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.

Animal hoarding – The importance of mid-term inspections

Animal HordingA horrific story animal hoarding in the news recently definitely brings home the importance of quarterly/mid-term inspections, which I’d like to share with you all.

The shocking discovery was made by a Wisconsin landlord, who had heard barking coming from his rented property; only to open the door and almost be trampled by more than 30 dogs!

Employed as a cleaner, the tenant had only lived there since December 2014 but in 4 short months had accumulated 36 dead dogs, 29 dead cats and 85 starving dogs in the rural rented abode!  Given free reign of the house, animal faeces and urine covered the entirety of the property – with dogs found in closets, crates, duct work and some poor puppies were even found in the stove!

Taking almost 5 hours to round up the living animals, the tenant could now face up to three years in prison for ‘felony aggravated animal cruelty’ plus other charges.

Apart from an obvious lack of tenant referencing (as this tenant is apparently notorious for leaving property in an awful state) this could have all been avoided if a simple quarterly/mid-term inspection had taken place.

Without a firm damage estimate yet, the distraught landlord anticipates at least having to cut out and replace the flooring throughout the house. But we would hazard a guess that the costs will run into many thousands of dollars.

So a quarterly/mid-term inspection at the three month mark might seem a little unnecessary but considering this lettings nightmare it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry!

At Yellow Oak Inventories we are true believers that Evidence Is Everything when it comes to your buy-to-let investment. Therefore a quarterly/mid-term inspection, alongside a check-in and check-out report, will ensure that your tenant is looking after your property as well as fully supporting any future deposit dispute claims.

Prevention is better than cure and the condition of your property is of paramount importance. You want it to be both protected and respected; so a quarterly/mid-term inspection coupled with an inventory is a no brainer really, isn’t it?

At Yellow Oak Inventories we offer cost effective prices, for the utmost quality and detailed inventory reports and interim inspections around; from as little as £50 per quarterly/mid-term inspection reports! (excluding VAT).
Covering London, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northampton and East Oxfordshire areas, please take a look at our full price list HERE.

 

  • Do you have any property damage horror stories? If so, please share them with us!

 

 

What to consider when letting your property out to students

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4Choosing to let a property out to students comes with an extensive list of both advantages and disadvantages. Student houses are typically easier to fill and don’t require the latest fixtures or furniture. However, students tend to be far less responsible than mature tenants.

Since we first offered a professional inventory service in Milton Keynes and London, Yellow Oak Inventories LTD has dealt with many of the student properties clustered around the Milton Keynes campus operated by the University of Bedfordshire as well as multiple locations in London. From our years of experience, we can offer the following advice to prospective student landlords.

Prioritise size and location

If you’re currently looking for a property, remember that students enjoy being close to both the university and each other. Try to determine where most student properties are currently located in order to find a place with long term potential.

You should also attempt to find a larger property with multiple bedrooms. Students prefer to live in larger groups, and are known to accept smaller rooms if they’re able to live with all of their friends. Larger properties are often easier to fill, and will yield higher returns.

Become accredited

Most universities maintain a list of accredited landlords that are recommended to students. Students usually place a lot of faith in these lists, as this will typically be the first time they’ve rented.

Getting on these lists is generally a relatively easy process, though you will have to contact the university in question in order to be informed of the exact requirements.

Protect yourself

The most common risk associated with letting out a property to students is that they might not bother to take care of it. Damage to furniture and flooring can be all too common, so it is important to take advantage of an inventory service provider, such as Yellow Oak Inventories LTD. Our clerks take extensive notes and colour photographs to help ensure that there are no problems when the property is vacated.

We are one of the most professional inventory services that operate in Milton Keynes and London, so we’re well aware of the ways in which tenants try to hide damage from their landlords.

To learn more about our professional property inventory service simply contact us today.

 

The top 3 reasons for losing a tenancy deposit dispute

reasons for losing a tenancy depositDid you know that over the last 7 years just 18.9% of private landlords have been awarded 100% of a disputed deposit, compared to 20.8% of tenants who were awarded the full deposit …?

The latest Annual Review via the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) also reveals:

  • During 2012-2013, 60.3% of deposits were shared between the tenant and their landlord.
  • There were 487 more disputes adjudicated compared to the previous annual review.
  • There was a notable increase in the number of applications made by tenants, as opposed to agents and landlords; 55% initiated by tenants, 33% by Agents and 12% by landlords.
  • Over the last 4 years there has been an increase of around 26% in the average value of disputes referred to the TDS for adjudication – the current average value is around £820.

Apart from the obvious lack of evidence that landlords are still failing to comply when addressing residential deposit disputes, here are the 3 top reasons for losing a tenancy deposit dispute:

  1. Cleaning – 56%
    Since the start of the scheme cleaning has consistently been the most common dispute in cases brought forward to the TDS.
  2. Damage – 43%
    Without sufficient evidence a landlord or letting agent has no chance of winning their claim against property damages. For example:
    A landlord client asked us to carry out a Check-Out Inventory for them, however their Check-In Inventory had been carried out one month into the tenancy. So how they gave the tenants the property was not reflected in the inventory, as they had already lived there for a month. The tenants had two dogs and had only been in the property for 6 months, but the lack of respect and the amount of damage incurred was just incredible; animal waste on the floor, mould everywhere, rotting furniture – all for the sake of lack of organisation.
    This could have easily been avoided if a check-in Inventory had been done before the tenancy began.
  3. Redecoration – 30%
    The TDS has case studies on disputes involving decoration, which you may find useful,

Unbelievably the death of a goldfish was a cause for one tenant/landlord deposit dispute!! But this just proves that Evidence is Everything when it comes to letting your property, and without it you’re simply giving your tenant an unfair advantage.

We believe many of these failed claims could have been fully awarded to the landlord if they had only used a professional inventory clerk to carry out their Check-In, Mid-Term and Check-out reports.

We would also go as far as to say that landlords in London (plus surrounding areas) are even more exposed and prone to deposit disputes; what with the high volume of tenants, who are moving around more frequently than any other area of the country.

Stop making yourself and your property vulnerable; simply enlist the help of a fully regulated, independent inventory Clerk today and start enjoying your investment!
Related topics that may be of interest:

Our Top 10 tips for avoiding disputes

Tenancy deposits

Why is Yellow Oak a leading inventory company in London and the South East?

Landlords require total peace of mind, and our years of experience within the industry can help to provide it. Yellow Oak Inventories is a certified member of APIP and AIIC, and we’re here to offer you a service that is both fully independent and reliably professional.

We have experience of working with corporate and independent letting agents, housing associations, relocation agents, landlords and tenants. The expertise that this experience has fostered has made us a trusted choice when looking for an inventory company in London and the South East.

Our fully insured clerks are highly experienced and have developed a strong knowledge of what to look for during inspections. Problems that tenants typically attempt to hide – usually to the disadvantage of their landlords – are spotted in an instant, and our detailed reports and digital colour images can provide a complete overview concerning the property.

Despite the exhaustive nature of each report that we provide, all jobs experience a fast turnaround. Extended working hours run from 8am-8pm during the working week to ensure that we can accommodate the timetables of both landlords and tenants. We’re even available on Saturdays and bank holidays.

We can provide a range of inventory checks that offer protection throughout a given tenancy. In addition to our inventory reports, we offer check in and check out reports, mid-term reviews and snagging reports. Using our services means that you’ll be provided with steady information concerning your property, and an objective set of reports and photographs to use if disagreements and/or legal proceedings take place between you and the tenant.

The services of Yellow Oak Inventories are available at affordable prices, differing depending on the size of the property and the extent of the required report to make sure that we charge a fair price for every job undertaken. Our standard price list for properties in London starts at a competitively low level for an interim inspection of an unfurnished studio, with costs only rising for larger, furnished properties due to the greater amount of time necessary to complete a detailed report.

For a reliable and trusted inventory company in London, don’t hesitate to contact one of our team members here at Yellow Oak today.

 

 

Will longer tenancies cause more tenant disputes? ​​

Will Longer TenanciesAs we edge closer to a General Election there are many interesting (as well as controversial) housing ideas being thrown around, as the UK’s political parties try to attract the attention of the ever-increasing amount of generation renters.

In particular, the Labour Party have claimed that they will provide “a better deal for renters” by introducing standard three-year tenancies, if they were to get into power on May 7th.

With over eight million households in the UK now renting from a private landlord, this proposal aims to give tenants greater protection against rogue landlords within the sector; primarily protecting against retaliatory eviction and giving families “security and peace of mind” by preventing the uprooting of children from their school and their friends.

However, research from The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) shows us that less than 20% of tenants actually rent a home for more than five years, and over a third of tenants stay in rented accommodation for less than a year.

At Yellow Oak Inventories we completely understand the need for tenants to feel secure in their home, and that longer tenancies could benefit many PRS landlords. However we do worry that longer tenancies will mean more tenant deposit disputes. As it stands to reason that the longer a tenant resides within a property, the more likely it is that the property will be subjected to damages and more complex wear and tear issues.
Even more worryingly, it could deter new landlords from entering the buy to let market altogether.

So if standard three year tenancies were introduced, the need for a thorough independent inventory and mid-term inspections would increase dramatically; in order to avoid unnecessary stress and costs further down the line.

Wear – What is the definition of wear and tear? Click for full information.

This could also become a major issue, what with the tax concession allowing landlords of unfurnished properties to claim for the replacement of white goods, carpets and curtains being withdrawn by HMRC, back in April 2013.

Other than finding an independent, impartial and professional inventory provider, here are some other key points that will help prevent damage and excessive wear and tear in your property:

  • Take a deposit
  • Keep the properties maintenance and decoration up-to-date
    g. expect to re-paint walls and ceilings every 3-5 years.
  • Regular inspections
  • For furnished rentals expect to renew items approximately every 3 years
    g. furniture, kitchen wear, etc.
  • Certain items should be treated as ‘expendable’ if they are missing or damaged at the end of a long tenancy
    g. mattress protectors, kitchen utensils, toilet brushes, etc.

How do you feel about standard three year tenancies?

Were you aware of the tax concession for unfurnished properties being removed?

Whatever your views are on these issues pleases share them with us!

 

 

 

 

Unauthorised pets and redecoration among tenant secrets kept from landlords

Anyone who takes advantage of a professional inventory service in Milton Keynes, London, Luton and the Home Counties from a company like Yellow Oak Inventories LTD will appreciate the importance of a trusting relationship between the landlord and tenant if a tenancy is to be a success. However, that doesn’t stop many tenants keeping potentially damaging secrets from their landlords.

Further light was recently shed on this by a survey of tenants by an online letting agent. Well over half of tenants polled – 59 per cent – admitted to keeping pets without authorisation, which could result in damage to the property that may not be detected in the absence of an inventory. Much the same could be said of redecorating without the landlord’s permission – 45 per cent of tenants confessing this.

Other findings of the report that will interest many clients of a professional inventory service in Milton Keynes include the admission by one in three tenants that they had caused damage to walls by knocking in nails, as well as nearly a quarter of respondents saying that they had never or rarely cleaned their oven. Nor had 18 per cent even mowed the lawn regularly.

11 per cent of tenants stated that they had dumped rubbish at the front and in the garden of their property, while 6 per cent were guilty of subletting a room. 4 per cent even indicated that they had burned holes in floor coverings and concealed them with mats. However, the most prevalent tenant confession – cited by 63 per cent of those quizzed – was attempting to dodge the payment of their rent.

With tenant arrears having gone up by 7.2 per cent over the last year – the equivalent of 4,600 tenancies more compared to the same quarter a year earlier – that latter admission will be especially worrying for many landlords. However, those landlords can also better protect themselves from both arrears and all-round bad tenants by conducting extensive background checks on their tenants, as well as by having a comprehensive inventory done.

References that landlords can gather to establish the suitability of a prospective tenant range from bank statements for the last three months and credit checks, to employer references and previous landlord references, the latter to ensure that the tenant paid their rent in a timely fashion. Landlords can also better identify any tenant breaches of their agreement by periodically visiting their property over the course of the tenancy.

Have an extensive and professional inventory and Mid-term inspections of your property carried out by Yellow Oak Inventories LTD, and you can give yourself the utmost peace of mind as a landlord for the duration of your next tenancy agreement.

 

10 Advantages of using an independent Inventory Clerk

10 Advantages of using an independent Inventory ClerkAre you are considering entering the lettings industry? Have you just entered it for the first time or have had bad experiences in the past through carrying out your own inventory?

Whichever situation you’re in one of your first considerations should be to find a decent independent Inventory Clerk, to carry out all of your new tenant check-ins, mid-term reviews and end of tenancy check-outs.

‘WHY do I need to appoint an independent Inventory Clerk? …’

Here are 10 key reasons to take into account:

  • Protection
    By enlisting the support of a fully qualified independent Inventory Clerk there can be no question of bias, which will ensure that you and your tenants interests and wellbeing is fully protected.
    It will also show your tenant that you are professional, transparent and have their best interests at heart.
  • Trained
    Full members of the AIIC (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks) and APIP (Association of Professional Inventory Providers) provide assurance that your inventory clerk is trained to the highest standard possible. Members of these leading organisations must adhere to a strict code of conduct and professionalism, which also protects against any possible problems or disputes that you (hopefully don’t) encounter with your Inventory company.
  • Informed
    Being part of an official organisation will also keep your inventory clerk up-to-date on current legislation and any changes to the law in relation to the Inventory and buy to let sector in general.
    This provides an ideal safety-net for both landlord and tenant, preventing any confusion or misunderstandings in the future.
  • Knowledgeable
    As experts in their field, they will be able to provide continuous support and advice whenever you need it.
    For example, the definition of fair wear and tear can be a difficult issue to decipher as there is no precise statute on what it actually is. But an experienced independent Inventory Clerk will know this common problem inside-out and back-to-front, so this won’t even become an issue with the right company.
  • High Quality
    A visual and written report on the condition of your property should include detailed information and observations on all contents, fittings and fixtures at the beginning, middle and end of the tenancy. Supplemented by high quality digital photographs of every room, any specific damage and the level of cleanliness will ensure an in-depth record of your property at the time of each inspection.
  • Save Time
    As a landlord your time is precious! So by using an independent inventory clerk you can avoid wasting time with disagreements or disputes when the tenancy ends; giving you more time to concentrate on other important property issues.
  • Peace of Mind
    Putting the condition of your property in the safe hands of an experienced Clerk will give you peace of mind that any potential issues will be noted and help getting resolved quickly and fairly.
  • Avoid the void
    You want to avoid a rental void at all costs; as no tenant means no rent! Therefore an experienced Clerk will provide a quick turnaround, so that you can get a new tenant in situ as soon as possible.
  • Keep on top of maintenance issues
    A thorough inventory coupled with a mid-term inspection and snagging report (for new builds) will assist in discovering any existing or potential maintenance issues that a tenant may not have noticed or reported. It will also help to determine whether your tenant is complying with their contractual agreement and treating your property with respect.
  • Region Specialists
    A good Inventory Clerk will also have regionalised expertise so they will have further insight into any specific legislation that may affect a certain area, as well as any common environmental issues that affect the area too. For example: an area that is prone to damp.

 

The Yellow Oak Inventories team completely understand your needs, offering everything listed above and more; fully protecting your investment as well as the important relationship that you have with your tenants.

Please contact us today and discover how we can make life as a landlord 100% easier.

Silver Landlords – Take the ‘belt and braces’ approach to protect your pension pot

SILVER LANDLORDSAs the UK Government attempts to make people take more responsibility for their future finances via pension reform this year, it’s widely predicted that many on the brink of retirement will look toward the buy-to-let sector; dawning a new era of ‘silver landlords’ from April 2015.

Are you thinking of accessing some or all of your pension pot this year and investing it into buy to let?

But don’t really know much about how the pension system works or where to start as a first time landlord …?

What with private renting taking over social housing for the first time in 25 years, buy-to-let investment has gone from strength to strength over the last two decades and is now a tried and tested way to maximise  returns on your savings.

How will the new system work?

The pension system is being completely overhauled, so no matter how much you decide to take out from a defined contribution pension after retirement, withdrawals from your pension will be treated as income. So instead of being taxed 55% for full withdrawal as it has been in the past, for those aged 55 or over, from April 2015 the amount of tax you will pay on what you withdraw will depend on the amount of other income you have made in that year.

Key points include:

– 25% of all pension pots will remain completely tax-free.

– ‘Defined contribution’ pensions and ‘defined benefit’ pensions can both benefit from the new system.

– Instead of paying the 55% rate of tax when passing on their pension, those who die under the age of 75 will be able to pass on their unused contribution pension as a lump sum to a person of their choice tax free.

– Those with unspent defined contribution pensions who die over the age of 75 can pass this on to a person of their choice, who will be able to take it as a lump sum. This will be taxed at 45% or as income and pay their normal rate of income tax.

So as a nation of renters and an estimated 18 million people potentially able to withdraw their entire pension and invest it into property from April, it stands to reason that you would also wish to fully protect your assets – so where should you start?

Take the Yellow Oak Inventories “Belt and Braces” approach.

Access free, independent and impartial guidance

To be confident that you’re putting your pension savings to the best use possible, impartial guidance is imperative to make an informed and clear decision. The government website suggests using the internet, over the phone, or face to face at a Citizens Advice Bureau. Pension providers also have a duty to explain this to their customers who are approaching retirement age.

Mortgages

Look for a mortgage provider who has made improvements to their policies, that reflect more choice for pensioners.

For example: In July 2014 specialist lender Precise Mortgages upped the maximum age from 75 to 85 that a buy-to-let borrower could be at the end of their term.

Enlist a good letting agent

You are basically putting your life savings into this investment, so you want to be sure that it’s secure. Self-management can be extremely complicated and time consuming; not something many over 55 year olds will really want the hassle with. So by enlisting the help of a good letting agent this will provide you with peace of mind that your investment and lifesavings are being properly looked after, as well as dealing with complicated and tiresome issues.

Research at least 3 agents before deciding on the one for you and make sure that they’re a member of at least one of the following professional bodies: ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme) UKALA SAFEAgent PLUS part of 1 of the 3 government backed tenancy deposit schemes; MyDeposits / The DPS / The TDS.

Accurate Referencing and Rent Guarantee Insurance

If you decide to go it alone without a letting or managing agent, apart from keeping up to date with all new and existing PRS legislation.

If you’re a new silver landlord you need to understand the importance of thoroughly referencing potential tenants and rent guarantee insurance.

There is no completely foolproof way of making sure your tenant won’t fall into rent arrears, so coupling accurate references with a good rent guarantee product will create a valuable safety net for all involved.

Independent Inventory

Not only will a thorough and independent inventory protect the condition of your property (plus any furnishings included in the tenancy) but it will help you to avoid disputes in the future too. Be sure that your inventory company is fully regulated, insured, trustworthy, experienced and impartial before enlisting their services.

In essence you are putting your entire life savings into property, so you need to be confident and happy that it’s in safe hands for the foreseeable future.

Discover why Yellow Oak Inventories is a great accompaniment to anyone interested in entering the UK rental market, by calling us today on 020 3713 4933.

 

Don’t forget to have an inventory carried out for your Milton Keynes property

You will have much to think about as a landlord trying to let a Milton Keynes property. Not only is there the process of purchasing such a property to get right, but you are also likely to need to arrange the most suitable buy-to-let mortgage and get as many viewings as possible. Then will come the negotiations with tenants and the subsequent management of the letting.

Where does a property inventory come into all of this? What even is an inventory? The answer is that an inventory constitutes a historic snapshot of your property’s condition that could be invaluable come the end of a tenancy, when the need may arise to establish responsibility for any damage to the property. The inventory report has both written and visual elements, comparisons between the original inventory with the final inspection helping you to identify any wall markings, carpet burns or similar damage can may have occurred on your previous tenant’s watch.

As a true top-to-bottom description of your property’s present condition, you can expect an inventory to state all fittings, ranging from lights and radiators to furniture, decoration and flooring. Both the condition and cleanliness of these fittings should be addressed in the report, which should provide a detailed analysis of every room. The inclusion of photographs of the property in any good inventory report ensures further visual evidence of such damage as carpet marks and stains.

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD can provide the complete property inventory in Milton Keynes, including both impartial written details and digital colour photographs to give the landlord, letting agent or relocation agent the benefit of an in-depth record of the property at the time of inspection. All contents, fixtures and fittings are covered. We take digital colour photographs of every room and specific damage, in addition to noting cleanliness levels. Report turnaround is also fast.

A good inventory report by an unbiased party like Yellow Oak Inventories LTD will be a key part of your binding agreement with the tenant, being compiled prior to the tenant’s move into your property and providing vital protection for both of you. Enquire now about a property inventory in Milton Keynes from one of the leading, fully regulated and most reputable providers, Yellow Oak Inventories LTD.

Why hire a professional for your inventory check out inspection?

Yellow Oak Inventories LTD 4A properly conducted inventory check out inspection is necessary to protect you from the costs associated with unsavoury tenants. To make certain that the property is still in good condition, Yellow Oak Inventories LTD offers professional, fully regulated inspections to the highest standard, producing detailed reports while checking the property from top to bottom.

Accounts for all damages

First and foremost, a detailed report takes account of all damage and/or signs of excessive wear. Our clerks are experts in identifying any problems that are either inconspicuous or concealed and the exhaustive check list used during check in, mid-term inspections and then during check outs means that they will be able to meticulously compare the current condition of the property with its state prior to the tenant moving in. This report will be crucial should you ever need to seek legal aid, so we make certain that everything is inspected. The images taken at Check Out can also be compared with the images taken at Check In.

Checks for swapped or abandoned items

Landlords find it relatively simple to ascertain whether any supplied items have been removed from a property completely, but an integral part of proper inventory check out inspections is to make sure that none of your items have been switched out for broken or less valuable substitutes.

Our clerks will also make sure that nothing has been intentionally left behind. Tenants – especially students – will often take advantage of leaving a property by neglecting to remove any unwanted items. When small, these are simply a nuisance, but larger items may need to be professionally removed.

Further details

Our clerks will also, where possible and accessible, take readings from the property’s utility meters. Should you be responsible for the bills yourself, you may reflect the cost in the final charge or take early action in the event that excessive charges have been accumulated.

We will also collected and account for keys.

Not only reliable, we offer rapid turnarounds on all of our check out reports and our documentation informs the tenant on Check Out procedures at Check In so they know what to expect and how to prepare. Our clerks will see the report agreed with the current tenant and collect their keys from them. For more information, contact Yellow Oak Inventories LTD today.

 

Wear – What is the definition of wear and tear ?

Wear - What is the definition of wear and tear _So you’ve spent hours / months / maybe even years getting your property fit for rental, but now you’re worrying about wear and tear; ‘how do I decipher what is reasonable and what isn’t?’

The law currently defines fair wear and tear as “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces”, however there is no precise statute on what ‘reasonable wear and tear’ actually is.

This is why you should always enlist the help of an experienced and knowledgeable inventory clerk to determine this.

Your tenant has a contractual duty of care to leave the property at the end of a tenancy in the same condition recorded at the start. But, no landlord can expect to have old replaced with new at a tenant’s expense – as this would be classed as ‘betterment’.

Betterment and Apportionment
To avoid betterment, the allocation or apportionment of any costs, charges or compensation for damage must take into account all the factors relating to

(a) Fair wear and tear,
(b) The most appropriate remedy and,
(c) That the landlord should not end up either financially or materially in a better position than they were at the beginning of the tenancy or as they would expect to be at the end of the tenancy having considered (a) and exercised (b).

So for example; a landlord cannot request that the tenant pays for repairs or replacement of a carpet that they’ve simply walked across throughout the tenancy.  However, if the carpet had been freshly cleaned and was free from stains/marks at the start of the tenancy, but was covered with cigarette burns at the end check-out then you would be entitled to deduct a reasonable amount from your tenants deposit for the replacement of the flooring.

As a compliant and pro-active landlord you have a duty of care to find the most reasonable and practical remedy for all – therefore, if an issue regarding wear and tear can be rectified simply by:

– replacement,
– repair
– and/or cleaning

then these 3 methods should be considered first before going down the compensation route, which can become complicated, stressful and costly.

This is why instruction of a competent and professional inventory clerk is paramount, as they will be able to accurately comment on fair wear and tear in your particular situation.

There are a number of factors that we take into consideration when assessing fair wear and tear, which include:
– Condition of the property at the start and end of tenancy
– Mid-term inspection
– Length of the tenancy
– Age of the property
– Number of tenants living in the property throughout the tenancy
– Pets

Does the furnished lettings wear & tear allowance apply?

The 2011/2012 Wear and Tear Allowance is 10% of the “relevant rental amount” and is available to those who let out residential property as ‘furnished.’ (This does not apply to holiday lets or partially furnished properties.)

The “relevant rental amount” is:

– The receipts from furnished residential lettings recognised in arriving at the profits for the period LESS
– Any expenses that would normally be borne by the tenant.
It covers things like beds, sofas, fridges, freezers, curtains, carpets, crockery, etc and shouldn’t be confused with fixtures that are integral to the building, e.g. baths, basins, toilets, immersion heaters, etc…

We have a vast knowledge and wealth of experience in dealing with fair wear and tear issues in residential accommodation, including furnished property matters.

Prevention of unreasonable wear and tear AKA damage

– Thorough Inventory.
Enlist the help of a fully regulated, insured, experienced and impartial independent inventory clerk who can provide a detailed, full colour report– on check-in, check-out and mid-term.

– Rental Deposit.
Landlords cannot keep a tenants deposit due to general wear and tear, but they can use it to pay for any damages incurred by the tenant throughout the tenancy.

– Periodic Inspections.
Regular property inspections by the landlord will provide peace of mind that the tenant is keeping the property in good repair and will flag up any existing issues and/or potential future complications regarding wear and tear.

We thoroughly understand your needs and expectations as a landlord to make your job quicker and easier, as well as always ensuring we are available to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Please contact us today and discover how we can help you get the most out of your business.