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TENANTS BE SURE!

I Am The Agent want to keep our tenants safe! Please do not sign the tenancy agreement unless you are 100% certain you want to rent the property as it’s binding!  There is not usually 'cooling off' period as there is in a purchase contract or loan, and most landlords will not be prepared to cancel the agreement. For instance, if you find yourself thinking the area is not right or the bedroom is too close to a main road, you do not have the right to get out of the contract. It is not the fault of an estate agent or online agent to make sure the property is right for you, so always ask the questions ahead and see all relevant paperwork before signing. I Am The Agent’s advice is don’t be pushed into anything; don’t sign an agreement or contract unless you are happy with it, and don’t let anyone badger you in to a home!

Next week I will be going through a top five list of issues missed when viewing a property; don’t be fooled by the interior décor!

 

See you next Tuesday.

 

Kris. 

 

31 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Avoiding ‘landlord’ scams

There are quite a few scams around where ‘landlords’ advertise a property that isn’t theirs, take a deposit and disappear.

We have covered this briefly before, but the details of the scam are always worth repeating.

The basics of the scam is that a property is advertised by the scammer online, but in fact the property isn’t owned by the scammer and all the details and photos are just lifted from another advertising website. The property will look great and the rent will usually be priced very low, making it a very attractive proposition. (Remember what they say about something being too good to be true ...)

When a potential tenant makes an enquiry the scammer pretends to be abroad and says he can’t show the property to the tenant until his returns, but if the tenant pays over the deposit straight away the property will be held for the tenant until he gets back.

Payment of the deposit is often requested through a fake website, often AirBNB or Western Union.

When the money is paid, the ‘landlord’ disappears with the tenant’s cash, never to be seen or heard from again.

Don’t fall for it. It might look like a great bargain, but if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is!

A couple of tips:

  • Never part with money without seeing property
  • Ask the landlord for his ID and proof of ownership – he is going to ask you for yours so shouldn’t object
  • Always get receipt
  • Pay by bank transfer rather than cash if possible
  • Keep eye on dates for your security deposit to go into the deposit protection scheme and check this has been done
  • Make sure you get your own security deposit log in.

25 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Clean up after yourself

Every tenant wants their deposit back (or as much of it as possible) at the end of the tenancy. Landlords will make a deduction from the deposit to pay for cleaning if it is not up to scratch, so if you leave the property in a pristine condition you are much more likely to see all your deposit again. Remember, as we have mentioned before, if the landlord arranged a professional clean before you moved in, he will expect the place to be cleaned back up to that standard when you move out.

Make sure you leave yourself enough time at the end of the tenancy to do a thorough clean. Don’t leave the really heavy duty jobs, like oven and refrigerator cleaning, to the last day, as you are likely to run out of time.

You will need to ensure you have cleaning products at home right up to the last minute, so you can clean after all your stuff has been taken away.

Bathrooms are a common cause of dispute, so make sure you clean the walls and tiles, toilet, sink and bath. Don’t forget the mirrors and chrome.

In the kitchen, you will need to give yourself a day or two to defrost and clean the fridge/freezer, including washing down the inside of the fridge and the salad drawer.

The detergent drawer in the washing machine can also get dirty but is often forgotten.

If the oven needs a good clean, you might like to think about getting in a specialist oven cleaning company to do it for you. It’s not that expensive and they do a fantastic job.

Marks on the carpet can be attacked with a spot cleaner, and if that doesn’t work you could hire a steam cleaner.

You must take all your rubbish away; there’s nothing more depressing than opening up a home that’s empty except for a pile of bin bags.

Weigh up the costs of what cleaning equipment hire costs might be against what you think the landlord might charge. Alternatively, if you can’t face doing it all yourself, you could get in a specialist end of tenancy cleaning service. You might be pleasantly surprised at how reasonable their costs are compared to the time and effort you would have to put in yourself.

 

See you next Tuesday.

16 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Stamp Duty – worrying news about new rules affecting stake in part-owned property

I Am the Agent, the UK’s largest online estate agency, has discovered some very worrying news about the new stamp duty rules and how they might affect couples, for example in the situation where one wants to buy the other’s share in a jointly-owned home. The rules will also have an impact on parents who want to help children purchase a property by buying and owning a proportion of the home with them. This is how the Guardian reports on the situation.

12 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Tenants' Tip - EPC Certificates

EPCs are generally considered to be pretty boring and are only obtained so the landlord can tick a legal box. However, at I Am the Agent we want to give our tenants a little tip, if you are a tenant it’s always a good idea to check the EPC out. The landlord can’t let the property without one, so a tenant is entitled to see it. If the landlord doesn’t have one, you can always get copy free of charge from the EPC register online if one exists for that property (they are valid for ten years).

The certificate will give a good indication of whether the energy and gas bills will be high, so it is worth checking it before deciding whether to take a property on.  It will show the existing rating of the property from A (very energy efficient) to G (chucking money down the drain). It also shows the potential rating a landlord could achieve if he spent money on insulation and other measures. But the existing rating is what should interest tenants.

I hope this is helpful and makes life using an online estate agency a delight J

See you next Tuesday

Kris x 

 

10 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Inventories

Most landlords will ask tenants to sign an inventory at the beginning of a tenancy to record the condition of the property and furnishings, and this will be checked against condition at the end of the term. Sometimes a professional inventory company will be used, but the landlord may prefer to use a pro forma inventory form.

If no formal inventory process is used by the landlord, tenants might like to consider preparing their own inventory when they move in so they have a record of the state of the property themselves. Shelter publishes a pro forma that could be used. It is also handy to take photographs (with the date captured if possible); remember to check and photograph ‘hidden’ areas, such as inside a fridge, washing machine detergent drawer or meter cupboard, because these can often be dirty.

When you are getting ready to leave a tenanted property, it is a sensible precaution to check the start of tenancy report against the current state of the property so you can put right anything that is your responsibility, clean the property, touch up paintwork, replacement any missing crockery or linen, and generally return the property to the same position it was in when you moved in.

It is always a good idea to be present at the date of the check out to ensure you can discuss any issues that are flagged up at the time.

If the landlord has arranged for the property to be professionally cleaned before the tenancy starts, they will expect the same level of cleaning at the end of the tenancy. It is a simple matter to find a professional cleaning company online and it's not that expensive.

All of this is designed to avoid disputes at the end of the tenancy and to make sure that the tenant gets back as much of the security deposit as possible.

Remember to leave all keys behind. It can be an expensive oversight if the landlord has to change the locks and passes the cost on to the tenant.

And finally, don’t leave it looking like this ...

 

4 May 2016, I Am The Agent


Is your tenant sub-letting?

Got the perfect tenant?

We all know the definition of the perfect tenant ... one who keeps to himself, makes no noise, asks for no maintenance work and pays the rent on the dot. The perfect tenant?

If that’s your tenant, then ninety-nine times out of a hundred you’ve got yourself a gem, so hang on to him! But occasionally, the reason you don’t hear a peep is because your ‘tenant’ is not in fact ‘your tenant’ and wants to keep a low profile!

There are some scam artists who pose as potential tenants, agree to take on your place, get through referencing fine, but all with the intention of sub-letting the property to someone else, usually at a massively inflated rent. They probably had someone lined up to take it on before you even let to them, and it’s possible that the person living in the place doesn’t have the right to reside in the UK so this is one of the few ways they can get a home here.

Of course your tenancy agreement should stipulate that sub-letting is not allowed, but in practice scammers are not going to take any notice of that.

How to spot whether your potential ‘tenant’ is actually taking on your place to sub-let it

  • The tenant might offer to pay additional months’ rent in advance without prompting. This might mean he is trying to avoid referencing, but could also indicate subletting is in his mind. He might already have pocketed the money from his own sub-tenant.
  • Think about whether the property is suitable for the tenant’s requirements. Is it too large? Sometimes reception rooms are converted into extra bedrooms so that more cash can be raked in through the sub-letting.

... and after you have let?

  • Keep an eye on the property if you can. You could arrange visits from time to time, to check on maintenance issues but also to see that nothing untoward is going on. Of course as landlord you will need to give notice before visiting and you can’t just march in without warning.
  • If you have friendly neighbours, ask them to let you know about any odd comings and goings.
  • Take a peek to see the name of the person to whom post is addressed at the property.
  • Before signing up with the tenant, think about including a six month break clause in the tenancy agreement so you can terminate it before a full year if you are not happy with the way things are going.

And don’t forget, you will always need to check your tenant’s ID and obtain proof that they have the right to reside in the UK. You’ll see details about what you need to do about the right to rent in our January blog.

Referencing

Don't forget that I Am the Agent, the UK's largest online estate agency, can help you with referencing tenants. We've covered this in our blog on 22 April. It will at least help to establish your tenant's bona fides!

RLA survey

The Residential Landlords Association is carrying out a survey of landlords’ experiences of this problem to gauge the extent of the problem of sub-letting and hope to use the information they obtain to campaign on behalf of landlords in the private rented sector.

 

29 April 2016, I Am The Agent


Are you a tenant thinking of finding a new pad?

Here are some tips to help you find your perfect place.

Avoiding scams

Never, ever, part with any money until you have inspected the flat for yourself, and have seen the landlord’s proof of ID and ownership. (It is easy to get hold of the landlord’s proof of ownership from the Land Registry website for a nominal fee.) A genuine landlord will ask to see your ID, after all, so shouldn’t have a problem with returning the compliment!

Some scammers advertise properties online which are not theirs, then tell excited prospective tenants that they are not currently in the UK and cannot show the property, but if the tenant wants to send them a deposit (often via a fake AirBNB transfer) they will hold the property for the tenant until they return to the UK. In practice, of course, they disappear into the sunset with the poor tenant’s deposit.

Can you afford it?

You need to be realistic. It might be your dream home, but can you really afford it once you have added on all the bills, council tax, broadband etc. Don’t forget that you will need to find about six weeks’ security deposit upfront, as well as the first month’s rent. On a monthly rent of £850, you might need to find £2,206 before you move in.

Shelter UK, the housing and homeless charity, has set up a useful rent calculator which can help with this. Although you’ll see that Shelter’s calculator factors in agency fees; of course here at I Am the Agent, the UK’s leading online estate agent, we never charge agency fees on our online lettings.[1]

What’s included?

Always check what’s included.

Some landlords will expect all bills to be paid separately by the tenant on top of the rent; some will include bills in the rent. Check what yours plans to do. You will need to think about arrangements for separate meter readings if you are paying them yourself.

Most landlords will leave behind white goods, so check they are in working order before you move in or ask for broken appliances to be replaced beforehand. If it’s unfurnished, check that your furniture will fit in. You don’t want to find that you can’t get your sofa through the front door on move-in day.

How long for?

Most tenancy agreements last for twelve months but some landlords like to have a six month break clause. Check whether your potential landlord is going to ask for a break clause, so that you can decide whether you want to take the risk of having to move again after six months.

Will you get on with the landlord?

You may have to deal with the landlord from time to time if there are maintenance or other problems. Do you like the landlord and would you be comfortable dealing with him on a business footing? Could you manage a landlord who likes to ‘drop in to see how you are’ on a regular basis?

Safety

Landlords have a legal obligation to check gas safety at their property every twelve months. Make sure you ask to see the current gas safety certificate before you move in.

EPC

Landlords also have a legal obligation to have an energy performance certificate (this lasts for ten years). The certificate will be a good indicator of whether the heating bills will be high, so it is worth asking to see it before deciding whether to take a property. (A copy can be obtained free from the EPC register online.)

Inventory

Some landlords will arrange for a professional inventory to be carried out when you move in. Both parties need to confirm they agree with it before it is finalised, so with luck this should help avoid disputes about the condition of the place at the end of the term.

If the landlord doesn’t fix up a professional inventory, consider taking photos yourself (with the date included on them) when you move in to record the condition of the property.

Check the cleanliness when you move in. If the home has been professionally cleaned before you move in, the landlord will most likely expect you to pay for a professional clean when you move out.

It’s also an idea to record (those photos again!) the state of appliances when you move in, such as the detergent tray on the washing machine or the inside of the fridge, so that it is clear how you took it on.

Deposit protection

Landlords must pay the tenant’s deposit into a government approved deposit protection scheme within four weeks of you handing it over, and must also provide evidence that this has been done. The tenancy agreement you sign has to state which scheme is being used.

And finally, don’t forget our Tuesday's Tenant Tips! We will be live here on Tuesdays between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm. Share with us and our online users little snippets of knowledge, tips and ideas. We will answer queries you may have, live online, so join us next Tuesday. Mind you, we hope we have covered a lot of them in this blog!

 

[1] Except in the case of in-branch, managed lettings.

27 April 2016, I Am The Agent


Tenant referencing

Everyone knows how important it is to carry out reference checks on tenants before they move in. So it’s astonishing to find that some landlords still don’t carry out the most basic background checks on a tenant they may have met only once before.

At I Am the Agent, the UK’s largest online estate agency, we offer landlords a four-point credit referencing check. This is a comprehensive referencing service which covers:

  • Credit score and history
  • Affordability
  • Income reference (written and verbal)
  • Previous landlord reference (written and verbal)

So landlords can immediately establish from the report that the tenant can actually afford the rent with plenty of cash left over each month for other bills and living expenses. They will also be able to see straight away that the tenant does indeed work where they say they do and that their previous landlords really loved them.

And don’t forget, if the affordability is a bit of an issue, the landlord can always ask for a guarantor as cover in case the tenant can’t pay, perhaps because of loss of job. Obviously, we would recommend that the guarantor is checked out too!

This should go some way to giving peace of mind that the tenant won’t skip the rent and so avoid the heartache, time, cost and trouble of having to evict a non-paying tenant.

The beauty of the referencing service is that it can all be done online; once the landlord and tenant have agreed the rent and term of the tenancy, just pass the details over to us and we will get this all done online. Landlords can choose whether they ask the tenants to pay for the referencing too.

 

22 April 2016, I Am The Agent


Tuesday's Tenant Tips!

I will be trying to help our ever growing tenant community with tips on renting properties. Little snippets of knowledge, tips and ideas. We are also here to answer queries you may have and will be live on line to assist with any queries between 2-3pm on Tuesday. Ok let’s get started!

If you are renting a property with an owner, online estate agent or one with a big shiny shop, we advise never to send monies without seeing the property, yourself! Photos paint a completely different story, I mean look at the below property advertised with a drive and landscaped gardens!

See you next Tuesday.

Kris

19 April 2016, I Am The Agent