Will longer tenancies cause more tenant disputes?

As 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allowing landlords of unfurnished properties to claim for the replacement of white goods, carpets and curtains being withdrawn by HMRC, back in April 2013.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
    e.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
    e.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
  • e.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!

Discover why Yellow Oak Inventories is a great accompaniment to anyone involved in the UK rental market, by calling us today on 020 3713 4933 or emailing us at info@yellowoak.co.uk.

SILVER LANDLORDS – Take the ‘belt and braces’ approach to protect your pension pot

As 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 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.

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.

Contact Yellow Oak Inventories today and discover how we can help you get the most out of your business.
Give us a call on 020 3713 4933 or email us at info@yellowoak.co.uk.