Scam Awareness Month | Landlords, Letting Agents and Tenants; Be Prepared!

Did you know that this month is ‘Scam Awareness Month?’

Scam Awareness Month is all about creating a network of confident, alert, consumers who are ready, willing and able to spot scams. So efforts throughout July are important as they will help spread the message that scams can be tackled if we all take a bit of time to spot the signs and share what we’ve learnt with our peers and others within the industry.

As we are all aware, the property industry is almost completely unregulated and therefore very appealing to scammers. So at Yellow Oak Inventories we have compiled the 5 most common property scams and how best to avoid them:

  1. Land Registry Fraud.

Through this awful scam, the crooks manage to transfer the ownership of your home to a completely different person. They do this by finding a property, often via the Land Registry’s own data, and then contacting the LR asking to change the ownership details of that property. Letters will then be sent out to confirm the change, and this is where the scammers will attempt to intercept that correspondence in some way. If they are successful in changing the ownership details of the property, they can then take out a new mortgage on it or sell it and disappear into the sunset with their ill-gotten gains.

Landlords can protect themselves from this scam by keeping their details with the LR up-to-date through their website; www.landregistry.gov.uk/propertyfraud.

  • Phony NLA Members.

This scam involves fake landlords advertising imaginary rental properties on free listings sites, such as Gumtree. This scam is extra sneaky as these scammers have used the National Landlords Association (NLA) logo, and even in some cases mocked up NLA stationary to reel in more unsuspecting tenants.

Never pay up front for a home you haven’t even viewed, and confirm that your landlord is indeed a member of the NLA by visiting www.goodlandlord.org.uk.

  • Lettings verification.

This involves a fake Rightmove verification service being created, where an interested tenant is provided with emails and a web page designed to look like they have come directly from Rightmove. They will claim that they have been ‘approved’ as a vendor, however Rightmove does not offer a verification process or ever request or accept money directly from tenants.

Those that think they may have been affected by this scam should report it to Action Fraud immediately, as well as reporting it directly to Rightmove: security@rightmove.co.uk.

  • Property Investment Courses

As property TV programs increase, it would appear that fraudulent property seminars do too. In exchange for your money, they’ll offer you tips on how to “get rich quick” from the property industry and will then offer you the chance to purchase some property at an amazing discount.

As with all of these scams; if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. So don’t end up out of pocket by thousands of pounds, and steer clear of any “get rich quick” scheme.

  • Rental Scams

These involve receiving an email from an “Ambassador” or “Noble person” who is trying to rent out his property. There are many variations of this scam, but they can easily be avoided simply by blocking the senders email address and immediately reporting it to Action Fraud. And always be wary if anyone is asking for money, a loan or offering suspiciously high and/or unrealistic rates of return.

Scams: ‘Don’t be rushed, don’t be hushed…’

We can’t image the pain caused to those victims of scams, which is why at Yellow Oak Inventories we wanted to make you aware of the most common scam’s around at the moment.  Like in all industries there are good and bad businesses and it often take a small free to ruin the reputation of many.  All the companies and landlords we work with provide a highly professional service and proud that our inventory is part of their service. 

Inventory Tips for Tenants:

So at Yellow Oak Inventories we’ve covered why it’s important for a landlord and a letting agent to have a thorough and detailed inventory in place, but why is it important for a tenant? And (as a tenant) what should you be looking out for?

Well at Yellow Oak Inventories we are here to protect all parties involved in the lettings process, therefore we have constructed the following inventory tips for tenants to provide extra peace of mind for those of you that are on the move.

Inventory Tips for Tenants:

  1. Go through the inventory report with your methodically and slowly.

    Is everything in the property included on the inventory report?

    Is there anything listed on the inventory that you can’t find within the property?

  2. If your landlord/letting agent doesn’t provide you with an inventory, you can make one yourself. However we would encourage you to instruct an independent inventory clerk, as they are an unbiased third party who will further aid you if there is any form of dispute at the end of the tenancy between you and your landlord.
    Contact us here for further help and advice.

  3. If you haven’t been supplied with an inventory, then ask your landlord/agent for a copy, as a rent paying tenant you are entitled to this.

  4. If the property includes a garden/outside space/drive-way parking space/etc make sure it is included on the inventory report too.

  5. Make notes on the inventory of any damage to the property and get agreement from your landlord/letting agent.

  6. Make sure you use all appliances early in the tenancy to determine if they are working correctly.

  7. Take your own photos of the property when you first move in, especially of any existing damage.

  8. Keep your copy of the inventory in a safe place.

  9. Keep good records, in case of a tenancy deposit dispute further down the line.
    – This should include records of anything you’ve damaged or replaced – e.g. photos / estimates/emails.
    – Also keep records of repair work carried out by your landlord – e.g. letters / receipts.

  10. Make sure you are present at the check-out inspection.

Other than your tenancy agreement you should consider your inventory report the second most important part of your tenancy, as this document will be key in deciding how much of your deposit is returned to you at the end of your agreement.

Need any more advice on your inventory report? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, either by phone: 020 3713 4933, by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Words or Video – Which is better?

There is an ongoing debate between landlords, agents and inventory clerks to whether words or video are better, when conducting an inventory.

Did you know that adjudicators actually prefer words to video in dispute cases?

Why?!

Well firstly, statements issued by both the TDS and MyDeposits make it very clear that written evidence (in the form of a detailed inventory and check out report) is still paramount to allow adjudicators to give a fair judgement.

The majority of us love new technology, as it’s a great time saver for many tasks. BUT sometimes it’s not always the answer and this is the case with property inventories. This is because a video relies on the adjudicator having the correct equipment to view it. They will also need patience to sift through potentially hours of footage to find the part that covers the dispute. A good video will also need to be supported by a detailed narrative throughout the recording, to explain to the adjudicator what exactly they’re looking at and what for.

Digital recorders make dictating and transcribing an inventory a much faster and easier process too.

In the last couple of years letting agents have actually been warned by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks about replacing essential written inventory descriptions for digital evidence, as it leaves their landlord clients vulnerable to potential disputes further down the line. At Yellow Oak Inventories we completely agree with the associations’ statement that photographs and video can provide a good illustration, but are not at all helpful without a detailed written inventory firmly in place.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, however this is certainly not the case with a residential inventory report. Photographs alone, even with the date and time of day clearly shown, will provide no context whatsoever if they’re not accompanied by a written inventory.

This is where the help of a fully qualified, trained and experienced independent inventory clerk comes into play. As a landlord it shouldn’t be about getting the cheapest deal around, but about finding the best deal that’s going to protect you in the future should a dispute arise.

So in conclusion, at Yellow Oak Inventories we believe that words are far substantial when you are carrying out an inventory, but will be made stronger accompanied by good photographs and a well narrated video. Please get in touch with one of our friendly team today – either by phone: 020 3713 4933, by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Buying property with sitting tenants

Did you know that the proportion of properties bought by landlords with a sitting tenant has increased four-fold since 2008?

Following statistics, recently released by agency group Countrywide, after analysing over 65,000 rental properties they revealed that last year some 11% of all rental properties that were bought by an investor came with a sitting tenant in the mix. London has come up on top, where the proportion of landlord purchases with a sitting tenant is highest; with over a quarter of all purchases by landlords in 2014 up from 12% on 2008.

 At Yellow Oak Inventories we believe that this is great news for renters, as it shows that if a landlord decides to sell his property that it won’t affect a tenant’s living conditions or tenancy. The main benefit of buying with a sitting tenant is that by keeping the existing tenants there will be no void and you can start receiving rent from day one. But with more landlords looking to buy from other landlords who already have a tenant in place, are there any pitfalls to this trend that you should be wary of?

With this in mind we have devised the following tips for those of you who are thinking of buying a property with sitting tenants included:

  • Copy of Inventory

Included within all of the property paperwork, make sure there is a correct copy of the inventory report from when the sitting tenant moved in. What with a quarter of sitting tenants signing contracts of 2 years or longer, a copy of the inventory report is extremely important to protect against any claims or disputes at the end of the tenancy.

Don’t forget to ask whether there are any copies of mid-term reviews/inspections too, for extra protection as well as insight into how your new tenant has been treating the property over the term of their tenancy with the previous owner.

  • Referencing

As the new landlord you have a right to reference check the sitting tenants, but you are not entitled to charge them for this. Be sure to check whether they have the right to reside in the UK also, to comply with the upcoming immigration right to rent legislation that will soon cover the whole of the UK, following the conclusion of the West Midlands pilot scheme (which is currently still underway).

Inventories and Right to Rent Legislation – Click to read on.

  • Deposit protection

Make sure you have proof that this has been carried out correctly by the previous landlord, including serving the paperwork to the tenant. It wouldn’t hurt to have written confirmation that this has been carried out too directly from the tenant, as an extra safety net.

  • Rent Guarantee Insurance

Because you haven’t hand-picked this tenant from the start you have no idea whether they are a good tenant or not, so obtaining rent guarantee insurance would be a good idea to consider.

Still not sure whether you should take on a new buy-to-let property with a sitting tenant? Then please get in contact with us today for further advice – either by phone: 020 3713 4933, by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Our Top 5 Sources of Lettings Information

At Yellow Oak Inventories we always strive to keep you in the loop and fully informed on all the latest legislation changes, which are relevant to you as a landlord in England or Wales. However, we also acknowledge that there are some great websites out there who also provide great content; therefore we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce them to you.

  1. Property Tribes – www.propertytribes.com – ‘None of us is smart as all of us.’

Property Tribes is the UK’s busiest landlord and investor community, where you can access discussion forums and share your property issues, ideas, strategies and much more all in one place. It’s free to sign up to and use once you’ve read and agreed to the site rules.

For example, here is a post on Yellowoak Inventories in their forum: *Property inventories and mid-term property inspections with Yellow Oak Inventories. As you can see, this began life as a helpful tips video and then turned into an interesting discussion thread about the importance of avoiding cutting corners when carrying out your inventory.

2. SAFEagentwww.safeagents.co.uk‘The Mark of Trust.’

This year marked the 4th annual SAFEagent awareness week, where over 3,000 professional letting agents united together to generate awareness on how vital it is to choose a lettings and management agent who is part of a Client Money Protection (CMP) Scheme.

We fully understand the importance for our clients being made aware that we are trained to the highest possible standard, conforming to a strict code of conduct and this is why we are full certified members of the APIP and AIIC. (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks & Association of Professional Inventory Providers.) Therefore we welcome any official form of ‘endorsement’ in the lettings industry, which is how SAFEAgent provides landlords and tenants with peace of mind that the money they’ve paid in deposits and rent to their agent is fully protected. So those letting agents who display the SAFEagent logo show that they’re part of an approved CMP scheme, which ensures that they are protecting their clients monies correctly.

3.Landlord Law – www.landlordlaw.co.uk‘Legal help, services & support for PRS landlords.’

Landlord Law enters its 14th year online this year, written and run by landlord and tenant lawyer Tessa Shepperson. They also run training courses and do their utmost to educate landlords on what can be quite complicated housing laws and rules to get your head around.

4.Property Industry Eye – www.propertyindustryeye.com‘Where News Comes First.’

Property Industry Eye is dedicated to the publication of independent, unbiased, factual and accurate news reporting of matters of interest to those working in the UK property market and beyond. As well as news topics, they also provide a public forum discussion to debate topics of the day and a vehicle for service provides to reach their markets.

5.The mainstream lettings portals; Rightmove, Zoopla and OntheMarket.com

Accessing a combination of these blogs will provide you with no end of insight, information and food for thought on the latest lettings issues, offers and advice from a whole host of trustworthy experts from the UK lettings industry.

All of these websites primarily seek to educate landlords and others within the lettings industry, and we personally applaud them and hope that they carry on doing so!