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LOCKDOWN RELAXED FOR PROPERTY MARKET

Last week, it was officially announced Estate Agents in England could go back to work as part of the Government’s phased relaxation of the lockdown.

The key parts of the Government’s advice for people looking to rent, move, sell or purchase a home are summarised below. We want to reassure you we will be following these guidelines thoroughly.

BUYERS AND RENTERS

Initial viewings will be carried out virtually wherever this is possible

All physical viewings will be limited to members of the same household, and open house viewings will not take place.

When physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands regularly, and bring your own hand sanitiser. The number of people on a viewing should be minimised to those from your household that has to be there. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.

Anyone involved should practice social distancing in line with public health advice


SELLERS AND EXITING TENANTS

If people are being shown around your current home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.

Most people normally choose to, but we recommend you leave your property while viewings are taking place to minimise your contact with those not from your household.

Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.


MOVING HOME

When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance.

If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your estate agent, landlord or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.

We’re expecting a very busy few months as buyers and sellers who have been put on hold by lockdown are now released.  Property portals have reported record numbers of people visiting their sites during lockdown, so it’s likely we are set for a busy Summer.

We are ready and looking forward to serving our clients safely, sensibly and successfully.

To read the government guidance on home moving in full click here.

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REFER AND EARN

Refer a friend, family member or contact and earn up to £300.00*

Are you leaving a rented property because you’re upsizing or downsizing? Refer your current landlord to us and earn £100.00*. Email me at robert@jlpm.co.uk or call 01268 207227

Has your landlord mentioned to you that they are considering selling? Refer the sale to us and earn £300.00*. Email me at robert@jlpm.co.uk or call 01268 207227

Do you know if your landlord is disappointed with their current letting agent? Refer the landlord to us and earn £100.00* Email me at robert@jlpm.co.uk or call 01268 207227

Are you a landlord yourself? Have £100.00* (inc. VAT) deducted from our fees. Simply contact me at robert@jlpm.co.uk or call 01268 207227

Thinking of selling and need a valuation? Fees reduced by £300.00* (inc. VAT) on a successful sale. Email me at robert@jlpm.co.uk or call 01268 207227

*See T&C’s below

 

 

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

When you refer a person (‘the Referred Person’) to become a prospective client of JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT or you wish to use or switch to JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, in which case you will be a Referred Person, you will be deemed to have made a referral to JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT.

You must furnish such information in respect of the Referred Person as is reasonably required by JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT.

You warrant that you have the permission of the Referred Person to provide information to JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT pertaining to that Referred Person.

The referral offer will not apply in respect of any Referred Person who is an existing client of JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, or was such a client at any time during the 12 months prior to the referral, or does not contract with JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT for any services provided by JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT,

We may change, extend or withdraw this offer at any time and without communication.

Unless JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT accepts the referral in writing by email, text message, letter or otherwise determined by JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT addressed to you at such email address, mobile telephone number, postal address or other as provided to us there shall be no acceptance and therefore, without limitation, JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT will not be deemed to have accepted the referral in any other circumstances or merely by doing business with the Referred Person will not deem JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT to have accepted the referral.

The referred friend/owner/landlord must choose JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT to sell or rent out their property and accept our terms and conditions. 

For a sales referral – the amount of £300.00 which JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT will pay (‘the Referral Fee’) will be paid to you direct once a sale has been completed.

For a lettings referral – the amount of £100.00 which JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT will pay (‘the Referral Fee’) will be paid to you direct once a let has been completed.

JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT shall be entitled to change these terms and conditions at any time by effecting such change on this or any successor website.

You must ensure at the outset that you disclose to the Referred Person that you may be paid by JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT for successfully referring the Referred Person and ensure that the Referred Person acknowledges to JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT that they have been referred on the basis set out in these terms and conditions.

Payments will be made to Referrers against invoice. Unless otherwise specified, JAMES LEIGH PROPERTY MANAGEMENT will procure the preparation of a pro forma invoice on your behalf.

If the Referred Person was referred to you by a third party, you will procure, that such third party agrees to these Terms and Conditions.

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ICO? Yes… as a landlord, you must register!

ICO? Yes… you must register!

We’ve had a number of conversations with our landlords over the past few months as to whether they needed to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Our advice has always been a confident Yes! 

Being a landlord is running a business… and that business receives and stores personal data on existing and previous tenants electronically using your mobile telephone, tablets or PC.

Most landlords should already be registered with the ICO and paying a fee under current data protection laws. Those who are not, need to get in contact (see link details below) with the ICO and pay the necessary fee (minimum £40.00), in order to comply with GDPR.

The process of paying this fee includes a requirement to provide the office with details including your name, address, trading name, number of employees and turnover.

In practice there is not likely to be any exemption from registering with the ICO and paying the required fee.  If you purely process data manually then you are exempt from registration – but that is highly unlikely.

If you have already paid the ICO this year, you will be contacted by them to remind you to renew close to your renewal date.

If you do not pay the ICO fee you could face a civil penalty of up to £4,350.

Click here to visit the Information Commissioner’s Office website for more information and to register. Simply navigate via the ‘First Time Payment’ link on the page to pay your data protection fee.

 

Unfortunately this is something we can’t do on your behalf.

Once registered please provide a copy of your certificate to us for our files.

www.ico.org.uk

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Duty of Care – Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water containing Legionella. All man-made hot and cold water systems are likely to provide an environment where Legionella can grow. Where conditions are favourable (i.e. suitable growth temperature range – in a domestic setting, it can multiply where there is water stored between 20°C and 45°C; water droplets (aerosols) produced and dispersed; water stored and/or recirculated; some ‘food’ for the organism to grow such as rust, sludge, scale, biofilm etc) then the bacteria may multiply thus increasing the risk of exposure.  It is a simple fact that the organism will colonise both large and small systems so both require risks to be managed effectively.

Duty of care
Landlords have a duty of care to the tenants they house, and as such have to be aware of potential dangers to tenant health. These range from the visible like the integrity of the structure or ensuring the electrics are safe, to the less obvious and potentially hidden dangers like Legionnaires’ Disease.

Although the legionella organisms are more likely to appear in large systems such as cooling towers, air conditioning systems and whirlpool spas… Legionella bacteria can also multiply in the water systems and storage tanks in residential properties.

Showers, boilers and other smaller tanks may still support the growth and proliferation of legionella organisms. In multi-occupied buildings, there is often inadequate pressure from mains water to supply all dwellings, so water may be stored. This could be in a header tank at the top of the block or even tanks at a lower level, with booster pumps to supply water to the units. Any such tank presents potential places for the bacteria to grow.

It is estimated that up to 1.5 million houses could be contaminated with the legionella organism, with 532 confirmed cases reported in England and Wales in 2018. To reduce risk to tenants, landlords should look at their entire water system to identify potential sources of contamination or exposure.

Responsibility
Landlords have a legal responsibility to prevent tenants contracting Legionnaires’ Disease.

Health and Safety legislation encourages landlords to carry out risk assessments and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk. Most rented premises will be relatively low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced, to prevent serious legal repercussions on the Landlord and possible criminal conviction.

Risk Assessment
In most residential properties where smaller domestic water systems are installed and there is regular water usage, a simple assessment should be carried out and where this shows the risks are low, no further action is required. The risk is even lower where combi-boilers are installed and hot water is instantaneous, as there is no water storage but simple control measures will ensure the risks remain low.

If any risks are identified there must be action to prevent or control them.

 

For more information visit the Health and Safety Executive on Landlords’ responsibilities.

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Sparking a test

Mandatory Five Yearly Electrical Installation Safety Checks

In January 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced their plans for mandatory five-year electrical safety checks in privately rented homes in England. 

They confirmed that the introduction of the new legislation would be done using a phased approach with Landlords and Letting Agents being given at least six months to familiarise themselves with the new legislation before it comes into force. A transitional period of two years will also be applied. 

In year one, all new private tenancies will be affected and in year two all existing tenancies will be incorporated.  The rules will reflect those already in operation in Scotland.

This long awaited move means that landlords and agents will be required to call in qualified inspectors to carry out the checks. They must ensure that any inspectors hired to issue an EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report) hold the correct qualifications and are competent to carry out the inspection. Tough financial penalties of up to £30,000 will apply where this isn’t complied with.

Properties that already have a valid electrical installation condition report (EICR) will not need to replace it until five years have passed since it was issued.

It is unclear exactly when this new legislation will be passed.  The Government need to publish the corresponding Guidance as soon as time allows.  We will update this page as soon as we know more.

To read more about the upcoming mandatory five yearly electrical installation safety check, please click here

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Stopped, Capped and Permitted Payments

1 June 2019 saw the introduction of a new law to prevent landlords and letting agents charging tenants for a range of admin fees for which they could previously charge and has put a limit on the tenancy deposits to five weeks (or six weeks if the annual rent is £50,000 or more) for new tenancies and renewals of tenancies.

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 is applicable to all agents and landlords throughout England.  As well as capping the amount a tenant can be charged for a holding deposit and security deposit, the Act also  defines what a tenant can be charged in addition to rent.

Certain fees and charges are allowed under the Act but others are defined as prohibited payments.
The main changes to note are

•    Holding deposit amounts have been capped and timeframes have been set for repayment
•    Security deposits have been capped
•    There is now a set list of permitted payments which can be taken during the tenancy
•    There is also a set list of prohibited payments which cannot be charged under any circumstances


The set list of permitted payments includes

•    Rent
•    A refundable holding deposit (up to one week’s rent per property)
•    Tenancy deposit (exclusions apply)
•    Changes to the tenancy (for example, introduction of a pet, permission to run a business from the property or other changes that affect the contractual responsibilities. This is limited to £50 per change unless the landlord is able to prove that the resulting cost was higher and is reasonable)
•    Utilities (electric, gas, water)
•    Council tax, TV licence fees, communication fees (e.g. telephone, broadband etc.)
•    Fee for early termination of tenancy.  In this case the landlord must show reasonable loss has been suffered, for example as a result of referencing, re-advertising and can charge rent until the next tenant moves in
•    Default fees.  These should be written into the tenancy agreement for:
    o    late payment of rent – this can only be after 14 days have passed and interest at a maximum of 3 per cent above base rate
    o    replacing locks/security fobs (reasonable costs only and specific guidance is given on these costs, for example a new standard door key could be valued between £3-£10, a specialist door key between £5-£20 or a replacement key fob up to £50.  There may be circumstances where it is necessary to pay more and ALL claims must be supported by evidence from the landlord of costs and be reasonable


The set list of payments not allowed to be charged by Landlords or Property Agents includes

•    Property viewing
•    Referencing
•    Administration charges
•    Guarantors (this can be a condition of the tenancy but you cannot charge fees for meeting this condition)
•    Inventory checks (both check in and check out)
•    Right to Rent checks (the landlord or agent are liable for this cost, unless the tenant fails the check)
•    Pet fees/deposits
•    Renewal/exit fees
•    Interest on permitted payments
•    Professional end of tenancy cleaning – as a special clause (breach of contract ONLY)
•    Third party fees (unless the tenant chooses to undertake the services themselves)
•    Gardening services (unless included within the rent)

If you would like to read more about The Tenant Fees Act 2019 please click here

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Preventing Homelessness

The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 is part of the government’s homelessness legislation and is the biggest change to that legislation in 40 years.  It’s a big deal. The new duties introduced as part of the act aim to relieve and ultimately prevent homelessness.

Key Points

The period “threatened with homelessness” (when someone is likely to become homeless) has been increased from 28 to 56 days

There is a new duty to prevent homelessness for eligible applicants threatened with homelessness, regardless of their priority need status.  They will be given access to more tailored support from the housing authority

There is a new duty to relieve homelessness for eligible individuals already without a home, again regardless of their priority need status.  They will also be given access to more tailored support from the housing authority

Public services will be bound by the new “duty to refer” to notify the local authority if they encounter a person who they believe may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

Housing associations don’t have any specific new duties but they can support many aspects of this Act

 

Under the prevention part of the Act local housing authorities have to take reasonable steps to stop individuals becoming homeless, with reference to their Personal Housing Plan. For example, this could mean support for them to stay in their accommodation or alternatively helping them find somewhere to live. The thought behind this part of the Act is that households can be significantly helped before they reach a crisis situation.

Under the relief part of the Act local housing authorities need to ensure they take reasonable steps to help the person move into accommodation, with reference to their Personal Housing Plan. For example, this might mean the provision of a rent deposit or debt advice. If accommodation is provided then the housing authority must be satisfied that the accommodation will be available for at least six months.

Personal Housing Plans set out the steps an individual and the housing authority must take for the individual to remain in or find suitable accommodation.

You can read more about The Homeless Reduction Act 2017 here

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Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite…

The Residential Landlord Association (RLA) have produced a fact sheet “Don’t let the bed bugs bite”. The fact sheet provides information about bed bugs, what they look like and how to combat them. It is divided into two sections; the first designed for landlords and the second for tenants, both providing advice regarding bed bugs.

The key points of the content are below but please visit here to download the full factsheet from the RLA.

Cleanliness

The first thing to know about bedbugs is that they are in no way a reflection of a person’s inadequate hygiene or cleanliness, nor is it a reflection on the cleanliness or condition of a landlord’s property. They are a pest of exposure and can infest anywhere.

They can’t jump like fleas, but can be brought home by making contact with someone who is already infested with bedbugs or bringing infested items into the property. They can be picked up by simply sitting on a bus, train or tram, from a hotel or cinema or, indeed, a retail store.

They are not classified as a health hazard and do not transmit disease although for those who respond to the bites they can be very unpleasant. What do they look like? Adult bedbugs are reddish brown, flat and about a fifth of an inch long. Their bodies become engorged with blood once they have fed making them easier to see.

How to prevent / get rid of them?

Turning the mattress and airing a bed might help to keep dust mites at bay but it will not deter bedbugs.

Don’t allow clutter to build up where you sleep – it’s a perfect nesting place for bedbugs.

Don’t use a mattress that has come from an unknown source, it may have been thrown away because of an infestation.

Don’t wait to report a problem – nip an infestation in the bud before it spreads.  Contact your landlord straight away!

Do not throw items of furniture away or use aerosol sprays as this can quickly spread and infestation.

Always check the beds when you go away for a few days so you don’t bring the problem home with you, it’s much easier to avoid than to treat.

Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite – Fact sheet

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Don’t appoint a letting agent… until you have read this!

From 1 April 2019, agents managing properties in England have had to belong to a Client Money Protection scheme. ARLA Propertymark members have chosen to be regulated and have gone on to successfully campaign for all letting agents to be compelled to belong to a Client Money Protection scheme so that all landlords  and tenants benefit from financial safeguards.

Make sure you ask to see evidence of your letting agent’s Client Money Protection scheme membership.

If your agent offers Propertymark Protection, independent checks will be made regularly on your agents’ finances and you will be covered by our reimbursement scheme in the event that anything goes wrong.

Other agents are only now being pulled into line with ARLA Propertymark agents.

Rogue letting agent Manish Manek was found guilty of 17 counts of theft involving tenants’ deposits and rent owed to landlords. He stole £47,000 before fleeing the UK in October 2012. A police investigation found that Manek had been putting tenant deposits and rent into his personal account. He was finally arrested and sentenced to jail leaving landlords and tenants out of pocket. His victims never saw their money returned.

If a letting agent is not covered by Client Money Protection, both landlords and tenants can lose their money.

You wouldn’t book a holiday which was not protected, don’t trust your property to an agent who does not offer Client Money Protection.

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Is it the end of the ‘no fault’ eviction and the Section 21?

The government says it is committed to modernising the rented sector, and intends to introduce a new, fairer deal for both landlords and tenants.

On 15 April 2019, the government announced that it will put an end to so called ‘no-fault’ evictions by repealing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Under the new framework, a tenant cannot be evicted from their home without good reason. They say it will provide tenants with more stability, protecting them from having to make frequent moves at short notice, and enabling them to put down roots and plan for the future.

The government also proposed to strengthen the section 8 eviction process, so landlords are able to regain their property should they wish to sell it or move into it themselves. They say it will provide a more secure legal framework and a more stable rental market for landlords to remain and invest in.

The government want to know your view on implementing the decision to remove Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and improving section 8 eviction grounds. They are also inviting views on the implications of removing the ability of landlords to grant assured shorthold tenancies in the future, how the processing of repossession orders through the courts could be improved, and whether the reforms should be extended to other types of landlords, most notably, to housing associations.

Read more and have your say here.