“Animal hoarding” – The importance of mid-term inspections

A horrific story 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 £60 per quarterly/mid-term inspection reports! (excluding VAT).

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.


The top 3 reasons for losing a tenancy deposit dispute

Did 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, here.

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!

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.

10 Advantages of using an independent Inventory Clerk

Are 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.
Give us a call on 020 3713 4933 or email 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.