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Ways to Keep Busy in South Devon without Spending Money

free

Having fun is important, no matter how old you are. But how can you enjoy yourself without breaking the bank?

Now the cold weather has set in, we’re all stuck at home after a blazing hot summer of being out and about. And if you’ve got kids, you’ll know the importance of keeping them busy and tiring them out.

In this two-minute read, we look at how you can beat the boredom without spending any money. 

Games night

Who doesn’t love a board game? And who doesn’t own at least one (with pieces missing, of course) that can still provide hours of entertainment? Great for families with older children or flat sharers with no money and lots of time, an organised games night can keep everyone laughing, bantering and getting competitive. And it’s totally free.

Luxury spa

Fancy a spa day but don’t fancy the extortionate prices? A DIY day of luxury is definitely called for. Grab your plushest dressing gown, wrap a towel around your head and you’re halfway there. Google ‘homemade facemask’ and use ingredients like honey, oatmeal, avocado and olive oil (providing you’re not allergic to any of these items) to get started. Stick on some relaxing music and spend a few hours lounging about.

Come dine with me

Remember lockdown? When we were all so desperate to see other people, we sat in the front garden or planned elaborate picnics. Well, now we’re allowed to see each other, why not take advantage of it and plan some TV-inspired dinner parties? You don’t have to be a top chef; you could even stick to themes like freezer food or canned food surprise. Don’t take it too seriously; keep it affordable and get your mates round.

Home cinema

You might not have a fancy cinema room, but we bet you’ve got a TV and at least one comfy chair. Make your cinema night a bit special with a bit of popcorn, dimmed lights and (if it’s cold) grab your duvet or a warm blanket. Cosy nights in are always a great idea.

Get crafty

This one’s for the kids in your life. Get them off their screens and away from the TV by enjoying a craft day. Make race cars or castles out of cardboard boxes, get those old paints and crayons out, make cards just in time for Xmas, there’s lots to do. And if you can’t think of anything, then good old Google will have plenty of ideas for those egg cartons and plastic milk bottles.

With the current cost of living crisis, there’s no better time to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun. At Chamberlains, we’d love to know your thoughts. What are the best ways to have fun for free? Comment below.

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Is Rent Protection Insurance Really Necessary?

rent protection insurance

The rental market is a tough place to be, especially in the current economic climate.

With the cost of living crisis leaving many tenants feeling squeezed, now could be the right time for landlords to invest in rent protection insurance. But is it really worth it, or just another expense?

In this two-minute read, we look at rent protection insurance in detail to help you decide whether you need it. 

What is it? 

Rent protection is also known as rent guarantee insurance or landlord rent insurance.

It protects landlords against loss of rental income if a tenant is unable to pay.

Where a tenant continually defaults, the eviction process can take a long time, meaning you’re without rental income until you can resolve the situation. Rent protection insurance covers losses for up to 12 months; it also includes legal expenses which you may incur during the eviction process.

As with any insurance policy, there are lots of conditions and restrictions on what and when you can claim, so make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for.

How much does it cost? 

This depends on factors such as size and location of the property, type of property, the tenants you’re renting to, rental amount and so on. It’s best to shop around, and most insurance comparison sites will provide multiple quotes.

Rent protection insurance is tax deductible.

Many letting agents offer rent protection insurance to their landlords as part of their fees, which saves you the time and hassle of looking for an individual policy.

Why is it a good idea? 

Many landlords need their monthly rent to cover mortgage payments, so not having cover could prove a big risk in the long run. Some policies also cover short periods of vacant possession.

If you have landlord insurance (buildings, contents and so on), you may be able to add rent protection to the policy. Make sure you speak to your provider to see what they offer. And, if you own multiple properties, you may be able to arrange a single policy to cover them all.

Are you a landlord in need of a trustworthy and reliable letting agent? At Chamberlains, we’ve got you covered. Give us a call on 01626 365055 to see how we can help.

 

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Keep South Devon Pets Safe on Bonfire Night

Bonfire night

Remember, remember the 5th of November… when the sky lights up, the bangs and booms of fireworks disturb your TV time, and your poor pets are driven to distraction by noise and flashing lights.

Yes folks, it’s Bonfire Night and whilst we all enjoy oohing and ahhing at pretty fireworks, spare a thought for pet owners who have to work extra hard to keep their little (or large) loves calm.

Here’s our quick guide on keeping your pooches and other pets safe and sound during the festivities. 

Doggy den

Before the noisy night, create a safe space for your pups in the quietest part of your home. Set it up with their favourite toys and doggy bed. Throw in some treats and anything else they like, so they can retreat to the area if they feel frightened or the noise gets too much. (TIP: This is a great way to help dogs feel safe at other times, for example, if you’re out for an extended period or have many guests around.)

Keep them inside 

Swap your evening walk for an earlier stroll to avoid being outdoors when fireworks are being let off. Also, restrict their time in the garden so you can be sure they’re safe and don’t bolt when the noise and lights get too intense.

Turn up the sound 

Drown out external noises by filling your home with sounds your pets are already familiar with. Play some relaxing music or turn up EastEnders or Coronation Street to distract them from what’s going on outside.

Dark and cosy 

Close the curtains, bring down the blinds and keep the atmosphere as relaxed as possible. You might not be able to block out the noise, but you will be able to reduce the flashing lights, hopefully reducing animal stress levels.

Cat safety 

It’s hard to keep cats inside at the best of times, but on Bonfire Night, it’s imperative to encourage them to stay home. Create comfortable hiding places or put treats in strategic locations around the home, so they’re occupied and less likely to head out into the night.

Outdoor pets 

If you’ve got outdoor pets, slightly cover their cages or pens so they can still look out but sounds and lights are muffled. Consider moving your pet indoors, but if that’s not possible, provide extra bedding so they can burrow themselves away.

At Chamberlains, we hope you all enjoy Bonfire Night.

 

 

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Make Your Rental Stand Out with These Techy Tips

rental

It’s fair to say that tenants’ needs have changed in recent years. With more people working from home than ever, has your rental property got the tech to appeal to top tenants?

In the current digital age, there are countless smart apps and devices that can help your property stand out in a crowded market

In this quick read, we look at some easy ways to become a tech-savvy landlord, attract the best tenants and save money. 

Broadband

Let’s start with the basics. Everyone wants to be connected, so ensuring you offer the fastest broadband at your property is a must. While there’s no obligation to provide tenants with broadband, it’s much better to get it installed before a property is occupied rather than receiving irate calls from fed-up tenants struggling to connect (or letting them do it themselves).

Smart meters 

If your rent includes bills, then a smart meter is an excellent way to understand how much you’re paying and identify potential savings. Similarly, if your tenant is responsible for bills, a smart meter will make them aware of their energy usage and spending. Smart meters are being rolled out to anyone responsible for paying energy bills and are an essential budgeting tool in the current cost of living crisis.

Smart heating

This wireless thermostatic device is a great way to save money and energy. It allows tenants to control the property’s heating from their phones, so if they’re going to be home later than expected, they can adjust the thermostat accordingly. The temperature can be controlled on a room-to-room basis and uses artificial intelligence to learn people’s heating needs.

Smart doorbells 

These not only improve the security of your property but make a home more attractive to renters as they can see who’s coming and going and manage deliveries. With the added ability to record and store footage, this is a great safety feature.

Smart lighting 

Smart lighting is a great asset if you own an HMO with communal areas. It allows you to control the times when lights come on and off or when motion is detected – saving money and reducing energy expenditure. Landlords of high-end properties can take smart lighting to another level, offering tenants mood lighting – all controlled by an app.

Smart smoke detectors 

Installing smoke detectors is a legal requirement for all rental properties. But why not go one step further and install a smart smoke detector that will notify you if there’s a problem. This is helpful if your property is vacant or your tenants are away, as you can act quickly to ensure the safety of your rental.

If you’ve got a property to let out, contact Chamberlains so we can find you the right tenants.

 

 

 

 

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Why Tenant Reference Checks Matter to Landlords

landlords

Landlords, you know that good tenants are hard to come by. Those that care for your property like it’s their home (because it is), who won’t call constantly with silly problems and who pay their rent on time.

So, what’s the first step to finding them?

It might feel like a boring admin exercise, but a thorough reference check is more than just finding out whether someone can meet the monthly rent.

Unfortunately, lots of landlords cut corners when it comes to this stage.

In this two-minute read, we look at some common mistakes landlords make when it comes to referencing.

  • Doing it themselves

If you’re a landlord trying to save every penny, be warned: scrimping on a tenant reference check could lose you future rental income. A reference not only looks at whether a tenant can afford the rent, but also informs you of their past credit history, employment history and previous dealings with former landlords.

If you go it alone, you may miss vital information and find yourself in trouble later.

  • Ignoring Right to Rent rules

In February 2016, the Right to Rent scheme was passed. This requires landlords to ensure that their tenants have the legal right to live in the UK. If you’ve skipped the referencing stage, or not checked proof of identity records properly, you could face hefty fines if your tenant is found to be illegally living in the UK.

  • No references from previous landlords and/or employers

It’s not all about the money. You want to know what type of person your tenant is and how they will treat your property. The referencing process allows you to make checks with previous landlords and/or employers, so you can get a feel for who your tenant is. If a previous landlord reports that they were late with rent or damaged the property, you can avoid yourself a lot of hassle.

  • Not using a letting agent

Letting agents deal with landlords and tenants every day. They know the referencing process inside out, so why wouldn’t you use them? Yes, you may save some money on fees, but it’ll be worse if you choose a tenant without making the proper checks and they fail to pay the rent completely.

With the Renters Reform Bill looming, landlords should take every step to protect their properties and incomes, and a reference check is essential.

If you’ve got a rental and need help finding trustworthy tenants, contact Chamberlains today. We know what makes a good reference and can help you find the right people for your property.

 

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Why Landlords Should Conduct a Property MOT

buy to let

It pays to sit down once a year and review how your buy-to-let is performing and flag up any potential issues looming on the horizon. A two-minute read.

We’re all familiar with an MOT, an annual check-up to ensure your car is safe and good to go for the year ahead. Well, let’s apply the same concept to a buy-to-let investment.

Even if your current tenancy is ticking along nicely, a property MOT can be a helpful exercise to ensure that you:

  • Are up to date with government regulations and maintenance
  • Have the right rental strategy
  • Are not spending more than you need to on your mortgage and repairs.

So, let’s go! 

Do the maths

Go through your records and calculate your return on investment and rental yield (there are online calculators to help you do this). See if you can identify any possible savings (consider everything from landlord insurance, mortgage deal, accountancy fees, etc.). Even if these gains are small, they all add up.

Repairs and maintenance

Often tenants are reluctant to raise minor concerns for fear they’ll look petty or get the blame, so don’t wait for them to call you. Be proactive and get on top of any leaks, mould or drainage problems. Ensure you’re up to date with mandatory gas and electrical safety checks.

Energy efficiency

We all know energy prices are soaring. Ensure your property is well insulated and draught-proof. Don’t wait until the winter to get this job done. And think longer term, as new energy property rules are on the horizon.

Décor review

Times change, but has your property? If your property looks tired and dated, you could be missing a trick. In some areas, the pandemic brought about a huge demographic shift that is being reflected in the rental market. Consider a cosmetic makeover or garden spruce-up so that you can target groups such as professionals, relocators or young families.

Property management

A property MOT isn’t just about money; it’s about time, too. If you self-manage, analyse the true cost of this task on your quality of life. If you’re finding the admin and legal requirements increasingly onerous, get a letting agent to take the burden off you. An agent’s expertise and market know-how may also save you money in the long run.

If you already have a letting agent, consider the quality of service you’re getting. Are your calls answered promptly? Is your agent meticulous when it comes to maintenance deadlines and routine checks? If you’re not happy, it’s time to shop around.

To learn more about the property management services we offer here at Chamberlains, get in touch.

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Landlords Don’t Be Fooled, Why Guaranteed Rent Isn’t Always the Answer

Landlords Don’t Be Fooled, Why Guaranteed Rent Isn’t Always the Answer

As a busy landlord juggling a portfolio of multiple properties, you might be thinking about ways to reduce your workload or secure a regular income. Have you been enticed by promises of guaranteed rent?

Guaranteed rental schemes or rent-to-rent (R2R, not R2D2) schemes are growing in popularity. But hold on for a minute, what do they actually mean?

In a nutshell, it’s where you rent your property to a rent guarantee specialist who promises to pay you a certain amount every month and takes on the burden of managing your property.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is it too good to be true?

In this two-minute read, we look at why you should be cautious of rent-to-rent schemes and how they could be less profitable in the long run.

 

Less rental income

While you might be tempted to enter one of these contracts, often, the way the business offering you the R2R option can be profitable is to offer you less than the typical market rate.

By offering you a lower rate for a fixed term, the R2R business model will only work if the person managing your property charges tenants a higher rate. Therefore, you could be earning significantly less than if you were to rent through a regular letting agent.

 

The unknown agent

Once you sign up, you’re basically losing control of your rental property for a fixed term. How many tenants will be living in your property? Who will ensure that all the correct procedures are followed? What happens if significant repairs are required? What’s the tenant turnover like?

While a lot of these details can be included in a rent-to-rent contract, as a landlord, you may be putting your reputation at risk by offering up your rental to a third party.

 

Fast cash

The attraction of the guaranteed rental model is quick profit and few overheads. Little to no experience is required before setting up this type of business. This means your rental investment may be put at risk by agreeing to work with people who have little, or no cash at stake. Can you really afford to hand over your hard-earned investment to someone with no proven track record?

 

Using a local agent

When you use a reputable local agent, they are regulated and experienced in letting out properties and often have a strong team behind them. They know what certifications are required, what makes a good tenant, and have access to tenancy deposit schemes and such like. So, you can feel confident in the knowledge that your property and tenants are looked after.

At Chamberlains, our lettings team has been working in the local community for many years.

We can achieve market rate rents and we keep our fees as competitive as possible. Call us on 01626 365055 for more information.

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Four Things You Must Do If You’re an Accidental Landlord

Four Things You Must Do If You’re an Accidental Landlord

If you’ve become a landlord due to unexpected circumstances such as bereavement or a new relationship, here’s some helpful advice. A two-minute read.

 

It’s surprising how many people become landlords more by chance than design – or in other words, ‘accidental landlords’.

Whether through inheritance, a change in a relationship or a new job, sometimes people find themselves in the (rather fortunate) position of owning a property that they don’t want or need to live in. And instead of selling up, the owner decides to rent the property out.

While this usually works out well in the long run, accidental landlords can slip up if they underestimate what the job involves – it’s not as easy as it looks.

Here are four tips for accidental landlords.

 

  • Talk to your lender

If you have an owner-occupier mortgage on the property, you must notify your lender if you intend to rent it out (otherwise you could be penalised). Sometimes, the lender will grant ‘consent to let’, which is permission to rent the property under your existing mortgage. But this is usually a short-term solution, and you’ll probably be expected to get a buy-to-let mortgage eventually.

 

  • Get landlord insurance

A bog-standard home and contents policy won’t suffice – you’ll need specific landlord insurance. Do your research on this because the policies on offer can vary significantly. On top of buildings and liability cover, some policies allow you to opt in to cover legal costs, loss of rent, or accidental damage.

 

  • Understand the rules on deposits

There are strict laws regarding tenant deposits. When a tenant pays you a deposit, you must register it within 30 days with a government-approved scheme. (This is a third-party scheme that protects tenant deposits.)

 

  • Get to grips with red tape

There are all sorts of laws – at least 175 – that apply to UK landlords covering everything from evictions and gas safety to electrical checks. It can be overwhelming trying to get your head around these, but most successful landlords develop systems to make sure they stay on top of things. And if you really wanted to sit back and let someone else take the strain, employ the services of a professional letting agent to do it for you.

 

To learn more about our property management services, contact us here at Chamberlains.

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Energy Bills: How to Avoid Disputes and Help Your Teignbridge Tenants

Energy Bills: How to Avoid Disputes and Help Your Teignbridge Tenants

This eight-point plan outlines the best way landlords can manage the issue of energy bills. A two-minute read.

This year’s colossal hike in energy costs has left millions of households reeling. And with no relief in sight, the problem is likely to stay at the top of the agenda throughout 2022.

 

Here’s an eight-point plan to help landlords deal with the issue as best they can.

 

  • Make sure your tenancy agreement clearly states who is responsible for paying energy bills (most typically, it is the tenant).

 

  • Even though your tenant will most likely pay the bills, do your bit to keep costs down by staying on top of maintenance and draught-proofing. Repair any rickety windows that might allow heat to escape and install energy-saving light bulbs.

 

  • Take a meter reading when a new tenant moves in and record it in the inventory. (That way, there can be no confusion or dispute with the previous tenant.)

 

  • Explain to your tenant (if the bill is in their name) that they are entitled to shop around for the best energy deal. Also, discuss the benefits of having a smart meter. These provide detailed energy usage information to allow tenants to understand what’s driving their fuel costs.

 

  • Some energy suppliers require a few days’ notice to end a contract. It’s the bill payer’s job to notify the fuel supplier. Your tenant may not be aware of this, so give them a gentle reminder a week or so before their tenancy ends.

 

  • When your tenant moves out, take a meter reading and pass it on to the relevant energy supplier along with the tenant’s forwarding address.

 

  • As the landlord, you’re responsible for the energy bills during void periods. Ensure that most of the lights are switched off (you might want to leave a few on for security purposes). In the warmer months, turn the boiler off, too. In winter, you might want the heating on intermittently to ensure the pipes don’t freeze and protect against dampness.

 

  • Consider investing in big-ticket energy-efficient measures such as solar panels, insulation, and triple glazing. These will bring down fuel bills and add value to your property.

 

Much of the above can be handled by an experienced letting agency – making your life a whole lot easier.

For more advice on our property management services, contact us here at Chamberlains.

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What to Do Before Renting Your Property to Family or Friends

What to Do Before Renting Your Property to Family or Friends

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you rent your property to family or friends.

Do they need to sign a tenancy agreement?

Yes, yes, and yes again! They might be family, but they’re also your tenants and both parties need to know what is expected of them. For example, they might say they want to stay for 12 months but then leave after just six. Without a tenancy agreement, there’s nothing to stop them – putting your income at risk.

Should I take a deposit?

This is a personal decision that you need to make, as there’s no legal requirement for a landlord to take a deposit. However, it is a good way to protect your property and any contents from damage.

Similarly, by having a professional inventory carried out before they move in, both parties know the exact condition of the property and how it should be left.

Should I do a tenant reference check?

Asking family for personal finance details? It might make you feel awkward just thinking about it, but it’s an essential step of the rental process.

While you may think you know your family/friends’ financial background, it’s still worth making extra checks. Referencing will ensure that your potential tenant can pay the rent and highlight any issues with previous landlords.

Are there any legal issues I should be aware of if I rent to family/friends?

Not exactly, but renting to family/friends could cause problems if you have a mortgage. In fact, a lot of lenders are quite strict about this issue, and you may need to ask their permission before you move family in.

This is because the lender could be concerned that you’d charge family members less rent, or be more lenient if they didn’t pay – both of which could impact loan repayments.

Renting to friends or family can often be a great option, but it’s one you need to consider carefully and go into with your eyes wide open.

For more advice on anything and everything related to rental property in Teignbridge, call our lettings team today.