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Why Landlords Need to Take Note of October 1st 2022

landlords

A significant change in how rental properties must be maintained comes into legal effect on Saturday, October 1st 2022.

The law affects what alarms landlords must provide in their properties to protect against potentially lethal carbon monoxide poisoning.

Failure to comply with the new rules can result in landlords getting a hefty fine.

The new Regulations, as outlined in the government-issued Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022: guidance for landlords and tenants state:

  1. Landlords must ensure at least one smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of their homes where a room is used as living accommodation. This has been a legal requirement in the private rented sector since 2015.
  2. Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).
  3. Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once a landlord has been informed and checked they are faulty.

Local authorities enforce the requirements. They can impose a fine of up to £5,000 if a landlord fails to take action following a remedial notice.

And while there’s no need to panic, it is worth acting as quickly as possible to ensure your rental property and/or property portfolio is compliant.

Several types of tenancies are exempt, including care homes, student halls of residence and shared accommodation with a landlord.

And remember, ignorance isn’t a defence, and by acting now (if you haven’t already), you’ll protect yourself, your tenants and your rental investment.

As with any significant legal change, landlords must know further caveats and details.

Alternatively, use a letting agent who does.

Our friendly team of experienced experts are available to answer any of your questions and/or refer you to trusted tradespeople who can install the alarms.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe and legally sound.

 

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Is Being a Landlord Really Worth It?

landlord

If you’re a landlord, chances are you’re feeling a bit hard done by at the moment. It seems like every other day, new rules and revisions are being announced around landlord and tenant law, which means you have to change the way you work and may face higher taxes.

But is it all doom and gloom?

Is it time to hang up your landlord hat and sell up?

We definitely don’t think so.

In this quick read, we tell you why investing in buy-to-let property is still a good idea if you’ve got the money (and the patience). 

Demand for rentals

The pandemic turned the property world upside down. Suddenly, the urban rental market went flat, whilst rural and suburban rental markets saw a surge in demand. People couldn’t move around so vacant properties stayed empty.

However, as the world tries to get back to normal, many people have returned to their offices, and students are looking for accommodation. So, it’s a good time to get back in the game. Demand for rental properties will always go up and down, but currently, it looks like rental prices are staying high.

Steady income 

Many people think being a landlord is the key to getting rich quick – but that’s never been the case. There are lots of costs involved with being a landlord, but ultimately, if you manage your investment properly, it will pay off. If you’re a part-time landlord, you can expect a regular sum to supplement your monthly income. If you’re a full-time landlord with multiple properties, you’ll see a rise in income as demand increases.

Buying (and spending) sensibly 

As a landlord, the first rule to remember is that it’s not your home. Take your time finding a buy-to-let and decide whether you want a ready-to-go rental or a renovation project to which you can add value. A good agent can tell you how much rent to expect and the necessary changes that need to be made to maximise earning potential.

If you watch your pennies and don’t pay out too much for décor and furnishings, you can still earn a respectable income once you’ve taken taxes and other expenses into account.

Saving for the future

Despite changes to tax laws and what you can claim in expenses, one thing remains the same: your rental property is an investment into your future. Many people look at rental properties as part of their retirement income, either by the monthly rental yields or by selling the property on in later years.

Being a landlord isn’t an easy route to riches; it takes a lot of hard work. However, if you maintain the property and work with a reliable agent, it’s still worth investing in the buy-to-let market.

If you’re looking to invest in a buy-to-let, contact our team at Chamberlains for help. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top Tips for Successful Property Inspections

property inspections

Inspections are a key part of managing a tenancy so it’s imperative that landlords get them right. Here are some top tips to ensure landlords don’t miss a thing. A two-minute read.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about nightmare tenants who trash a rental property, leaving the landlord up to their neck in repair bills and legal costs. Or maintenance issues that were left and became problematic.

Thankfully, there are ways landlords can minimise these risks and one key strategy is to conduct regular inspections.

Landlords are often diligent with inspections at the start of a tenancy, but things tend to slide over time. This is a big mistake as inspections allow landlords to:

  • Spot mould, leaks, damp or blockages before they become major problems.
  • Guard against subletting and illegal activities.
  • Identify property damage – intentional, neglectful or accidental.
  • Protect themselves in the event of a dispute. (Many insurers won’t pay a claim if the landlord hasn’t been vigilant.)
  • Avoid end-of-tenancy disputes, as issues are dealt with during the tenancy instead.
  • Set the tone of the landlord/tenant relationship. If they know you’re on the ball, tenants are more likely to treat your property with respect.
  • Build trust. Tenants will be grateful to you for sorting out minor issues without prompting.

So, we all agree that inspections are critical, but how can landlords ensure they nail them? Here are seven top tips.

  • By law, a landlord can’t just turn up unannounced – you must give at least 24 hours’ notice. Be reasonable when arranging inspections; you’re trying to work with the tenant, not against them. There are legal procedures to follow for booking an inspection, entering the property for an emergency or if a tenant constantly avoids an inspection.
  • Have a systematic approach. Use a standardised form, and go from room to room, taking photos and notes. Use the check-in inventory as a guide.
  • Don’t just look inside; ensure the tenant is maintaining the garden according to the rules set out in the rental agreement. Also, check pipework (inside and out), drains and electrical sockets.
  • Test alarms and extraction fans.
  • Ask the tenant if there is anything they want to discuss.
  • Once you’ve completed your inspection, sign it and share it with the tenant (ask them to sign it, too).
  • File the inspection so that you have a paper trail in case of a future dispute.

If you don’t have the time or expertise to conduct regular inspections, contact us here at Chamberlains for more information about our tried and tested inspection processes.

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Two Top Tax Tips for Teignbridge Landlords

tax

This two-minute read includes some handy tax advice for landlords.

Our tax system is often criticised for being complicated and unwieldy, but by following two simple rules you can take the stress and hassle out of filing a return.

Rule Number 1: Do your homework

Raise your hand if you find the subject of tax dull? You’re not alone, many people cite tax as a conversation killer (right up there with religion and politics).

And because they find it boring, they don’t bother to learn much about it or keep abreast of rule changes.

The problem is when you’re a landlord, ignorance isn’t bliss – it costs you money. If you don’t understand the system, you can’t minimise your tax bill.

So do your homework and make sure that:

  • You understand exactly what you can claim as tax deductible expenses. Many landlords grasp the big picture stuff but overlook the smaller items that, when added together, can significantly reduce their bill.
  • You’ve investigated whether it’s worth setting up as a limited company. This option won’t be advantageous for everyone (it tends to be more beneficial if you own a lot of properties).
  • You’ve looked into the possible benefits of putting your property portfolio into joint ownership. This is worthwhile if, for example, you’re a high-rate taxpayer and your co-owner is on a low income.

Rule Number 2: Get organised

Once you understand the tax rules, be disciplined with your record-keeping.

This means keeping receipts for repairs, maintenance work, safety checks, and insurance. The same goes for service providers such as cleaners, gardeners, and letting agents, and things like phone calls, stamps, and travel to and from the property.

We would advise that you tally up your expenses every month, instead of throwing all your paperwork in a drawer and having a panic later. If you’re disorganised, you’re much more likely to lose important documents or forget to claim something.

Don’t be an ostrich

Don’t be like one of the 1,790,368 people who missed their 2021 filing deadline and had to pay an HMRC fine.

As a landlord, you can’t dodge your tax responsibilities, so don’t bury your head in the sand. Educate yourself and be proactive.

We always advise our landlords to contact an accountant who has experience in dealing with property tax matters.

Contact us to find out how we help local landlords make the most of their rental investments.

 

 

 

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How to Keep Your Houseplants Happy

houseplants

This three-minute read looks at the benefits of cultivating houseplants and how to get started.

Houseplants add colour and freshness to work and living spaces – and deliver a host of health benefits.

As this week is Houseplant Week UK, let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of cultivating indoor plants.

Reasons to green your scene

  • If you take good care of your houseplants, they’ll look great all year round. Even in the depths of winter – when the trees are depressingly bare outside – you’ll be surrounded by greenery indoors.
  • Houseplants improve air quality because they absorb carbon dioxide and toxins and produce oxygen.
  • As humans, we have an in-built connection with the natural world. Being surrounded by plants can boost our mood and lower anxiety.

Getting started

Before you rush out and buy a host of plants that you’ve seen on Instagram, do some research so that you select species that will thrive in your home or office.

Some plants need more sun than others, so assess the light quality in your chosen space (light intensity meter apps are available to help you do this).

Other issues to consider include heating (avoid placing plants near radiators) and ventilation (plants like well-ventilated spaces).

Pets

If you have a cat or dog, choose non-toxic species. Charities such as Blue Cross, Cats Protection, and The Dogs Trust all have helpful lists of poisonous plants on their websites.

Easy to grow

If you’re not green-fingered, go for what some in the gardening world call ‘unkillables’. Look for snake plants, spider plants, monsteras, sansevieria, aspidistra, or Devil’s Ivy (pothos).

If you discover a passion for indoor gardening, you can graduate to more high-maintenance plants like orchids, weeping figs, and Venus flytraps.

Watering

Your plant should come with clear watering instructions. Bear in mind that over-watering is a common problem. Signs you’ve overdone it with the H2O include slow growth, soft, yellowing leaves and mouldy soil.

If you’re unsure if your plant needs a drink, dip your finger in the first few centimetres of the soil. If it feels dry, then go ahead and water.

Drainage

Use plant pots that have a hole in the base so that excess water can drain away. Set the pot on a saucer to catch this water.

Dust

Dust can gather on leaves and block the light that plants need to thrive. Give dusty leaves a gentle dab with a wet cloth.

From all of us here at Chamberlains, thanks for reading.

 

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How Landlords in South Devon Can Avoid the Monday Blues

landlords

We share how landlords can avoid feeling down on the year’s most depressing day in this two-minute read.

If you’re feeling a little flat, low, or down in the dumps next Monday, you won’t be alone.

The 17th of January is Blue Monday – according to some psychologists (and clever marketers), it’s the most depressing day on the calendar.

It’s a perfect storm of wintery weather taking its toll, the Christmas break becoming a distant memory, resolutions falling by the wayside, and credit card bills coming in.

All of this adds up to a formula for feeling, well, a little rubbish.

And our experience serving landlords in South Devon has taught us the four main things that get them feeling down.

The good news is we have the antidote to these that will bring the smiles back.

Here goes:

  • Void periods – When your property is empty, it costs you money and can make you miserable. Good marketing, looking after existing tenants, and setting reasonable rents for well-maintained homes reduces the risks of voids.
  • Troublesome tenants – This can cause landlords a lot of stress. But you can drastically lower the chances of a tenancy turning bad by doing things right from the start. Rigorous referencing and checks that weed out the good from the bad tenants are essential for a positive experience.
  • Rules, laws, and regulations – The rental property industry in the UK has more than 300 different and constantly changing rules that affect landlords. Falling foul of these rules is costly and stressful and causes nagging anxiety for some landlords trying to ‘blag it’. Use an experienced letting agent to manage your property and keep you on the right side of the law.
  • Property damage – All landlords should expect fair wear and tear to happen during a tenancy. But many get down in the dumps when their property ends up looking like the local tip. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The right tenants who are well treated reduce this reason to be anxious. As does having a good letting agent who carries out a thorough incoming and outgoing inventory as well as regular property inspections on your behalf.

For a happier, more successful rental property experience, call us today.

 

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Want a Trouble-Free Festive Break? Use a Letting Agent

letting agents

This two-minute read explains the benefits of having a letting agent on duty over the festive season.

Being a landlord is not a nine-to-five job. You can’t just switch on your out-of-office and mute your WhatsApp messages because you fancy a break.

Well actually, you can – if you have a good letting agent working for you.

Here are four ways an agent can help you through the silly season.

  • Stress-free holidays

As a landlord, you have a duty of care to your tenant. This means you never know if a trip away to see family or friends or to catch some sun will be interrupted by an urgent call from your tenant.

With a letting agent, you can go away safe in the knowledge that you’re meeting your legal obligations and that any crisis will be dealt with by an experienced professional.

  • Good contacts

Even the most laid-back tenant can be short of patience during the festive season.

If, say, the boiler stops working while the mother-in-law is in town, don’t expect to rest until it’s sorted.

Thankfully, a good agent has an extensive collection of electricians, plumbers, and gas engineers in their contacts list.

If something goes wrong, an agent can get someone out to your property – even on public holidays.

  • Deal with tenant disputes

Sadly, long-standing issues between couples often come to a head during the holiday period, as people spend more time cooped up together.

As a result, landlords can find themselves dealing with two people who are in a joint tenancy but are very much at odds with each other.

This kind of situation can be tough to navigate and requires careful handling. Many landlords are relieved to leave it to an expert.

  • Handle neighbourhood complaints

Neighbourhood rows about loud music, parking, and who put what in the recycling bin can flare up during the festive season.

You may have the skills to deal with these kinds of issues, the question is: do you want to spend your precious time brokering neighbourhood peace? If you don’t, get a letting agent.

To learn more about how we can make your life a lot easier, get in touch with Chamberlains.

 

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What to Do Before Selling a Buy-To-Let in South Devon

landlord

In this two-minute read, we look at the implications of selling a buy-to-let property.

If you’re a landlord looking to downsize your property portfolio, you may be thinking about selling one or more of your buy-to-let properties. This process isn’t always as straightforward as a regular property sale, so we’ve pulled together some FAQs to think about.

Who should I sell my property to?

To sell to another landlord, keep it simple. Make sure the property is clean, clutter-free, and liveable – just as you would before renting it out yourself. This helps the buyer see its rental value and that it can be occupied quickly.

Increase your market by selling to potential residents. Again, make sure the property is clean and clutter-free, but make it feel more homely rather than just an investment opportunity.

In both cases, take care of any repairs prior to selling and get it deep cleaned before viewings begin.

What if my buy-to-let is tenanted?

In most cases, it’s easier to sell a vacant buy-to-let. However, if you do plan to sell while your tenants are in contract, you’re limiting your market to other landlords.

Be warned, selling while tenanted will mean more admin. You’ll need to provide the tenancy agreement, gas safety certificates, and other associated rental documents. You’ll also need to arrange for the tenancy deposit to be transferred to the new landlord.

Avoid the hassle of extra paperwork and plan your buy-to-let sale towards the end of a tenant’s contract. Provide a Section 21 notice to your tenants. This gives them two months to find a new home and makes your sale easier.

What are the tax implications of selling a buy-to-let?

Buy-to-let properties are subject to capital gains tax (every landlord’s least favourite few words!). Your tax bill is calculated by looking at how much the value of the property has increased since you’ve owned it. So, if you bought a rental for £100,000 and it’s now worth £150,000, you’ll be liable for CGT on the £50,000 (less allowable expenses).

Make sure you speak to an accountant to understand what expenses can be offset and your personal tax rate.

What about my mortgage?

If you took out a long-term fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage, you may need to prepare for a hefty early repayment charge once the property sells.

Speak to us at Chamberlains if you’re thinking about selling a buy-to-let.

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Stop Your Rental Property from Being Used for Illegal Activity

Stop Your Rental Property from Being Used for Illegal Activity

This two-minute read looks at how landlords can keep their property safe from criminals and dodgy dealers.

Every landlord has lost sleep worrying about what goes on in their rental property when they’re not around.

There’s always a flicker of fear that a tenant – no matter how trustworthy they seem – might turn out to be a nightmare and cause damage to the property.

But carpet stains and chipped paint could be the least of a landlord’s worries in the scheme of things.

If criminals use your property for illegal activity, you could wind up with an expensive repair bill and a starring role in a court case. (And if the property is designated a crime scene, it could be off-limits for weeks while police investigate.)

While most tenants are law-abiding citizens, with criminals employing ever more sophisticated tactics, it’s worth being on your guard.

Rental properties are sometimes used for:

  • Drug production. Over the past 20 years, there’s been a steady increase in the use of domestic properties for cannabis farms or meth labs.
  • Drug dealing.
  • People trafficking.
  • Gambling dens or the sale of illicit cigarettes and alcohol.

What to do if you’re suspicious

Don’t bury your head in the sand. If the authorities can prove you were aware of the illegal activity taking place at your property but took no action, there could be severe repercussions

Contact the relevant authority and keep a note of what you’ve seen or heard (but don’t play detective, leave that to the experts).

Look out for

  • Tenants with long, convoluted stories as to why they can’t show you the appropriate ID.
  • Tenants who install their own deadbolts, CCTV or alarms, and are dead against you arranging a planned property inspection.
  • Blacked-out windows and unusual smells. Meth labs can smell like cat’s wee, while cannabis farms have a distinctive, sweet odour.
  • Changes to the wiring (cannabis farmers often rejig it to bypass the electricity meter).

Proactive steps

  • Have a rigorous tenant screening process.
  • Run a mile from tenants offering to pay several months’ rent in advance in cash.
  • Carry out regular inspections.
  • Do things by the book. Criminals are looking for landlords who are lax or absent.
  • Build good relations with the neighbours. They could be the first to notify you if something fishy is going on.
  • Trust your instincts.

If this all feels like a tall order, you could get an experienced letting agent to manage your property.

That way, you can sleep easy knowing that your investment is safe.

From all of us here at Chamberlains, don’t have nightmares and thanks for reading.

 

 

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Councils Under Pressure to Clamp Down on Lax Landlords

Councils Under Pressure to Clamp Down on Lax Landlords

In this three-minute read, we look at the growing calls for tougher action against rogue landlords.

Landlords who struggle with all the rules and regulations associated with renting out a property – be warned.

Councils are coming under increasing pressure to throw the book at landlords who flout the law.

Even if you’ve gotten away with a ‘near enough is good enough’ approach so far, winging it isn’t a sustainable long-term strategy.

Calls for a get-tough approach

The demand for stricter enforcement is coming from two sides: tenants’ rights groups (as you might expect) and the private rental sector itself.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and Propertymark, which represents property agents, argue that unscrupulous landlords tarnish the industry’s image and make tenants’ lives hell.

They have both recently called on councils to enforce the laws that relate to the private rental sector with greater zeal. (Propertymark is also pressing for councils to receive more cash for enforcement operations.)

But I’m not a rogue landlord

Now we get to the philosophical part. What is a rogue landlord? Is it a cigar-sucking Fagin-like character who fleeces the most vulnerable by renting out rat-infested, unsafe dumps?

Or is it a landlord who means well enough but doesn’t have the time or inclination to get it right all the time?

Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. Every landlord who flouts the rules will have an excuse; maybe they’re time-poor, busy at work, or think some of the rules are silly, so don’t follow them.

None of these excuses will get you off the hook in court – especially if a tenant is injured or killed because you didn’t do the right safety checks or fell behind on maintenance.

Being a good landlord makes good business sense

Moral arguments aside, sticking to the rules makes good financial sense. Here’s why:

  • Tenants are more aware of their rights than ever and are willing to defend them. A lax attitude towards deposits, inventories, or paperwork could leave you exposed – and out of pocket – in a dispute.
  • If there’s a fire, flood, or accident at your property, your insurance could be ruled invalid if you didn’t follow the law.
  • Tenants are more likely to stay in a property if they know it’s safe and their concerns will be listened to. This will cut your tenant selection and reference checking costs.

Get a letting agent on the job

You don’t have to do it all yourself; an experienced letting agent can help you.

Cover your back by getting a professional who knows what they’re doing to take the burden off your shoulders.

For more information about our property management services, get in touch with us here at Chamberlains.