London asking prices accelerate ahead of rest of UK

Landlords, tenants and letting agents requiring a property inventory clerk in central London or hoping to soon be in a position to do so, may be interested in new figures showing a pronounced difference between average asking prices in the capital and those in other areas of the country.

The data from Home.co.uk showed that asking prices in England and Wales had gone up by 0.6% in July, and in Scotland, had not changed at all. The big story for many, however, will be the 1.5% month-on-month rise in London’s asking prices and the 12.5% increase over the last year. This compared to 6.2% annual price growth in England and Wales and 3.6% in Scotland.

It all means that someone wishing to purchase a property in England or Wales – whether for buy-to-let or other purposes – can expect to be charged an average of £281,497 and in Scotland, £167,680. The equivalent London figure, however, is £525,145.

Prospective clients of a property inventory in central London may also take into account the property supply situation across the capital and the wider UK when considering additions to their portfolio. There has been a 10% decline over the last 12 months in the supply of property for sale across the country, with the quickest regional market still being the South East, where properties only typically spend 61 days on the market.

While Home.co.uk director Doug Shephard said that there had been speculation about an imminent rise in mortgage rates, the UK property market was still enjoying considerable momentum. He said that prices were continuing to be pushed upwards by a combination of buyer demand and insufficient supply, albeit not as fast as last year.

Shephard commented: “The supply crisis is becoming more acute, and July recorded the lowest number of properties entering the market for that month since the onset of the financial crisis. Lack of supply is felt most keenly in London and the East of England, where the volumes of properties entering the market are down 23% and 16% respectively.”

The situation prevailing in the capital of ever-increasing prices, the shortest marketing times in the country and a seller’s rather than buyer’s market will give many a landlord and letting agent food for thought as they also contemplate the best company from which to request a property inventory in London.

Naturally, here at Yellow Oak Inventories LTD, we believe that we are that company, and we take considerable pride in our ability to provide a wide range of clients in the capital with the most professional, complete and impartial inventory service.

London still tops list of UK buy-to-let hotspots

Landlords seeking the peace of mind that comes with a suitably detailed, impartial and professional property inventory in central London may be further assured that they are in the right place by the latest list of buy-to-let hotspots issued by Barclays Mortgages.

The company analysed over 500 of its customers who bought a buy-to-let property in 2014 or 2015, from which it compiled its data. 500 owners of buy-to-let property were also surveyed, with 75% of them stating that they owned more than one property. Multiple properties were especially common among Bradford and Glasgow landlords.

Remaining in the same top spot that it occupied last year in Barclays Mortgages’ survey was London, with Birmingham in the runner-up position – up from seventh last year. Bristol was third – the same position that it held in 2014 – with Nottingham, Manchester, Reading, Leeds, Southampton, Peterborough and Slough rounding out the top 10.

The presence elsewhere in the top 20 of London commuter towns like Luton and Milton Keynes indicates the willingness of many landlords to look outside the capital for value. Such news comes on the backdrop of an uncertain time for buy-to-let, with Chancellor George Osborne’s recent Budget having seen the announcement of restrictions to longstanding landlord tax breaks.

Not only will there be limits to the tax relief that wealthier buy-to-let investors can presently claim before the next election, but in April next year, the current “wear and tear allowance” will be replaced. Whereas this arrangement enables landlords to minimise their amount of tax payable irrespective of whether furnishings in their property are replaced, the new system will only offer tax relief when new furnishings are brought in.

Nonetheless, the buy-to-let market remains in rude health, as indicated in part by the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ (CML) disclosure of a 22% increase in buy-to-let lending in the year to May. This suggests that there are plenty of prospective investors out there – whether in London or such other popular areas revealed by the aforementioned analysis as Ilford, Harrow, Edinburgh, Swindon or Plymouth – looking to expand their buy-to-let portfolios or become landlords for the first time.

For those in the capital, however, it remains as crucial as ever to request the right property inventory in central London from a company that is renowned for its professionalism and thorough approach – a firm like Yellow Oak Inventories LTD, with its friendly and capable staff who are awaiting your call.

 

Words or Video – Which is better when conducting an inventory?

Words or Video - Which is better when conductingThere 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 or Twitter.

Prime central London rents experience slow annual growth in June

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4Annual growth in rents in prime central London reached a relatively cautious 3.4% in June, according to a new report. The surprise general election result has left the lettings market in the popular area of the city optimistic but still to adjust, says the report, which will certainly make interesting reading for those contemplating a professional inventory service in London or elsewhere.

This June figure means that this vital part of the rental market has now recorded yearly growth for 12 consecutive months. This follows previous forecasts by many industry observers that the re-election of the Conservatives to power in May would help to ensure a lengthy period of stability in the market.

However, while the prime central London rental market continues its wait for an expected significant summer rise in its rental values, demand has lacked consistency and rental companies are yet to fully come to terms with an election result that had been far from widely anticipated.

The report also revealed that some areas are seeing higher stock levels, due to landlords having awaited clarity around the general election result prior to deciding whether to rent out their properties.

The health of the prime central London rental market is strongly linked to that of the wider British economy, with stock levels increasing due to some landlords’ conviction that the economy is in better hands when overseen by a majority Conservative government.

However, in response to the report’s findings, property experts have also urged landlords to set realistic asking rents, as the higher stock levels have made prospective tenants choosier. It is not only landlords in prime central London who should remember this, as the national economic picture for the rest of 2015 is uncertain amid a range of factors.

These factors include several major financial institutions contemplating whether government plans for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the reclaiming of bonuses paid to bankers should lead them to shift operations outside the country.

This unclear economic forecast could have repercussions well beyond London, so many landlords could benefit from the greater certainty that a professional inventory service from Yellow Oak Inventories LTD could bring to their lives.

 

Growth of London rental market recovers following stagnant period

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4London residential landlords are likely to be much heartened by news that, in the three months to May, housing rental prices in the capital recovered their pace of growth after a recent period of stagnation. This revelation is in a recently published rental index from HomeLet that makes interesting reading for residential landlords considering London property inventory services.

This rise in London rental prices has prevented the rest of the UK from catching up with the capital in the rate of increase in residential rental prices. There remains, unsurprisingly, a significant gulf in these prices between London and the rest of the country; although the UK’s average rent in the three-month period was £935 monthly, this number falls to £738 when London is excluded.

Greater London was among the regions that saw the most substantial increases in their housing rental markets. The area’s growth percentage was 9.2%; only South West England, Scotland and South East England, with rates of 13.6%, 9.6% and 9.4%, had higher growth.

Greater London was also the first area in the index’s history to have its monthly rents surpass £1,500. Although the area’s average rent during the three months was actually £1,472, for strictly new tenancies signed in May, that number was £1,506.

The London property market, like the national market, slowed in the approach to the general election; however, with another election not currently due for nearly five years, the capital’s residential property market has good reason to expect a lengthy period of greater stability and uninterrupted growth.

These circumstances also make considering London property inventory services from Yellow Oak Inventories LTD wiser for many residential landlords. If you are a current or prospective London landlord, you should consider that with your property likely to be in greater demand than ever, it has never been more important to have a comprehensive inventory carried out to ward off potential disputes with tenants.

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD can provide you with a professional, impartial and detailed inventory that can indicate exactly what the rental property was like when it was inspected. This can take so much of the stress and hassle out of being a London landlord, so that you can look forward to enjoying your yield.

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

Dont-be-rushe_225Did 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

Inventory Tips for TenantsSo 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?
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If the property includes a garden/outside space/drive-way parking space/etc make sure it is included on the inventory report too.
  4. Make notes on the inventory of any damage to the property and get agreement from your landlord/letting agent.
  5. Make sure you use all appliances early in the tenancy to determine if they are working correctly.
  6. Take your own photos of the property when you first move in, especially of any existing damage.
  7. Keep your copy of the inventory in a safe place.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 or Twitter.

 

Buying property with sitting tenants

Buying property with sitting tenantsDid 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 or Twitter.

Buy-to-let valuations accelerate as first-time buyers decline

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4If any more evidence was needed that now is definitely the time of the buy-to-let landlord rather than the first-time buyer, it is surely in new figures released by a prominent survey and valuation firm. It will make encouraging reading for many of those considering or currently taking advantage of Yellow Oak Inventories LTD’s expertise as a property inventory provider.

According to the data, buy-to-let valuations were up by a third in May compared to the same time a year earlier – with the same period seeing a 4% slide in the number of valuations for first-time buyers. It was a similar story on a month-by-month basis – while there were 2% fewer first-time buyer valuations in May than in the previous month, there was a 3% increase in buy-to-let valuations.

The figures paint a picture of a booming buy-to-let market, in which existing landlords seek to add to their portfolios while others look to become landlords for the first time. First-time buyer activity, though, was sluggish – not only in the context of the wider property market, but also compared to the situation in April. This was despite the weeks leading up to the election being especially uncertain ones for those looking to buy a home.

As fewer people search for a home of their own, however, more of them decide to remain tenants – a situation that is undoubtedly benefitting landlords. As well as the current market trends in favour of landlords, another thing that is clear is the very real need for a professional property inventory.

An impartial and detailed inventory recording the exact state of your rental property at the time of inspection is an invaluable tool for avoiding any disputes between you and your tenant when the tenancy comes to an end.

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD is a truly independent party, and can provide the complete property inventory in Milton Keynes – consisting of a report supplemented with digital colour photographs – to give you the ultimate peace of mind ahead of your next tenancy agreement, whether you are a new or current landlord.

 

 

 

New survey helps emphasise the importance of inventory reports

yellowoakA survey conducted by an online letting agent has revealed that most landlords in the UK find their full or part-time jobs less stressful than managing their rental properties, underlining the importance of contracting a professional inventory service.

The survey suggested that arrears create the most cause for concern, with 87% of participants linking them to stress, while 80% cited the prevalence of tenant complaints. Research also indicated that 43% were concerned about the difficulties associated with repairs, with 40% drawing attention to new immigration laws and 28% troubled over securing financing in order to expand their property portfolios. Furthermore, 25% mentioned tax, while 23% blamed partners without a full understanding of the struggles involved in managing buy-to-let properties.

However, the survey did draw attention to the negligible amount of reported stress that came as the result of finding new tenants, a strong reminder of the demand that the market is currently experiencing.

Taking both the strong demand for rental properties and the anxiety over arrears into account, we suggest that there has never been a better time to conduct thorough reference and background checks. Identifying problem tenants will save on potential evictions and arrears in the future, so we would advise that you run credit checks, ask for proof of both identity and address and talk to your prospective tenant in order to assess their character.

You should also take advantage of Yellow Oak Inventories LTD’s professional inventory service. Landlords rely upon our service to create exhaustive inventory reports detailing the condition of their property, contents, fittings and fixtures before it becomes occupied by the tenant. This can then be used as a binding agreement between them and their tenants, protecting them from the cost of repairs that were not their fault.

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD is APIP and AIIC accredited, with years of experience within the property industry, so each of our clerks is an expert in uncovering damage hidden by tenants. Each report is comprehensive and supported by digital colour photographs of every room and specific piece of damage. If you want to lower the level of stress associated with owning a buy-to-let property, just contact one of our team members today.

 

 

Our Top 5 Sources of Lettings Information

Our Top 5 Sources of Lettings InformationAt Yellowoak 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 you to our  Top 5 Sources of Lettings Information.

  1. Property Tribes – 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.

  1. SAFEagentsafeagents.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.

  1. Landlord Law – 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.

  1. Property Industry Eye – 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.

  1. 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!

5 tips for buy-to-let newcomers

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4Now might seem to be a good time to get into buy-to-let, not least with a seemingly landlord-friendly government having just been elected. However, just because there’s now no prospect of rent controls or a ‘mansion tax’, doesn’t mean that you can be reckless in entering this market. Even in the most advantageous times for landlords, buy-to-let has its risks, just like any other investment. Here are 5 tips that we would give as an Independent property Inventory provider.

  1. Decide between a cash or mortgage purchase

While a cash purchase is tempting if you are fortunate enough to have the funds, we would still recommend an interest-only mortgage, on the basis of the better returns that it earns you.

When you buy with a mortgage, you only pay back the loan interest rather than the capital that the house is worth. A Wriglesworth Consultancy survey revealed a 16.3% return per year for buy-to-let properties bought between 1996 and 2004, compared to the 9.3% annual return garnered by cash purchases.

 

  1. Define the aims of your investment

Your present circumstances will largely dictate this. Do you want your property to support your income? If so, you will want one that delivers steady earnings from rental yields. If you are saving more for the future, however, you may instead look for long-term capital growth.

 

  1. Carefully research your location

Knowing your answer to the above will help you to better determine a good location in which to invest. Areas with average house prices but pronounced rental demand tend to offer strong yields, whereas it is those places with the strongest and growing economies that usually offer the best prospects for capital appreciation, due to the combination of limited housing supply and high demand.

 

  1. Choose a property that will rent well

It’s all very well to invest in a pretty cottage or handsome mansion that you could imagine living in yourself, but you should remember that you aren’t buying accommodation for yourself – you are investing capital into a property that will house someone else. How much maintenance will be needed on the property? What is the standard of insulation? Is there space for tenants to park? These are the practical questions that you will need to ask yourself.

 

  1. Always have a professional inventory carried out

Yes, you would expect us to state this one, given our own professional service as a property inventory provider – but its importance cannot be doubted. With the right, impartial record of the property’s condition prior to the tenant moving in, you can protect yourself and ward off potential disputes. It’s your first line of defence when the time comes to accept your first tenant – so don’t skimp on it.

 

Yellow Oak Inventories supporting SAFEagent awareness week

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This week marks the 4th annual SAFEagent awareness week, and with over 3,000 professional letting agents uniting together this will be the biggest awareness drive SAFEagent have ever experienced. So throughout the coming week SAFEagent members, and others within the industry, will be promoting the importance of choosing a lettings and management agent who’s part of a Client Money Protection (CMP) Scheme.

What is a CMP Scheme?

CMP schemes are a ‘safety-net’ that provide compensation to landlords and tenants, should their agent misappropriate their rent, deposit or other funds.

As mentioned in our previous blog, as of last Wednesday letting agents now have a statutory duty to fully publicise the fees they charge to both their landlord and tenant clients; so SAFEagent Awareness Week coincides with this latest rule change very nicely.

Why do you support this scheme?

Well, it’s very simple really! At Yellow Oak we believe that it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry, and the SAFEagent scheme adds further protection for landlords and tenants monies. This is because, as a sad fact of life, there are a minority of unscrupulous landlords and letting agents out there who drag the industry into disrepute. So those who manage property and are ‘Fully Endorsed’ by SAFEAgent provide their tenants with the peace of mind that the money they’ve paid in deposits and rent is fully protected. Furthermore, it proves that they are flying the flag for professional standards within the private rented sector.

SAFEagent explained in 2 minutes:

Supporters of SAFEagent include the likes of: Endsleigh, HomeLet, The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPOS), The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), British Property Federation (BPF), Citizens Advice Bureau and Shelter.

  1. Midgley, Chair of the SAFEagent Steering Group, has also stated that many consumers are still completely unaware that if their agent was to abscond with any funds that are rightfully theirs; there would be no chance of getting them back without a CMP in place. He went on to say that he fully welcomes last week’s newest legislation change but would like to see inclusion in a CMP scheme become mandatory for all UK letting agents. – What do you think about this idea?

At Yellow Oak Inventories we will be supporting this very worthy industry cause throughout the week, as we truly care about consumer protection in the PRS (as members of the Property Redress Scheme ourselves) and want to support raising standards and awareness in any way we can.

The easiest way to show your support is through social media, and SAFEAgent have even made some ready-made status updates that you just need to copy and paste! Find them here.

10 questions Letting Agents should ask their inventory provider

As of the 27th10 questions Letting Agents should ask their inventory provider May 2015, letting agents now have a statutory duty to fully publicise the fees they charge to their landlord and tenant clients.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, it’s designed to promote more transparency within the sector, as well as tackling rogue letting agents head-on. This means that agents must now clearly display a list of their fees at each of their offices as well as on their website. Official guidelines issued by the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) and Advertising Standard Authority state that:

“All fees, charges or penalties (however expressed) which are payable to the agent by a landlord or tenant in respect of letting agency work and property management work carried out by the agent in connection with an assured tenancy. This includes fees, charges or penalties in connection with an assured tenancy of a property or a property that is, has been or is proposed to be let under an assured tenancy.”

Announced last year, the government said: “The move ensures a fair deal for landlords and tenants, closing off the opportunity for a small minority of rogue agents to impose unreasonable, hidden charges.”

And those agents that fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £5,000, which is definitely great news for landlords and tenants. But how will this affect letting agents?

Well we believe that letting agents right across Britain will now be hunting for a much more cost-effective inventory service to what they’re currently using. Because not only are all lettings fees now going to be under deep scrutiny but they will now be battling against other agents in their area (even more so) to offer the cheapest fees around to attract the most clients; landlords and tenants alike.

Furthermore, a comprehensive inventory report shows to your landlord clients that you are dedicated to protecting their property from potential damage, as well as protecting your tenants deposit by providing a transparent and unbiased service.

So as a Letting Agent, what should I be looking for in my next inventory company?

  • Are they certified members of APIP or the AIIC?
  • Are they fully insured?
  • How much experience do they have?
  • Are they members of a Property Redress Scheme?
  • Do they have reviews or testimonials from previous letting agent clients?
  • How detailed are their reports? Can they offer an example report?
  • Do they offer mid-term reviews/inspections?
  • Do they have a good knowledge of your particular area?
  • Do they have extended working hours and days?
  • How do their prices compare to other inventory companies in your area?

At Yellow Oak Inventories we can offer everything mentioned above and more! And we fully understand that as a letting agent you want to provide the best possible service at the most attractive price. So this is why you must always use an independent Inventory Clerk for all inventories, check-ins, mid-terms and check-outs, so as to remain transparent and professional to all of your clients.
Here are 10 advantages of using an independent Inventory Clerk.

Most tenants aren’t given their full deposit back

A new sYellow Oak Inventories LTD 4tudy has found that most people who have rented a property in the UK in the last five years haven’t been able to secure the return of their full discount after vacating. In what ought to be a timely reminder of the importance to tenants as well as landlords and letting agents of a property inventories, London removals company Kiwi Movers said that 52% of deposits over the last half-decade were either partially or fully withheld.

That is the equivalent of more than 400,000 deposits per year, with eight in every 10 tenants overall having some degree of trouble in getting back their deposit. The research revealed cleaning and minor repairs to be the most frequent justifications for withheld deposits. However, 28% of respondents said that their landlord delayed handing back their deposit, even though they didn’t make any deductions.

6% of those who said they had encountered difficulties with getting their landlord to return their deposit didn’t get any of their deposit back at all – the equivalent of 252,000 deposits being completely withheld since 2010. 46% only saw part of their deposit returned. Two in 10 respondents claimed to have had no problems in getting their deposit back, while 28% said they’d had a dispute with their landlord or letting agency, but nonetheless managed to get their deposit back in full.

London is where tenants are most susceptible to deposit disputes, with the equivalent of 11% of the capital’s residents failing to get a penny of their deposit back – almost twice as high a percentage as the survey average. The most likely tenants to lose their full deposit were those aged between 18 and 24 who were living with friends, rather than alone, with a partner or spouse or with people they didn’t know prior to their move.

Kiwi Movers director Regan McMillan said that tenants were increasingly hiring professional cleaners before checking out of a rental property in an attempt to combat landlords withholding part or all of their deposit, adding: “Our customers tell us they feel vulnerable unless they have paperwork to prove that they left the property in an acceptable state. Moving is stressful enough without having your deposit unfairly withheld.”

Such paperwork could be in the form of a property inventory of the standard that we provide here at Yellow Oak Inventories LTD. A comprehensive and impartial property inventory, carried out by a fully regulated and professional provider like Yellow Oak Inventories LTD isn’t merely of value to the landlord or letting agent, it also gives the tenant invaluable peace of mind when they come to check out.

 

 

Inventories VS Pests

Inventories vs PestsWe’ve covered the issues of pets in rented property and how they can seriously damage your property, even disrupting neighbouring tenant’s right of enjoyment in their home.

But what about pests?

As a landlord you have a legal duty of care to uphold, by firstly ensuring that your property is fit for your tenants to live in from the beginning of their tenancy. This includes being confident that there are no traces of pests or vermin, as these could be extremely detrimental to their health as well as infringing on their right to quiet enjoyment. The 10 most commonly found pests in UK households being mice, rats, wasps, ants, moths, cockroaches, mosquitoes, spiders, flies and fleas.

A thorough inventory check-in report will flag up any pests or vermin from the outset and prevent future problems in the first place.

Other than thoughtless actions by tenants creating a pest problem, such as not clearing away food debris or rubbish, they can also be caused by disrepair to the property; e.g. holes in the walls and floors allowing mice to enter the premises. So if there is a problem with pests or vermin when moving in, as the landlord or letting agent it is you who is responsible for dealing with it.

A mid-term inventory report and inspection will help alert you to any pest problems that your tenant has failed to notice as well as preventing any potential vermin problems.

Carpet and clothes moths have become more common in rented accommodation in recent years and can be tricky to get rid of. I remember a recent story from a landlord about a tenant coming and telling him that she had moths. They hadn’t been there before the tenancy had begun but the tenant said they were in the carpet and were gradually eating it away! The tenant wanted to know what the landlord was going to do about it, but they hadn’t been there before the tenant took up residence and the inventory report proved this. Amongst pest control firms these have been dubbed “posh pests”, as they don’t carry diseases and love to live in wool and cashmere items.

Students in particular have recently come under fire for causing pest problems because of poor hygiene amongst some of them, with research by the Association of Independent Inventory clerks (AIIC) suggesting that pest issues are particularly acute in student accommodation. AICC chair, Pat Barber, talks about a case where mice were discovered during a property inspection: “The tenants complained of mice faeces in cupboards and on the kitchen floor. Unsurprisingly the kitchen was in a really dirty condition with grease, crumbs and other debris everywhere. The tenants were advised to clean up their act.”

A check-out inventory report will fully protect you from pest infestations that are the fault of the tenant.

Being alerted about pests in your property by your tenant shouldn’t be ignored either. If you fail to act they can go above your head and complain to the council’s environmental health department, which could result in a fine or even prison if it poses such a health hazard to the tenants and their neighbours.

Furthermore, if your property keeps falling foul to pesky pests adding an express term into the tenancy agreement, which details exactly who’s responsible for dealing with pests and/or vermin, may be an idea for the future.

When asked “who is responsible” for dealing with an infestation this can become a very grey area, without a concrete inventory in place. Don’t let your tenant take advantage of you, simply get a thorough inventory done by a qualified, professional and independent inventory clerk for total peace of mind. Need more information? Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, either by phone: 020 3713 4933, by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk or via Facebook or Twitter.

Protecting your property from tenants from hell is as easy as 1-2-3!

THE FORESTIn reality most of your tenants will be good, pay their rent on time, leave your property in an good condition and treat it as their own.

But with recent concerns over low levels of PRS deposits being registered with tenancy deposit schemes coupled with the amount of ‘Generation Renters’ steadily rising, the minority of bad tenants will also inevitably grow; giving even more reason to be extra vigilant in how you select your next tenants and carry out your ongoing tenancy management skills.  How do you protect your property from tenants from hell?

Vanessa Warwick, co-founder of the property advice forum PropertyTribes.com has a great saying: “The best way to never experience a bad tenant is never to let one into your property in the first place“.

You can use the following check list to protect yourself and your existing tenants from anti-social neighbours.

Yellow Oak Inventories Three Point Anti-Bad Tenant Checklist:

  1. Your 1st pre-tenancy port of call should always be to detailed and methodical tenant referencing procedures;

Credit Check

Employer

Previous Landlord

Previous Letting Agent

Personal References (non-related, professionals e.g. University Lecturer)

Guarantor Reference (if applicable) 

Visited tenants’ current home
Digital quick tip: Don’t forget to ask for email addresses as well as phone numbers for references.

A quick google search on your potential new tenant can also be worthwhile. 

  1. Using an impartial, professional and officially approved property inventory clerk from start to finish, as well as mid-term reviews and regular property inspections, can protect against such common housing hazards as:
    – Drug Dens
    – Overcrowding
    – Damp
    – Mould
    – Subletting
  2. Knowledge is Power
    Keeping up-to-date on local and national legislation, relevant to UK landlords and letting agents, will provide a fool proof safety net for the future protection of your investment and well-being. So consider joining or contacting a nationally recognised organisation, e.g. The National Landlords Association (NLA) @nationalandlord, The Residential Landlord Association (RLA) @RLA_News, NALScheme @NALScheme, SAFEagent @Safeagent or The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) @arla_uk, or a local association, accreditation, PiN or group; e.g. The London Landlord Accreditation Scheme @LLAS_UKLAP.
    Tap into an ocean of knowledge, such as:
    – Deposit Protection
    – Deregulation Bill
    – Eviction Legislation and Advice
    – Universal Credit
    – Licensing

An extreme example of a bad tenant reminds us of a story we heard about back in 2013. An enraged French tenant who had been refused their deposit back caused $2,500 worth of damage when he took a sledgehammer to his apartment in revenge! If you don’t believe us, here’s the video!

As experienced landlords ourselves we have had our fair share of bad tenants and now know many fool proof ways to weed them out. So for more tips on avoiding nightmare tenants please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, either by phone: 020 3713 4933, by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk or via Facebook or Twitter.

Inventories and Right to Rent Legislation

Inventories and Right to RentSo far at Yellow Oak Inventories we’ve covered the obvious topics relating to the importance of a comprehensive, independent inventory – e.g. accepting pets, hoarding, student lets, tenancy deposit disputes, longer tenancies and redecoration to name a few.

But are you aware of one of the newest pieces of legislation to hit private renting landlords; Right to Rent Immigration Checks,and how a full inventory can become a key part of the Right to Reside Compliance process?

Well firstly, let’s explain the Right to Rent Immigration Checks legislation.

In addition to the referencing process, all landlords will soon be required by law to check the immigration status of their tenants or risk financial penalties for failing to do so. Launched on 1 December 2014 in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton it’s currently being trialled across the West Midlands but is soon to be rolled out right across the UK later on this year.

Including letting agents and homeowners who let rooms, Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said:

“We are building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system or flout the law.

The right to rent checks will be quick and simple, but will make it more difficult for immigration offenders to stay in the country when they have no right to be here.

They will also act as a new line of attack against unscrupulous landlords who exploit people by renting out overcrowded and unsafe accommodation.”

Therefore it is imperative that you seek evidence from your prospective tenant now, of proof of their identity and citizenship, before a tenancy can go ahead. However, in a limited amount of cases where tenants cannot provide their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check directly from the Home Office. This can take up to two working days but should not be missed, as you need to be absolutely sure that your potential tenant has the right to be in the country, in accordance with UK law.

A detailed inventory report can also play a vital role in your new Right to Rent Check procedure, via the following steps:

  • Keep an accurate record of the tenancy; from start, middle to finish.
  • Regular mid-term inspections will provide peace of mind that there are no illegal residents living in your property and putting you at risk of hefty fines.
  • Attach a photo of your tenant to the inventory report.
  • Attach your tenants’ passport copy to their inventory report.

As we say at Yellow Oak Inventories, Evidence is Everything, especially alongside this approaching legislation; just waiting for an ignorant landlord to slip up.

So please make sure that all of your checks are up to date and that as much as possible has been fully documented, or expect to face dire consequences!

What are your personal views on these latest changes for UK landlords?

Betterment principle ‘confuses many UK landlords’

check-In-reportThe findings of new research have indicated that 6 in 10 of the UK’s landlords do not understand the betterment principle, as well as that 90% lack a full understanding of what constitutes fair wear and tear. Over 80% of landlords also claimed that inventory evidence helped them to win a tenant deposit dispute, in a firm sign of the worth of a property inventory in Milton Keynes, London and all areas of the UK like that conducted by Yellow Oak Inventories LTD.

Meanwhile, 60% of landlords admitted that they never visited their property to check on its condition, a mere 6% making regular spot checks on their property. Mid-term reviews or inspections which Yellow Oak Inventories also carryout can often flag issues that can be dealt with at an early stage before further and more serious deterioration. But it is the confusion over the betterment principle that will most interest many of those contemplating a property inventory report – this being the principle that if an item, such as a carpet, was old at check-in, it is not permitted for the landlord to replace it with a new carpet, although some compensation is still allowable towards the item.

The study’s findings reveal much about landlords’ and agents’ sometimes unrealistic expectations of what they are able to claim against tenant deposits. The tenant does have a duty of care to return the property at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as at the start, and as listed on the inventory report – allowing for wear and tear. But landlords claiming ‘new for old’ from the tenant deposit is not allowed under the law.

The difference in expectations that can prevail between landlords and tenants can make fair wear and tear a common subject of dispute. The reality is that fair wear and tear is not the same as actual damage. It is only to be expected, for example, that foot traffic over time will result in the flattening of carpet tread over time, whereas cigarette burns, stains or soiling are examples of more serious damage meriting a charge.

What often isn’t realised by many landlords and tenants is that cleaning issues are similarly subject to the betterment principle. For example, if stains and marks were present on the carpet at the time of check-in, the tenant can’t be expected to pay for carpet cleaning at check-out if the carpet wasn’t cleaned at check-in, irrespective of the length of the tenancy. But if the carpet is stained and marked at check-out, in contrast to an unbiased inventory report – including photo evidence – at the start of the tenancy showing it to be clean, then the deduction of cleaning costs from the deposit is fair.

If there’s one big lesson to be learned from the report, it is that normal wear and tear should be expected within tenancies. To assist in cases of dispute where there is a need to determine whether more meaningful damage has occurred, however, it is advisable to request a complete property inventory a property inventory provider from a suitably professional company like Yellow Oak Inventories LTD.

Accepting pets; know the risks!

Accepting petsknow the risks!The majority of landlords, letting agents and managing agents are very wary when it comes to letting their property to tenants with pets – with tenancy and building agreements containing clauses prohibiting pets as standard. We’ve heard our fair share of horror stories from landlord clients over the years, who have come to us for a thorough inventory to prevent such issues happening in the future.

It’s important to know the risks when considering taking on tenants with pets, your property is your investment and potentially your pension nest-egg or children’s inheritance, so you need to protect it against any eventually as meticulously as possible. The pet may not necessarily be the biggest problem, the way the owners looks after them and maintain the property is crucial.

This is where good tenant referencing techniques and an intensive inventory report come into play.

Be prepared from the start
It can be quite telling when a prospective tenant enquires about your property and leaves asking about pets until the very last minute, or (in an increasing number of instances) leaves it until after the viewing has taken place to reveal they have pets! If they’re passionate about their pet then that should shine through, and then followed up with exhaustive tenant referencing procedures.

An example:

A managing agent client told us about taking a letter around to a tenant, only to hear a dog inside the apartment. He then went to inform the landlady only to be met at his office by the tenants neighbour. They were very angry as they didn’t have a pet but had suddenly gotten fleas in their adjacent apartment, confirming that their neighbour had a dog. Before the problem could be addressed the fleas had spread to the other two apartments in the property; ending in the whole building having to be fumigated, with one tenant even leaving; all due to the landlords negligence.
This shows that not only can your property become severely damaged, running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds through unauthorised pets, but can affect your other tenancies too.

This situation could have easily been avoided by a detailed and professional Check-in, Mid-term and Check-out inventory report.

But with 40% of the UK’s housing stock currently privately rented, have you ever thought that you could be deterring great tenants from letting your property, by point blank refusing those with pets?

It’s interesting to note that according to the latest UK Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s (PFMA) Pet Population report that 13million (46% of) households have pets. The top ten pets for 2014 were:

  1. Fish kept in tanks: 20 – 25 million (9% of households)
  2. Fish kept in ponds: 20 million (5% of households)
  3. Dogs: 9 million (24% of households)
  4. Cats: 8 million (17% of households)
  5. Rabbits: 1 million (2.4% of households)
  6. Domestic fowl: 1 million (0.8% of households)
  7. Caged birds: 1 million (1.4% of households)
  8. Guinea Pigs: Half a million (1.1% of households)
  9. Hamsters: 400,000 (1.4% of households)
  10. Lizards: 400,000 (0.7% of households)

Furthermore, according to a survey by the Dogs Trust, 54% of pet owners were never able to find a suitable property that accepted pets, with 8% sadly having to rehome their pet because of this widespread ‘pet prejudice.’

As animal lovers ourselves we know that there are many great tenants out there who are more than capable to properly look after your rental property with a pet in tow. Therefore we believe that with a full inventory in place, coupled with regular inspections by both inventory clerk and landlord/agent and great referencing procedures, you can successfully home a family with pets.

It stands to reason that tenants with pets are more likely to pay a higher rent for your property, as they have less choice, and are also more likely to stay for longer; meaning fewer voids too.

Quick Tip: If you are considering accepting pets on your next tenancy, visiting the applicant tenants current property before signing anything would be advised in these particular circumstances, to gauge how they look after the property and their pets.

  • Do you accept pets?
  • Do you ask for ‘pet references’?
  • Do you have a ‘pet horror story’?

Essentially it’s your choice whether you take pets or not, but whatever you decide we hope that you enlist the support of a fully regulated independent inventory clerk to ensure that your investment is risk free. Get in touch with us today, on 020 3713 4933 or by email: info@yellowoak.co.uk.