Selective Licensing Update for Nottingham City

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Nottingham City Council commenced their 10 week Selective Licensing scheme consultation on Monday. It will run up until the 31st March 2017.

Complete information can be found HERE.

Please take time to respond to the consultation and mobilize your tenants to do likewise as costs associated with this scheme may translate into higher rents.

To see EMPO’s earlier notification about Selective Licensing click HERE.

Nottingham City are hosting two Selective Licensing landlord forums in February at the Council House in Nottingham.

These forums will give landlords an opportunity to ask questions and learn more on why the council believes a city wide scheme is necessary.

The forums will be on:

Tuesday 21st between 1-3pm

Thursday 23rd between 4-6pm

To reserve you place please email:

selective.licensing@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

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Save The Date: Empty Home Fair and Landlord Forum

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Following the success of our Empty Home Fair back in March with Newark & Sherwood District Council we have been asked to help co-ordinate an Empty Home Fair and Landlord Forum for Rushcliffe, Gedling & Broxtowe Councils.

The details are as follows;

Date: 6th October 2016
Time: 4-6pm Empty Homes Fair. 6-8pm Landlord Forum.
Venue: Rushcliffe Borough Council, Civic Centre, Pavillion Road, West Bridgford, NG2 5FE

The events are aimed at empty property owners, landlords, investors and developers, to get help and information from the local authority and local property industry suppliers.

There will be talks throughout the event with plenty of opportunity to network with other attendees and you are free to come and go as you please. Light refreshments will also be provided.

The following organisations will be on hand;

  • East Midland Property Owners – Landlord Accreditation
  • DASH – Landlord Accreditation
  • National Landlords Association – Landlord Accreditation
  • The Nottingham – Estate Agent
  • Slater & Brandley – Letting Agent
  • Auction Estates – Auctioneers
  • Duncan & Toplis – Accountants
  • Sterling Capital – Finance Brokers
  • Elvin & Co – Conveyancing Solicitors
  • Buttercross Estates – Letting Agent
  • LNPG – Material Purchasing Group
  • BB Mortgages – Mortgage Broker

Plus more to be confirmed.

The event is free and for more information or to RSVP please email jsheil@rushcliffe.gov.uk

I look forward to seeing you there.

Photo courtesy of the Newark Advertiser.

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Competition shrinks in Newark as Reality Estates gets bought out

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Reality Estates Newark

At the start of this month Newark On Trent said bye to Reality Estates after their sales and letting stock was bought out by Martin & Co. The (website) lights are on but no one is home (office is empty). Their office on Appleton Gate has been listed for sale with FHP.

I never met the team but they have been operating in Newark for over 10 years and have established themselves as a dedicated and friendly business. This is a big contrast to Martin & Co, one of the 3 franchised agents in the town, so it will be interesting to see how the landlords adapt to changes from above.

Change can always be daunting especially when it’s out of your control but I’d say to give it a chance. After all, if it doesn’t work out, switching management of your rental properties is easy. All it takes is one email to your agent and we’ll handle all the rest to ensure a smooth transfer.

Best of luck to the Reality team in their new ventures.

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Increasing competition in the letting market and how to protect your investment

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Rightmove Map

Every day I check Rightmove to see the movements in our patch around Newark & Bingham in terms of new properties to let, properties let STC and those that have been reduced. The area concerned is South of Witham St Hughs, North of Cotgrave, East of Radcliffe On Trent and West of Grantham.

Throughout most of the year the number of properties showing as available fluctuated between 195 and 205. Over the past 4-6 weeks I have seen this number grow to a staggering 235-245. This is around a 20% increase in the private rented sector properties.

The split is as follows;

  • 50% Houses
  • 23% Apartments
  • 7% Bungalows
  • 20% Commercial

What are the consequences of such a rise?

As you know with basic economics, if supply outweighs demand then prices fall. Landlords are usually encouraged to reduce rents to undercut others and attract prospective tenants. Sometimes rent free periods or cashback incentives are introduced. These options can work however it’s the landlord that suffers the financial hit. Funny that you don’t see the agent offering to reduce their fees…

Void periods are likely to increase as it takes longer to find a tenant. Be careful as you may be uninsured if properties are empty for too long. Check the terms of your insurance. This property in Newark has been on the market for almost 70 days.

How can you avoid the impact?

The better properties on the market will remain reasonably unaffected as good tenants like good homes. It’s the middle and lower quality properties that will be worse hit.

People filter properties on Rightmove in seconds so you want to make sure your property makes every tenants shortlist. Use an agent that takes high quality photographs to ensure your property stands out above the competition. Poor photographs will turn tenants off. The advert should contain a creative description about the property and the local area. This will be of great use to those moving into the area. Measure the room dimensions so that people can gauge the size of the property on offer.

Ensure you receive feedback from viewings. Agents should be getting feedback from each person that views a property and relaying that through to you. If there is a common theme such as they don’t like the olive bathroom suite then change it. Invest in your property and you will see the benefits over time.

By improving your property and marketing it better you should find that you do not have to resort to lowering the rent. That’s just a short term fix and won’t solve the problem when you’re looking for the next tenant.

If you want to work with a proactive letting agent that understands your property and the market then get in touch or pop in to see me, 4 Middle Gate, Newark.

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How to let your property in 2.7 seconds

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Stopwatch

Following my post regarding the shocking state of some Rightmove listings the other week, I thought it would be important to share why getting it right on Rightmove could be the difference between letting your property in 2.7 seconds and letting it in 2.7 months. Here are the key steps that will make that difference…

Preparation

Before the photographs are taken, your agent should be doing a little bit of preparation. Even professional models get a bit of make-up before a shoot, right? Things like putting the toilet seat down, removing the dog, hiding the dirty clothes, turning off the TV and turning on lights are all 5 second jobs that can prevent Rightmove fails.

Equipment

If an agent comes to do your photos and they whip out their latest smartphone you should throw them back out the door they came immediately. Unless you want people to think you’re letting a cupboard, they just won’t cut the mustard. Selfies, yes. Internal rooms, no. An agent worth his salt will have a digital SLR, wide angle lens and a flash gun. Anything less and your property will either look too small or too dark (see Rightmove Done Wrong for examples).

Descriptions

When selling a house, most estate agents will have a nice long description within the listing. In it they describe the property along with room sizes and information about local amenities. So why is it that most letting agents have just 2 sentences? Because most of them are either too lazy or they don’t care.

Uploads

Obvious one but some overlook the fact they have uploaded pictures on the side or even upside down. Attention grabbing, yes, but for all the wrong reasons.

2.7 seconds

According to Rightmove, the average visitor spends 27 seconds on each search results page. With 10 listings per page that’s 2.7 seconds to grab a tenants’ attention. If your agent messes up one of the above steps you could find that your property is overlooked and they’ve gone to look at the bright airy property that’s being listed for more money. Getting it all right may mean that during that 2.7 seconds the tenant clicks through to see your listing and takes the property.

Obviously there are a lot of other steps between clicking on the listing and letting the property however, crucially, it is the first step.

When I was talking to another landlord earlier in the week I explained that a lot of tenants will have Rightmove alerts setup for when new properties are added. If that initial listing isn’t 100% complete from the off it probably won’t even get looked at. It’s no good adding photos or descriptions a few days later as the chance has gone. Like meeting people, first impressions are everything.

If you want to maximise your chances of letting your property in 2.7 seconds then speak with this letting agent in Newark.

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What to look for in a letting agent

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Choose An Agent

When you’re looking for a letting agent to manage a property for you and there are a number in your area (Over 16 in Newark alone), how do you choose? I have devised this guide so you know just what to look out for and what questions to ask.

1. Mystery Shop

How a letting agent treats tenants is crucial to them letting your property or not. Give them a call as a potential tenant and see if they are friendly and accommodating. *TOP TIP* try calling out of hours to see how calls are dealt with and how quickly they respond.

2. Tenant Fees

Tenant fees can range massively from one agent to another. Whilst you’re on the phone as them about their fees for tenants. Some agents charge separately for everything like administration, referencing, inventory, check in, renewal and check outs. Added together this could be almost as much as one months rent. Think about it, if there are two similar properties and one agent charges double the other, which would a tenant prefer?

3. Check Other Listings

Do the photos look good? Are they dark or blurry? Are they ‘selling’ the property as much as they can? Do they put effort into descriptions? This is what your property could look like and is the first thing potential tenants will see. Put it this way if you were online dating, you wouldn’t put a rubbish photo of yourself up there, so why your property?

4. Find Independent Reviews

There are many review sites out there like All Agents for example where you can see independent reviews. Look for reviews from both tenants and landlords.

5. Check What’s Included

Like fees, the service that is included varies from agent to agent. Do you have to pay extra for an inventory? Do they handle eviction notices or will you need a solicitor? Since May 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act all agents have to publicise their fees along with a description of what’s included. *TOP TIP* Use the management agreement along with the fee information to see what’s included, or more importantly, excluded.

6. Check Their Processes

How do they deal with repairs? Do you have access to a landlord portal to view statements/viewings etc?

7. Check Their Associations

Do they have client money protection in place? Which redress scheme do they belong to? Which Trade Body do they belong to?

8. Hidden Fees

Does the agent add a commission on repairs and maintenance? Do they charge tradesman for giving them work? Some agents will add on commission to a tradesman’s invoice before sending it you. Others may charge a tradesman for passing them work. Ask what their policy is and always request invoices from the tradesman. EPC’s and Gas Safety Certificates are a prime example of this. You can get both for around £50 each however most agents will charge you around £80. Some may advertise cheap fees but when you add on all the extras they can quickly turn into the most expensive.

In all, most people believe a letting agent should be knowledgeable, efficient, trustworthy and deliver a good customer service. Accept nothing less.

Download our letting agent comparison checklist and see how your agents compare.

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Local Courses on Inventories, Deposits and Student Lettings

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EMPO

EMPO

East Midlands Property Owners (EMPO) have arranged training courses for members and non members on the following topics.

If you manage properties yourself it would be very worthwhile to attend and bring your knowledge up to speed given the changes with the deregulation bill last April.

June 4th 2015

Inventories, Deposits, Disputes (1/2 DAY 9:30am – 12:45pm)

  • Constructing inventories
  • Tenant Damage
  • Safety/Appliances
  • Record Keeping
  • Inspections/Visits
  • Check Out
  • Wear and Tear
  • Dealing with Adjudications
  • Small claims
  • Guarantors

Student Lettings course (1/2 DAY 2:00pm – 5:00pm)

  • Granting the tenancy
  • Guarantors
  • EPCs / Green Deal
  • Day to Day Management
  • HMOs
  • Fire risk assessment
  • Tenancy deposits
  • Inventories
  • Compensation

COST FOR EMPO MEMBERS

£ 50.00 / per person per course

If you wish to attend 2 courses in one day the cost is £ 90.00 / day including lunch.

COST FOR NON EMPO MEMBERS

£ 75.00 / per person per course

If you wish to attend 2 courses in one day the cost is £ 140.00 / day including lunch

If you would like to attend any of the courses please contact Adeela on 0115 950 2639 or at adeela@empo.co.uk

EMPO Website

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Right to Rent checks and avoiding a fine

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Get ‘right to rent’ ready.

Under section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 a landlord should not authorise an adult to occupy property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, or EEA or Swiss national, or has a “right to rent” in the UK.

Passport

With the introduction of the Immigration Act 2014, landlords will have to carry out “right to rent” checks for new tenancy agreements to determine whether tenants have the right to live in the UK legally.

The pilot scheme started on 1st December 2014 in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley & Wolverhampton. It is expected the national roll out will be May 2015.

In most cases, landlords will simply need to check the tenant’s passport or biometric residence permit. For the majority of landlords it will take a matter of minutes and they won’t need to contact the Home Office. Follow up checks are required at the appropriate date if initial checks indicate that the occupier has a time-limited right to rent.

In a limited number of cases, where tenants do not have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the online form. The checking service will then provide a yes or no answer within 2 working days to confirm whether they can let to a particular tenant.

Penalties for non compliance is a fine up to £3,000.

If you are a landlord that has an agent acting for you and they have agreed in writing to take responsibility for fulfilling the requirements of the scheme then they are liable.

You also need to make sure you do not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010 by discriminating anyone. This means that all applicants must be checked as matter of routine. They should not make and act upon assumptions about a person’s immigration status on the basis of their colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, accent, ability to speak English or the length of time they have been resident in the UK.

More information can be found on the GOV.uk website.

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Are you ready for the interest rate rise?

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There are few things certain in life but in general you can be pretty sure on taxes and death. Nowadays there is another certainty: interest rate rise.

InterestRates

As you well know, the Bank of England have held the base rate at 0.5% for the past 6 years. Whilst this has been great relief for a number of landlords who are currently paying 0% on large mortgages. There are also a large number of landlords who are holding onto their highly geared properties because of the low rates. Are you taking steps to ensure you are ready for the interest rate rise?

Here are just a few tips to prepare for the interest rate rise.

Fix your rate

If you want complete peace of mind and avoid the interest rate rise you can fix the rate you pay your lender. You can get a 5 year fixed rate mortgage at around 4% at 75% LTV. If you have more than one property why not spread your bets and fix half. Nigel Jones of Missing Element Mortgage Services will be able to assess your situation and advise further.

Pay down the debt

If you bought in 2007/08 you may find that you haven’t quite got 25% equity in the property. Rather than re-mortgaging you can instead pay down the debt through overpaying each month or pay off lump sums. Check the terms of your mortgage first to ensure you aren’t penalised for paying too much. Once you have got sufficient equity you can look to re-mortgage.

Sell

Now is a good time to analyse your portfolio and you may want to sell off any property which could turn into a liability in the future. Stress test your investments to see what would happen when interest rates rise to 4%. If a property isn’t generating cash at this level and you are unable to re-mortgage or pay down debt then you could sell it. Even if you don’t make a capital gain, a bad investment can take down your whole portfolio. Buttercross Estates carry out regular portfolio reviews for their landlords to ensure they are maximising their investments.

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