with any rubbish and recycling.

3. Appraise any fixtures, fittings or appliances

It’s always wise to check everything on the day you move in so that you can flag any items you’re unhappy with and get them sorted. Also ensure you are happy with the property inventory. Landlords and agents usually allow up to 14 days for tenants to return these with any amendments, setting out an agreement over contents which come – and stay – with the property. This is very important when it comes to the return of your deposit in full at the end of your tenancy. Contents insurance is also essential if you want cover for your own possessions as the landlord’s insurance won’t provide protection.

4. Carry out a safety check

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be fitted by your landlord as standard, if the property has solid fuel appliances. But it’s always a good idea to check they’re installed (and working!) as they could save your life.

5. Report problems immediately

Should your home become unfit to live in because of an issue (escape of water, fire or infestation etc), tell your landlord or agent immediately so that they can resolve the problem. Landlords would prefer to know about issues sooner so they can rectify the problems and prevent further damage to the property in the future.

6. Look after the property

This is the number one thing any landlord wants from their tenant and, in our experience, it’s also the key to a successful long-term letting relationship. As you’d expect, don’t attempt any repairs or decorating without getting permission from your landlord first.

7. Be savvy and settle your bills

Check who’s responsible for paying the bills – water, gas, electricity and council tax – and make sure they’re settled on time. Usually, the tenant foots the bill so make sure you do or you might find yourself in financial trouble.

8. Be considerate to the neighbours

If you aren’t and the situation gets serious, you could end up being evicted for anti-social behaviour. Click here to read our noisy neighbours advice guide.

9. Don’t take in any lodgers

Sub-letting is usually not allowed under the terms of your tenancy agreement so it’s important to check this with your landlord or agent if this is a step you’re considering.

10. Pay your rent

It might be obvious, but if you don’t do this you could find yourself without a home because you’ll have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement! Should you ever experience financial issues, we would advise letting your landlord or agent know so that they understand your position. Some may be willing to accept deferred or late payments if it helps ease your worries.

Find your new home with Garness Jones

If you’re looking for a new rental property, call 01482 564564 or click to browse our complete property portfolio now!

How to build a rental property portfolio

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Are you looking to build a rental property portfolio?

With rents in the private sector continuing to rise at record rates, starting a portfolio could prove to be a shrewd financial move.

Growing from a single-property landlord into one with several assets is a long-term project which requires time, commitment and money.

At Garness Jones, we understand that making your first investment can often feel a bit daunting. But we believe following a few simple steps can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Here’s our top 12 tips to building a rental property portfolio that’s sustainable…

Set an end goal

Before arranging any viewings, it’s important to know why you want to invest in property.

Do you want to enjoy increased capital value when you sell? Are you keen to become a successful buy-to-let landlord? Or would you like to do both?

Knowing your financial aims will not just influence your first property purchase, it will also determine future investment decisions and how you build your portfolio in the long term.

Start off small

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but it pays to be sensible and start off small because this will minimise the potential risks you face.

The property market is known for being volatile. So are interest rates. If you’ve only got one property to worry about, you’ll be able to learn slowly before gradually building a portfolio over time.

If you’re going to manage your first property yourself, it’s probably wise to choose one close to where you live so you’re always on hand to deal with any issues.

Do your research  

Before buying anything, do your research and find out what type of properties are most in demand in your target area. It also pays to know what type of tenants you might attract and how much they’re willing to spend on rent each month. Otherwise you could end up owning a nice property which won’t rent out, a common mistake often made by first-time investors.

Set a budget and stick to it

If you’re going to build a rental property portfolio which makes money you need to be financially shrewd. No matter how much you like a property, do not go above your maximum budget.

It’s also a buyer’s market so you should never offer the asking price. The worst that can happen is that you’re turned down. Start low and let the seller negotiate the price up.

Create a positive cash flow

In our experience, the main reason why single-property landlords don’t buy more lettings is because they cannot afford the repayments.

You can only do this by making sure the rental income covers your mortgage payments and other outgoings, whilst also providing a reasonable return. The sum you receive after all expenses have been paid can then be used to reinvest.

Adopting this approach effectively means that your properties are paying you to own them. To sustainably buy and own more than one property (and continue to purchase) you need to follow this model to create a positive cash flow.

Always think about tenants

For buy-to-let investors, the tenant should always be at the forefront of their mind when making any decisions because a satisfied tenant is more likely to lease a property in the long-term. Not only will this help to maximise the length of a tenancy, it will minimise void periods without rent and allow you to bank a regular income.

Stress test

The best way to guard against rising costs and mortgage rates is to stress test your business model. Make sure you can still turn a profit even if the worst was to happen, such as a property being empty long-term or changes to legislation.

In 2018, changes to mortgage interest relief dramatically increased the amount landlords had to pay in tax. However, those who had a strenuous stress testing process in place were largely unaffected.

Make sure you can always service your debts. Try not to borrow against the value of multiple properties at once (known as cross-collateralisation) or you may have to sell more than one of them to pay off just one loan.

Renovate to accumulate

Improving a property - and its value - is a great way to help you acquire more property for two reasons:

·       It often allows you to increase the rent.

·       It usually increases your equity.

Properties which have been a bit neglected usually get put on the market for a reduced rate so they’re easy to improve with a few simple renovations.

Even a quick lick of paint and a new carpet can make an amazing difference to a property’s market value.

Work with tradesmen you trust

Most successful landlords know a great team of tradesmen. Should any problems need fixing quickly, it’s comforting to know you’ve got some good, reliable tradesmen you can trust to help.

Get a good agent

If you don’t want the stress and hassle associated with being a landlord, it’s definitely worth getting a good letting agent.

At Garness Jones, we work hard to develop a close working relationship with all our landlords because we believe this helps make life easier for them and their tenants.

Not only do we deal with everything on your behalf, we also offer expert advice when it comes to building a property portfolio, notifying you first about suitable investments before they go on the open market.

If you’d like to find out more about working in partnership with us, please get in touch or call 01482 564564.

Ignore value – and focus on yield

Focusing on property value instead of yield is the biggest mistake that first-time investors make.

As most investors already know, the ‘yield’ of a property is the annual return you’re likely to get on your investment. It’s calculated by expressing a year’s rental income as a percentage of how much the property cost to buy.

Put simply, there’s no point having a property empire worth £100m if you have huge mortgages on all those houses and a negative yield. In reality, you don’t actually ‘own’ anything. You’d be better off with one house worth £110,000 delivering a yield of 5 per cent (£5,500 in rent each year).

In short, it’s always better to look at how much your investments are bringing in, not what they’re worth on paper.

Stick to what you know

When the rental income starts to flow, don’t grow an ego. Stick to what you know.

Doing this will allow you to become a specialist in your specific area, a certain type of tenant (families or students) or a particular type of property.

If you’ve got a business model that works, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There’s actually nothing wrong with repeating the same winning formula time and again.

Want more expert property advice?

If you’re keen to build a sustainable property portfolio in Hull or the Yorkshire region, Garness Jones can help you take the next step - call 01482 564564 to find out how!

New laws rightly providing greater financial protection for property lettings landlords

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New laws have been introduced under which any lettings agents not registered with one of six recognised Client Money Protection (CMP) schemes will be found to be trading illegally – and face fines of up to £5,000.

As a business which has long been members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and ARLA Propertymark, our team at Garness Jones Residential certainly welcomes this tightening of legislation, which will without doubt provide greater protection to landlords.

As a firm which places a clear focus on supporting professional landlords who are looking to develop substantial property portfolios for rent, we are always very much aware of the need to manage their money and ensure it is safe at all times.

Essentially we operate to help landlords make their investments go further and become more profitable.

We work hard to ensure their properties enjoy high tenancy rates, and then collect, protect and manage their money like it is our own – whilst never for a second considering it to be our own.

That is where some agencies have gone wrong.

At some agencies there has been no clear distinction between their own business funds, and those collected on behalf of the landlords they serve. That can become a dangerous situation for both.

The new law, introduced at the start of this month, now requires all letting agents in England to be members of a CMP scheme. They must also hold client money in a separate bank account, hold appropriate indemnity insurance and establish money handling procedures.

These are all measures we already had in place at Garness Jones, as we know the successful and safe management of landlords’ money is a key part of our service – in fact perhaps the most important part for all landlords who entrust us.

This has been an issue which has needed addressing for some time, given a landlord with 20 rental properties bringing in £600 a month has £12,000 invested in a letting agent each month.

That is close to £150,000 over year – a clear example of the kind of money which can be passing through the largest agencies representing many landlords – and a clear example of why new regulations have been required.

Landlords will always rely on agencies for efficient service.

They look for them to efficiently collect and remit the monthly rent without delay, and pursue non-payment of rent chase arrears. This is something particularly important to those with buy-to-let property portfolios, as cash flow is crucial to helping them not only manage their current property port-folio, but expand it.

The new CMP schemes all offer essentially the same service – to protect any money held by a letting agent on behalf of a landlord or tenant should the cash be misappropriated.

The new laws should make little difference to agencies which have always put their clients first, but will thankfully offer greater peace of mind to many that their money and investments are safe.

Peace of mind is the first and most essential guarantee we give all of the landlords we work for, and always will.

Who owns a private road? Are residents responsible for maintaining it?

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There was a time when house buyers sought out a home on a private road as it held great appeal due to the exclusivity attached to it.

However, it is now increasingly common for new housing developments to be built on private roads that are not taken over by the local authority (known as ‘unadopted roads’).

As a result, more people are finding themselves in this position, but not through choice.

This situation obviously has its advantages, such as improved security, better control over parking and enhanced property values.

But potential disadvantages can also be a cause of concern.

How will communal areas, roads, lighting, signage or play areas be maintained?

What about the lack of local authority services such as gritting, road sweeping and drain gully clearance? Is there a need for insurance? And will there be disagreements between residents over costs and maintenance?

These areas of uncertainty are main reason why the management team at Garness Jones Residential are seeing an increase in demand for specialist services across Hull, York and the surrounding areas.

People often don’t want the headaches that can come with living in a private road. Fortunately, we can help to take them away.

What the private roads UK law says

According to the Highways Act 1980, a private road (or ‘unadopted’ road) is any highway that’s not maintained at public expense.

The law on the maintenance and adoption of private roads in England and Wales is a highly complex area - and full details can be found here on the Government website.

Essentially, there are two main types of ‘unadopted’ roads:

Private Street – A privately-maintained road where the public has a right of way. If it needs repairing, the local authority has the right to make it safe under the Highways Act and charge residents for the work.

Private Road – A road where no public right of way exists. Residents are solely responsible for any repairs. These roads must be gated, unless registered, at least once a year to prevent through traffic, but this is usually the case all the time.

Who is responsible for maintaining a private road?

The local highway authority is under no obligation to pay for the maintenance of any ‘unadopted’ or private road.

The owners of properties which front onto private roads (known as ‘frontagers’) are responsible for paying for any repairs or maintenance required.

If there is a danger to traffic in a private road, the law allows the local street works authority to demand that frontagers undertake the necessary repairs under ‘statutory provision’. Fail to do so and the authority can carry out the repairs before recovering the costs from the frontagers.

Depending on the nature of the case, frontagers do have the right to object to the authority making a demand for payment for any repairs they carry out on a private road.

All unresolved objections will be heard by a Magistrate's Court, who decide whether the authority can demand payment. Any homeowner who is unhappy with the Magistrate’s decision do have the right to appeal against the demanded sum to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Should residents insure their private road?

Whilst there is no legal obligation to insure a private road, it’s definitely a good idea – especially if you want to avoid being held liable in the event of an accident.

Taking out private road insurance or public liability insurance offers peace of mind for residents and will protect them from footing the bill in the event of claim being made.

How to best manage your private road

If you’re thinking of buying a house in a Private Road, or if you already own one, it often pays to do a little bit of research.

If you can, try to find out:

·  Is there an active and well-run residents' association?

·  Or is the road managed by an outside management company?

·  What are your exact responsibilities as a resident?

 Living on a private road is not something which should be taken lightly because of the ongoing management charges you’ll be required to pay.

Basically, homeowners who live on ‘unadopted’ developments or roads are legally responsible for every aspect of their maintenance.

If the worst was to happen and the road collapsed, you’ll need to make sure there are sufficient funds to pay for the repairs.

At Garness Jones, we manage and maintain private roads on behalf of homeowners in Hull, York and the surrounding areas.

If occupants are unhappy with the service provided by their existing management company, we can take over or help set up a residents’ association so the owners can manage their affairs with far greater control.

By working closely with neighbouring homeowners, we could help to make expensive and ever-increasing maintenance charges a thing of the past – and minimise the financial risks you face.

If this sounds like a community-focused approach that could work for you, please call 01482 564564 for an informal discussion.

Responsible landlords should already be meeting requirements of new Fit for Human Habitation Act law

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The new Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018 is something we at Garness Jones Residential certainly welcome – but is a change in law which should not impact on responsible landlords who want to protect their investments.

The law has been introduced to help tenants of less than seven years in England and Wales who have continuing issues within their homes and struggle to get their landlord to do anything about the issues they raise.

We appreciate this is certainly a problem for many renters, but feel it is perhaps more of a common problem when renting directly off an individual landlord and not through a dedicated and specialist letting agency.

Of course, a property which has persistent problems with damp, mould or poor drainage can be made to look perfect by a landlord in preparation for a viewing to secure a new tenant and another monthly rental income.

However, the key to being a successful landlord in the long term is ensuring that all properties are in a suitable condition both at the beginning and throughout the tenancies.

Ensuring this is the case is a vital part of the work we do at Garness Jones Residential when acting on behalf of landlords.

It is an essential service which we provide for both the landlords we represent and their tenants.

It is also incredibly important for us as we strive to ensure the properties we promote and manage are of the highest quality at all times.

Regular property inspections can help maintain standards

As part of our basic service to landlords we carry out annual inspections of their properties to ensure they are being maintained to a good standard by tenants.

We also offer more regular inspections and risk assessments should landlords have any particular concerns.

Our team also takes a proactive approach with regards to making tenants aware of how they can prevent problems arising, providing advice such as how they can best look after their homes and prevent the development of condensation and mould.

In essence, both landlord and tenant have a role to play, and we would certainly advise any person in rented accommodation who has concerns to firstly approach their landlord directly to discuss the matter before seeking legal action.

If there is a lettings agency involved, it is best to go through them to tackle any problems, as a respectable agency should make sure such concerns are raised with the landlord speedily, and crucially then pursued to ensure changes are made.

There may be new laws in place, but essentially landlords who look after their portfolio and look after their tenants have little to worry about.

Those who fail to keep a property fit for human habitation will face more serious consequences though, and that is a step in the right direction for all.

Advice for tenants with seven simple steps to preventing mould growth in rented properties

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One of the most common complaints of tenants in rented accommodation is the development of mould in a property – but it is something that can usually be reduced or remedied by the occupant themselves.

Indeed, landlords and property agents should always advise their tenants of how they can take simple steps to reduce moisture levels – as nobody wants mould to develop.

As many regular day to day activities produce moisture, leading to condensation and then potentially mould growth, the key is to strike the right balance between warmth and ventilation.

Here is our simple seven step guide to reducing the risk of mould;

  1. Produce less moisture – Try not to dry clothes indoors, but if you have to do so in a room with an extractor fan or with a slightly open window. Use condensing tumble driers or vent them to the outside, cover pans when cooking and don’t leave kettles boiling.

  2. Remove Excess Moisture - Always wipe windows and window sills of your home every morning to remove condensation. This is especially important in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen – just opening the window is not enough.

  3. Ventilate – Ventilate rooms as often as you can. Open a window slightly or use the trickle vents often found on new UPVC windows. Always ventilate when using kitchens and bathrooms and close the doors to prevent moisture spreading to other rooms. Continue to ventilate for a short period after a bath, shower or cooking.

  4. Give your property room to breathe - Leave space between the back of furniture and cold walls and clear window sills of clutter that will restrict opening the window. Ventilate cupboards, wardrobes and avoid overfilling them as this prevents air circulating. Open bedroom windows for up to an hour as soon as you arise and throw back the sheets or duvets to air the bed and bedding.

  5. Try and establish a constant temperature – In cold weather it is best to keep rooms warm and avoid condensation with a low, constant background heat on all day, rather than short bursts of high heat when you are in the house. Good heating controls on your radiators, room thermostats will help control heat levels and manage your costs.

  6. Insulate and draught-proof – Something more for landlords than tenants, but insulation, secondary or double glazing, cavity wall insulation and draft-proof windows and external doors make a huge difference. They are investments which can lead to longer term savings, and in some cases, grants are available for insulating your home.

  7. Consider buying a hygrometer – A low cost purchase which will help you monitor the relative humidity in your home, and alert you to the need to take steps to reduce the amount of moisture in the air if it gets too high.

HOW TO REMOVE BLACK MOULD SUCCESSFULLY

Black mould can grow on walls, ceilings, furnishings and even on clothes and toys, which can be depressing and expensive, so if it does appear, here is our advice on how best to deal with it.

  1. Carefully remove excess mould with a damp cloth and throw away after. Or if possible, use a vacuum cleaner and empty after. Do not brush mould as this releases spores into the air.

  2. Wipe down affected areas using a fungicidal wash or diluted bleach – remember always use rubber gloves and wear safety glasses.

  3. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic and disinfectant – and great for cleaning mould or mildew. Try a dilute of three to four drops of Tea Tree oil in two litres of water (hot or cold), but always carry out a test on small area before using more widely. Soak mildewed items in the solution or spray on to trouble spots using a plant mister. Wipe, then rinse off.

  4. After treatment redecorate using a fungicidal paint or wall paper paste – do not paint over using an ordinary paint.

  5. Dry clean mildewed clothes and shampoo carpets.

 

Should you need any further advice, contact or Residential Lettings Team on (01482) 564564

Property market experts who act with integrity – the view of Garness Jones’ customers

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Garness Jones are delighted to have been given the seal of approval by customers in a survey of services across the entire business – with clients highlighting our industry expertise and integrity as a business as our standout qualities.

A fully independent survey was commissioned by the firm at the end of 2018 in which clients, who were able to remain anonymous, were contacted and asked questions relating to our services.

The survey asked for feedback on our market knowledge, the quality of advice we provide, our customer service and professionalism and our costs.

Clients were also asked to give their views on their relationship with key contacts within the business, their speed of response and overall quality of work.

The survey was divided up into clients of our commercial and residential property businesses, with people contacted and asked to provide ‘honest’ feedback.

Able to remain anonymous, they were urged to ensure they raised any areas of concern.

Highlights of the feedback from the clients questioned were;

  • 90% said Garness Jones is a company which acts with integrity

  • 86% said our knowledge of the commercial management and commercial agency property market was excellent or very good.

  • 89% of residential lettings property owners taking part in the survey said they were happy with our initial advice and communication

  • 94% of residential lettings property owners taking part in the survey were happy with their relationship with their lettings coordinator

  • 80% of clients would recommend us to others

Dave Garness, managing director of Garness Jones, said the survey had been commissioned as the firm wanted a ‘clear, independent overview’ of how the business was currently perceived by clients.

He said: “As a business, you always feel you have a good appreciation of what you are doing well and what you need to improve, but something like this provides completely independent feedback, which you don’t always get for various reasons.

“Obviously you have to keep in mind that such an exercise can only provide a snapshot in time. Businesses and markets evolve all the time, and that means you face different challenges each and every year.

“Therefore, any business which thinks everything is perfect isn’t being realistic, as it is an ever-changing picture.

 “Taking that into consideration, we are delighted to have had such a good response from our clients and to be so highly thought of in terms our knowledge of the property market and our integrity. They are two key elements in the work that we do.

“We went into this with our eyes completely open and it has certainly given us food for thought going forward in a number of areas also, with some very valid and important feedback secured.

“It is an exercise I’d recommend to any business seeking a completely independent view of their work and current client satisfaction levels.”

Are noisy neighbours the landlord’s responsibility?

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Even the most thoroughly-vetted tenants can sometimes end up causing problems.

Unfortunately, excessive noise is one of the most contentious issues landlords have to deal with - especially if tenants are annoying long-established neighbours.

But is a noisy tenant really a landlord’s responsibility?

In reality, the answer is no, as a landlord can’t actually be held responsible for the actions of their tenant.

However, at Garness Jones Residential we know how important it is to do all possible to ‘keep the peace’, and that is why we work to resolve any issues before the neighbours (or local authority) take action.

Here’s some advice on how to best manage a problem with noisy neighbours;

Adopt a neighbourly approach  

Complaining to a landlord about noisy tenants is not uncommon. Should you receive a complaint, it is best to politely explain that you’re not liable for the noise, but as a responsible agent, you will personally request they reduce noise levels. It is also worth advising the neighbours to try and establish a friendly relationship with the tenant over time, as this makes raising any neighbourly concerns much easier to do.

Remind tenants of their responsibilities

As mentioned, a quick chat between a landlord and tenant to remind them of their responsibilities can often do the trick and prevent the situation escalating. Adopt an understanding approach and try to find out what activities are causing the noise. Usually this will establish whether a suitable solution can be found.

Make things more formal

If the above steps fail and the problem persists, things might need to get a bit more formal by writing to your tenant to outline the terms of their tenancy agreement. Most contracts stipulate that tenants must not do anything which is viewed as being a nuisance to the neighbouring community.

It is also worth making tenants aware that should complaints be made by neighbours to the local authority, and excessive noise levels persist, eviction is a possibility under Schedule 2 (Ground 2) of the Housing Act 1985 in England and Wales.

Councils can often ask complaints to supply evidence of regular noise and make a timeline of events and use this to enforce eviction.

I have even known a local authority to remove every item that was creating any noise, making the tenants pay a fine to the council to release the items back after a certain time.

Councils, housing associations and the police also now have the power to tackle anti-social noise from residential properties under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

This includes excessive noise from:

  • Unreasonably raised voices

  • Barking dogs or animals

  • Car and burglar alarms

  • Deliberate banging

  • Loud music

  • DIY activities

Preventing problems before they arise

At Garness Jones, we believe prevention is better than cure – and we ask all our tenants to be mindful of other residents.

As a responsible letting agent, we also advise tenants to avoid placing appliances like TVs, radios or speakers next to shared walls as this limits the potential for noise disturbance, particularly at inconvenient hours.

Before agreeing to rent out any property, the first thing we do is insert a noise clause into the tenancy agreement stating that the tenant must agree not to make unnecessary noise or cause a nuisance which may distress any neighbours. We believe this approach acts in the best interests of the tenant, the landlord and the wider community.

In the unlikely event that a problem does arise, we’re happy to act on behalf of landlords and will take every step possible to resolve any issues caused by noisy tenants.