April 01, 2014

Five common causes of landlord-tenant disputes (and how to prevent them)

Disputes between landlords and their tenants are usually stressful for both parties, however, there are some simple ways to avoid a number of the more common disputes and help promote a better relationship.

Here we take you through some of the more frequent causes of disagreements and give you some tips on how to avoid them:

Cleaning

This is the number one cause of disputes between tenants and landlords and there are several things you can do to help prevent a dispute over cleaning.

MyDeposits.co.uk is one of the three authorised Tenant Deposit Schemes in the UK.

They advise writing to the tenant before the contract ends reminding them of their obligations. If you have a copy of the check in documentation (and you should), send it to them along with any photos you took at that time, so they can be reminded of the condition of the property before they moved in.

This will provide a useful reference for both of you at the time of check out and sending it in advance will help your tenant make sure they leave the property in the condition they found it in.

If you organised a Company clean before the tenants moved in, you could pass the Company details to them so your tenants could use the same firm to clean it before handing the property back to you.

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Damage to property

Tenants need to take care to avoid damaging property, but equally, landlords must allow for reasonable wear and tear.

A common issue is tenants wishing to hang paintings and mirrors on walls or put shelves up. They should ask your permission before they do this and you should advise them at the time that they need to repair any holes in the walls and leave the place as they found it – unless of course you’re willing to have shelves put up permanently.

You can also suggest alternative fixings for wall hangings – there are sticky fixtures that don’t damage paint and can hold up to several kilos of weight – plenty for most mirrors and paintings. Accidental damage is unavoidable sometimes and you should make it clear what you expect of your tenant if they accidentally damage something at the check-in phase.

Also having a thorough check-in and check out should help to avoid any disputes over whether something was damaged before the tenant moved in.

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Garden maintenance

Many tenants aren’t gardeners, so having an easy to maintain garden is a good idea in any property you plan to let. Or you can factor having a regular gardener into the price of the rent, potentially being open to negotiation if a tenant especially wants to be able to do the gardening.

You’ll obviously check the garden periodically along with the rest of the property, so if it’s clearly been very badly maintained, tell your tenant that they must tidy it up, or that the tenants will need to agree to arrange a gardener before handing the property back to you.

Also remember that your own standards may differ from the tenant’s and if they’ve been making a reasonable effort, even if it’s not up to your own standards, they haven’t done anything wrong. To avoid this, you may prefer to organise a gardener as part of the tenancy agreement.

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Property maintenance

Having a properly maintained property is a tenant’s right and a landlord’s duty.

When problems occur, such as a boiler breaking down, or issues with damp (which can cause damage to health), these must be resolved quickly. Tenants who feel that their landlord is taking too long to resolve these issues often withhold the rent until the issue is fixed. This is clearly not an ideal situation and important to prevent if possible.

Landlords can avoid disputes by taking quick action to resolve the problems.

Agencies provide excellent support for problems like this and have access to well-priced and reputable property repair and maintenance contractors who can keep things running smoothly, taking the hassle out of the landlord’s hands.

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Costs of cleaning and repairs

Disputes often arise not over cleaning and repairs, which both parties may agree are necessary, but over the cost incurred for these things.

Remember that legally, the money held in deposit is the tenant’s money, so landlords need to have a good case for claiming any of it. You’ll need to agree with the tenant what needs to be remedied and be able to show that any costs incurred are justified.

The best way to do this is by having a transparent process and to use an independent person to organise any works. An agent can do this for you, though there needs to be evidence that they are acting impartially and not in the interests of either party.

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Most disputes can be resolved between the tenant and the landlord directly with a simple honest conversation. If things go further than this though, there are several options to try before going to court.

The Tenant Deposit Scheme may appoint an adjudicator to evaluate the case and come up with a binding solution.

Adjudicators will not visit the property, nor meet the parties involved, they will look at evidence provided by landlords and tenants and will decide a solution based on this.

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At fish need water, we thoroughly vet all of our tenants and we offer a range of solutions for landlords designed to work around your budget and lifestyle.

Very few our tenancies have ended in a dispute.

We know the processes inside out and can take out much of the pain of managing issues that do arise with minimum input from you. Have a look at our services for landlords for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March 03, 2014

Ten things to do after you sell your property

 

Congratulations, you have a buyer for your property, you’ve exchanged contracts and you’re on your way to completing.

Here are a few things to help you organise yourself after you’ve sold your property to make this process as stress free as possible.

1. Arrange a removals company

If you have items that are valuable or big and heavy, you’ll probably need to enlist the help of a removal firm.
Many removals companies now offer to pack up all of your belongings for you and some will only insure the goods that they have packed themselves, so check the small print and make sure you’re happy with it.
Go for recommendations from friends, colleagues and family and get at least three quotes. Help is also available from the British Association of Removers (BAR) or the National Guild of Removers and Storers (NGRS).

 

2. Have a clear out – De-junk your life

It’s amazing how much junk you can accumulate over the years, so take the opportunity to have a big clear out before the removals company arrives. Bear in mind that you’ll have to move anything you buy between now and your move date – sometimes that can make you think twice about whether a purchase is really essential.

Sell or donate any furniture that’s no longer needed. Many charity shops will collect for free if you’re donating – especially useful for large items, or when you’re donating in bulk.

 

3. Check what’s included in the sale

Make sure you check what’s included in the sale and don’t unknowingly remove anything that you said would be included. If curtains and light fittings are included, then make sure you leave them behind.

4. Tell people you’re moving

Once you have a completion date, you’ll need to let lots of people (and Companies) know that you’re moving.

Contact your providers for gas, electricity, water, phone, TV, broadband, mobile phone.

You’ll also need to let other companies know like your employer, TV licensing, the DVLA, banks and financial institutions, credit card providers (including store cards) the council (for council tax and parking permits) and other things you wouldn’t necessarily think of like Tesco Clubcard, Boots advantage card and any other loyalty programmes you belong to.

It’s easy to forget a few, so a good idea is to contact a company as soon as you get a letter through from them and keep a check-list of companies you’ve changed your address with.

To save yourself some hassle, it’s worth checking out websites like iammoving.com who will notify 1500 companies of your change of address. Also tell the Post Office at least five days in advance and re-direct your mail.

 

5. Create a guide to your house

It’s a lovely thing to do and will help your buyers enormously – put a list together letting them know how things work and where things are – sometimes a stopcock is really hard to find and your boiler may be an enigma to someone who’s used to a different kind. Leave a pack with all your appliance manuals somewhere easy to find.

Leaving a note of the collection days for refuse and recycling collections is also useful to save your buyer playing a guessing game or calling the council, plus we could all use some good Karma!

 

 

6. Leave it clean and tidy

It’s a courtesy to your buyer to clean the house as you leave, fill any holes in the walls and generally leave the place looking appealing.

Lots of house buyers decide to purchase when a house is looking its best and arrive to find holes in walls which were previously hidden behind paintings and so on – sometimes people haven’t even removed wall hangings when they’ve re-decorated, leaving a patchwork of different paint colours on the walls. If you have any, leave any left-over paint from redecorating so that the new onwers have the right colour to match the walls.

 

7. Get kids and pets to a safe place

It’s stressful enough as it is, so you probably don’t want kids and pets getting under your feet while you organise the removals and make your final checks. Pack them off to a friend or family member if you can.

 

8. Get essentials together in one place

Unpacking and putting furniture into its new place at the other end is likely to take a while even if you have a removal firm doing it, so get some essentials together including towels, toiletries, tea, coffee and snacks and a change of clothes so that you can at least shower and feel fresh in the morning after the move.

 

9. Change the locks at your new house

Get the locks changed at your new house as soon as you move in – you don’t know who’s had a spare key from the previous owner and it’ll give you peace of mind.

It’s another thing that many people seem to forget, so booking the locksmith in advance can be a really good way to make sure you won’t forget!

 

10.…Relax

Everything is done, finally, so now it’s time to pour yourself a glass of wine and relax….Until tomorrow!

 

If you’re thinking of selling, we have a range of options designed to fit around your lifestyle. We can manage the whole process, leaving you free to concentrate on work and other things, or we can leave some of it up to you, saving you money.

Check out our selling pages at www.fishneedwater.com/Sellers or give us a call – we’d be delighted to help.

 

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January 29, 2014

The Recent History of the London Property Market

 

House prices are constantly changing, and if you’re interested in investing in property in a specific UK region such as London, then analysing a house-pricing graph (just like the one shown below) to understand the growth a particular area is a worthwhile exercise.

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This particular graph showcases London trending house prices in red, against that of real house prices in blue. Since 1975, UK house prices have risen by 101%, whilst London house prices have risen by 124%. During the housing bubble of the 1980’s, London prices were 5.8 times higher than the average earnings. However, on the eve of the credit card crunch this figure dropped to 5.4 times.

In the early 1990’s house prices dropped and then plateaued slightly. It seems that this may be happening again, especially as market dislocations including that of emergency interest rates and restricted mortgages are appearing. However, whether this drop will continue, plateau or start to rise again is yet to be seen.

Average Property Selling Prices in London 2000 – 2013

These particular graphs, below, showcase the average property sale prices for various property styles in London for each month, ranging from April 2000 to August 2013. The latter graph reveals the median property sale price, and is a perfect example trending house prices.

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The above graph showcases the moving average by property type in London. Below is a key to illustrate these changes in further detail.

April 2000

August 2013

Change

Detached
£485,621

£1,196,432

+146%

Semi
£257,041

£729,290

+184%

Terraced
£241,381

£647,325

+168%

Flat
£206,392

£437,684

+112%

All
£232,311

£553,212

+138%

 

 

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April 2000

August 2013

Change

Detached
£355,000

£814,050

+129%

Semi
£190,000

£473,975

+149%

Terraced
£156,500

£428,250

+174%

Flat
£164,997

£329,800

+100%

 

Listed below is a further example of property sales in the London area. The sold prices for London were calculated using details provided by the Land Registry, and shows an average overall of all properties sold within 10 miles of the city centre.

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April 2000

August 2013

Change

Detached
257

190

-26%

Semi
949

732

-23%

Terraced
2460

1978

-20%

Flat
4278

3788

-11%

 

House Price Growth in London 2012 – 2013

In the last two years alone, it seems that the housing market in London is again starting to showcase increasing prices which is being exacerbated by the continued lack of stock causing pent up demand from property buyers.

For example, a one-bedroom house in October 2012 would have been valued in the region of £313,473. In October 2013, the same house has been valued at £358,090 revealing a 14.2% growth.

The same has been seen for a two-bedroom house, which has risen from £464,182 to a total of £516,569, showing a growth of 11.2%. Three bedroom houses however have dropped from £746,924 to £695,783 revealing a growth decrease of -6.8%. Four bedroom houses have increased slightly with a 10.6% growth, advancing from £1,060,008 to £1,173,174. This shows that smaller, singles-orientated housing is possibly a better investment option when considering London.

Remember, this is average data recorded by HM Land Registry. Estate agents report very different figures, and growth rates in London Boroughs have been reported as high as 30% in Wandsworth for example.


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London House Prices Rise more than 10%

Property experts have reveals that official figures have showcased the housing market to be a lot stronger than it once was, and January 2014 is reputedly the strongest January in recent property history.

House prices have jumped 9.4%, which has pushed the average UK property value up to 3.8%.

First time buyers were paying 5.3% higher on average this September than they were last September, which further emphasises this steady rise. Both Britons and overseas investors have fuelled these rising prices, the latter market have been especially helpful in increasing luxury residential property prices in London this year alone.

The rising prices in London have certainly helped to increase prices across the UK, all of which are continuing to grow at a steady rate. This September we saw the highest year-on-year change since October 2010. While nothing is ever certain in the UK housing market, what these figures do show is that, for those willing to take the risk, buying now could pay off big long-term.

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December 11, 2013

Five mistakes landlords make and how we can help you avoid them

When letting a property, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re aware of some of the pitfalls facing landlords. Many of these common mistakes can be costly and painful to fix. Here are some of the things to watch out for.

5 Mistakes Landlords Make

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Failing to secure deposits

If you fail to secure your deposit with an authorised Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) within 30 days of receiving it, you can unwittingly land yourself in trouble. Failing to secure your tenants’ deposit in time means that they can apply to the courts for a mandatory fine to be awarded to them, which is three times the deposit amount. You also cannot serve a section 21 Notice of Possession.

Not getting a proper inventory

Protect your property by carrying out a good quality inventory at the start of each tenancy According to data released from the tenant deposit service, 55% of disputes over deposits arise from cleaning and a further 43% are down to damage to property. Getting an accurate record of the condition of your property at the start of the tenancy and again at the end is the best way to prevent disputes arising and the easiest way to settle any that do come up. We think using an accredited third party inventory company is best – and use one that takes lots of images to support their written description of your property.

If you use us to let your property or manage it, we’ll provide you with an inventory check-in report carried out by an AIIC qualified Company (worth upwards of £135) at no charge.

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Skimping on insurance

Its important to have the right insurances to protect your property and income

Getting the right landlord insurance is really important. It needs to have liability cover for you (in case someone is injured at the property and takes action against you). Specialist landlord insurance has public liability cover as standard, but many landlords forget to change their buildings insurance and have a residential policy that doesn’t even allow for tenants to be resident at the property.

More importantly, The Money Charity says that over the last few months, there has been a significant increase in landlords issuing claims against their tenants in the county courts of England and Wales. The number of orders for possession, both outright and suspended, is also increasing, with nearly 70% of claims resulting in some form of order.

This is because UK personal debt has reached a new high, climbing above its September 2008 peak for the first time since the financial crisis, says the charity. Add to that the high rents tenants are now paying and you can easily understand why some find living a struggle.

However we can help protect you with a comprehensive Legal Protection and Rent Arrears policy for Landlords. In fact, if we manage your property this policy is inclusive within our competitive management fee.
If your tenants fail to pay the agreed rent, the policy provider will start to pay your rent or any shortfall each month. More importantly, they will also deal with the recovery of any debt and start the eviction procedure to recover your property for you. Legal costs are covered by the insurer.
With landlord rent arrears on the increase, we would recommend you arrange a policy for each property you own that you let to tenants.

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Not screening tenants well enough

Getting tenants who can reliably pay the rent and keep the property in good condition is all most landlords want. So, no matter how keen you are to get somebody in and paying the rent, you need to make sure character references and financial checks are done thoroughly. A good lettings agent will always carry out these due diligence checks.

Marketing badly

If you want to get the best price for your property, it needs to be marketed professionally. Almost everybody (97%) searches for property online, so to get the most viewings you need to be marketing on popular property sites. Professionally taken images will massively increase the number of enquirers and viewings you will get, from the type of tenants you really want.

And don’t forget floor-plans either. Many tenants want top see the overall floor-space on offer before visiting your property, so advertising without them will create additional hours of wasted time for both you and the tenants viewing.

Poor images will damage the chances of obtaining the best rent

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If you’re thinking of using an agency to manage your property, you should know that we’ve worked hard to bring you an exceptionally comprehensive service that takes all of the hassle out of your hands. Our packages start at just 4% plus vat for lettings and 11% plus vat for full management and we’re especially proud of the positive feedback we’ve had from some of our customers.

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  • ARLA
  • The Property Ombudsman sales
  • Zoopla.co.uk
  • PrimeLocation.com
  • RightMove.co.uk
  • FindaProperty.com
  • allAgrnts.co.uk

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