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Cleaning Checklist to Avoid End-of-Tenancy Disputes

In this three-minute read, we look at ways landlords can prevent losing money in disputes about cleaning.

It’s not just couples who bicker over who did or didn’t scrub the bathroom; landlords and tenants can often find themselves at odds on the thorny issue of cleaning.

In fact, it’s the most common cause of landlord/tenant discord – 42% of end-of-tenancy disputes are about cleaning*.

Here are some tips for landlords on how to avoid losing money on cleaning disputes.

Be realistic

Tenants should leave a property in the same condition it was in at the start of the tenancy – with one proviso. Legally, there’s an expectation that wear and tear will take place due to ‘normal and reasonable’ use. Minor scuffs and marks may irritate you, but don’t confuse ‘fair wear and tear’ with cleanliness – or lack of.

Thorough inventory

Good check-in and check-out reports include photographs (lots of them, not just a few blurry snapshots taken on the hop) and written detail. For example, if you get the carpets professionally cleaned before a tenant moves in, state this in the check-in report (and keep the invoice). If you get into a dispute, you’ll need evidence to back up your claim.

Meticulous paperwork

Keep all invoices for work carried out at your property. Ensure they include a date and a clear breakdown of what was done and materials. Also, keep a record of any appliances or furniture that you purchase and conversations you’ve had with the tenant.

Respond to issues

Tenants have a duty to report issues as soon as they arise. The flip side is that if they highlight a problem, you need to rectify it. For example, if a tenant tells you that the bathroom extractor fan isn’t working and you don’t fix it, you’ll be on shaky ground complaining about mould in the shower.

Regular inspections

If a tenant isn’t maintaining your property to the standard you expect, you want to know about it as soon as possible so you can raise concerns. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise – and a massive clean-up bill – at the end of a tenancy.

Build a good rapport

If you treat your tenant with respect, there’s a much greater likelihood that they’ll treat your property with respect. If you do find yourself in a dispute, try to be constructive rather than combative.

For more advice about managing a rental property and avoiding tenant disputes, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

* Data from The Dispute Service and Decorus for Sage.


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Four Weird and Wonderful Community Events

In this three-minute read, we celebrate the eccentric events that unite and delight.

Whether it’s bog swimmers in mankinis or Vikings brandishing burning fence posts, Britain can lay claim to some of the world’s weirdest and most wonderful events.

And while each is unique, they all have one thing in common: they’re rooted in the community.

In an increasingly globalised, homogenous world, local festivals and traditions feel even more special.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, many of these headline-grabbing annual fixtures won’t take place this year. Ditto for many of the low-key fetes, fun runs and fairs that are typically held in villages and towns in the summer months.

But we can still show our support. The organisers of many of these events are holding online fundraisers, so don’t let Zoom fatigue stop you from taking part virtually.

And, when large group activities can return, let’s all make the most of them.  

Here are four of the weirdest UK events.

1) Cheese Rolling in Brockworth, Gloucester.

For centuries, people have hurtled down precipitous Cooper’s Hill in pursuit of a round of Double Gloucester, resulting in a few broken bones and many bruised egos.

No one’s quite sure why cheese rolling became a ‘thing’, but some think it was a pagan ritual to encourage fertility. 

This event traditionally takes place on the second Bank Holiday in May, but alas not this year.

2) World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.

Ever wondered what it’s like to swim in murky water that tastes like washed potatoes? If the answer is yes, then add the World Bog Snorkelling Championships to your bucket list.

This event, dreamt up in a pub (after quite a few pints no doubt), started in 1986. It usually takes place on the last weekend of August (the next championships will be in 2022).

Participants, often in fancy dress – mankinis and superhero costumes are perennial favourites – swim in a 60-foot trench to raise money for charity.

3) Burning Barrels of Ottery St Mary, Devon.

Setting fire to barrels and rolling them through the streets was a common lark in the West Country during the 1600s.

Then, someone in Ottery St Mary decided rolling 30kg barrels of burning tar was for wimps and started carrying them instead. Hence the Burning Barrels of Ottery St Mary on 5 November became a lasting tradition.

4) Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Shetland Islands.

The Up Helly Aa fire festival takes place on the last Tuesday of January. Many in the local community spend months making elaborate costumes and a wooden Viking longship for the event.

On the big day, up to 1,000 warriors or ‘guizers’ march in a torch-light procession that culminates in the Viking galley being set ablaze.

From all of us here at Nest in Essex,

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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A to Z Change of Address Checklist for Homeowners

A two-minute read.

As if selling your home, packing your belongings, and remembering to take the dog isn’t stressful enough, unfortunately, you can’t escape the paperwork palaver that comes with moving. Notifying companies and authorities of your change of address can be monotonous, but (for some things), it’s mandatory. (Not to mention the risk of being deleted from Aunty Marge’s Christmas card list if you forget to tell her you’ve moved.)

To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a handy A to Z guide of who you need to notify.

A is for Animal Care (and includes your pet’s usual vet, groomer and if you use one, dog walker).

B is for Banks, Building Societies,and Broadband.

C is for Council, Clubs, and Cable/Satellite.

D is for Doctor, Dentist, DVLA, and DWP (if you receive money from the government).

E is for your Electricity Supplier (don’t forget to read the meter!) and the Electoral Roll.

F is for your Friends and Family.

G is for your Gas Supplier and Gym membership (or cancel your membership if you’re moving out of the area).

H is for HMRC.(We wish they didn’t know where we lived, either.)

I is for Insurance – House, Car, Business, Life, Pet, Travel, and Health. (You need to insure your new property from the completion date.)

J is for Job.

K is for the Kids’ School(s).

L is for Loyalty Cards and Loan Companies.

M is for your friendly Milkman and the Microchip Database for your pet(s).

N is for Newsagent for your paper deliveries.

O is for Optician and Online Shopping. (Where would we be without internet shopping?!)

P is for Premium Bonds and your Pension Investment Company.

Q is for Quick Food2Go. Imagine when you realise your takeaway’s been delivered to your old address?

R is for Royal Mail Redirect service. You can opt for your mail to be redirected for 3, 6, or 12 months.

S is for Subscriptions, Share Registrars and Services (if you have an accountant, solicitor, gardener, window cleaner or house cleaner).

T is for your Telephone Provider (mobile and landline) and TV Licence.

U is for Utilities and University.

V is for Vehicle Breakdown Cover and Vehicle Logbook

W is for Water Supplier.

X is for X Marks the Spot. Update your address for ‘Home’ on your car’s sat nav.

Y is for Your Buyer. It’s sensible to leave a forwarding address at your old property in case you’ve missed something.

Z is for the Zoo (or anywhere else where you might have an annual membership).

For more tips and advice about how to prepare for a property move (or if you can add to this list), give us a call on 01268 500988

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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What Expenses Can I Put against My Tax Return as a Landlord?

This three-minute read guides landlords to declaring their rental income in the best way possible.

If you rent out a property and receive a rental income from that, you must declare it. You have to pay tax on any profit. It doesn’t change your employment status to ‘self-employed’ though, as it’s considered an investment.

Of course, HMRC can be more complicated than a day at Hogwarts. The best advice will be to seek professional advice from an accountant but we’ve picked out some key points to start you off.

Start hoarding

HMRC unimaginatively call this ‘record keeping’. Be disciplined and keep receipts, bank statements, invoices, rent books, even mileage logs, so you (or your accountant) can easily make the deductions against your tax bill. This means you get to keep more of the profit away from ‘the tax man’ in a legal and ethical way, of course.

Expenses claims

There are a range of other allowable expenses. They are deductible only if they’re exclusively for renting out a property and if you pay for them yourself. This could include:

  • Water, council tax, electricity, and gas
  • Insurances
  • Services of, for example, cleaners or gardeners
  • Accountancy fees
  • Ground rents
  • Service charges

Maintenance and repairs

The definition from the website is: ‘A repair restores an asset to its original condition, sometimes by replacing parts of it’.

If the property requires new guttering after a storm, this would be considered a repair and therefore, a deductible expense.

However, if you wanted to improve the guttering for another reason, like changing the colour, this would not be allowable.

Improvements are not an allowable expense, like replacing a laminate kitchen work surface for granite. The exception to this is updating things to their ‘nearest modern equivalent’. This could be things like changing single-glazing to modern, double-glazed windows.

If you replace an item with an upgrade, then you can claim the cost as if you had replaced like-for-like. Take the work surface example: a 2m length of laminate would be £150. The same size granite work surface could be £600. You could claim the £150, not the £600.

Domestic item replacement

Furnishings like carpets and curtains are likely to be able to be deducted, as long as you’re replacing like-for-like. Beds and free-standing wardrobes, or other items that can be considered ‘movable furniture’ are also deductible. Appliances, such as TVs or fridge/freezers, and even smaller items, like cutlery and crockery can be offset against your income.

Partial expenses

If you’re letting a property that you have a mortgage on, you can’t deduct the full amount of the mortgage payment. You can only offset the interest element of the mortgage repayment against the income. Similarly, if you use your car for a purpose related to the rental property, you can only deduct the vehicle running costs for that particular purpose. This includes mileage rate deductions.

For rental opportunities in get in touch with us on 01268 500988. Our lettings specialists can help you consider the market and the best options out there for you.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by a Cowboy Builder

In this three-minute read, we look at how homeowners can protect themselves from unscrupulous builders.

We’ve all heard the renovation horror stories. The builder who does a runner halfway through a job, leaving a homeowner out of pocket and living in a construction site. The messy contractual dispute that winds up in court and ends in tears. Or the new roof that leaks at the first drop of rain.

The good news is that by following a few simple steps property owners can avoid getting ripped off.

Jonny Greve, an experienced builder who runs the respected construction firm Greve and Son in East Sussex, has these seven tips for side-stepping cowboy contractors.

  1. Online research

Many websites offer consumer reviews and information about tradespeople, such as Checkatrade and Trustmark. Do some homework online to see if your chosen builder has a good track record.

2)    Membership bodies

Most good builders will be members of at least one trade body such as the Federation of Master Builders, the Guild of Master Craftsmen, or FENSA. Always double-check a builder’s membership claims. Never take their word for it.

  • Check the finances

“The last thing you want to do is spend tens of thousands of pounds – or more – with a company that is in negative equity,” says Jonny. Ensure the builder is in good financial shape by reading over their annual accounts on the Companies House website.

4)    See for yourself

Ask to see examples of previous building projects. Ideally, visit the site and speak to the client (Covid-19 restrictions permitting). Also, find out where the builder is working currently and drive past to see if the site is tidy and if workers turn up on time.

5)    Get three quotes and a watertight contract

It always pays to get three quotes and to ensure contracts cover the full scope of works. Never leave detailed building projects to chance or make agreements based on a wink and a handshake.

6)    Avoid cold-callers

“If someone knocked on my door and offered to do a job for me on the cheap, I would immediately be suspicious,” says Jonny. “Good builders are busy – for example, I have clients lined up until the end of the year. Steer clear of canvassers and be prepared to wait for a good builder to start work at your property.”

7)    Go on instinct

Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right when you talk to a builder, exercise caution.

If you would like advice about how renovations could add value to your property, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex.


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How to Help Elderly Relatives Move Home

A three-minute read.

For an elderly relative, moving on to the next chapter of their lives can be an emotional experience. The need to move home might stem from financial needs, bereavement, health reasons, or the wish to be nearer loved ones. But whatever the catalyst, time, diplomacy, and tact are the order of the day.

Don’t rush

It’s essential to broach the subject of a move sensitively. A move in the twilight years is likely to be a final move, so it’s important to think carefully about future needs. Consider one-level living, a spare room for live-in help, and proximity to local amenities and GPs.

Size matters

For 99% of elderly homeowners, the next home is likely to be smaller than their existing home (and for some, significantly so). Prioritise the essentials in terms of furniture and belongings, being mindful of what will fit in the new home.

Clear the loft

Try to avoid simply moving the contents of one loft to another. If you can, digitise old photos and upload keepsakes to a digital photo frame. Reminders of fond memories can make a new property quickly feel like ‘home’. Shred bank statements and other unneeded paperwork to avoid any risk of identity theft.

Be respectful

When it comes to letting things go, try to help your relative make their own decisions rather than substituting your own. While you may think that their Encyclopaedia Britannica collection is ready for the skip, it may be cherished by your relative. It may be less painful for them to see treasured items go to family, friends, or their chosen charity, rather than auctioned off on eBay.

Have fun

Getting the whole family involved can help make sorting out belongings a more enjoyable experience. If you can, have a photo slideshow scrolling while you work, play your relative’s favourite music, and reward your efforts with a family meal at the end of the day.

Enlist experienced experts

On moving day itself, consider choosing a removal firm experienced in helping elderly people move home. A packing and unpacking service can lessen the load and help make your relative feel settled more quickly.

We’ve been helping elderly property owners move home for 10 years; we understand the importance of treating seniors with care and respect.

For more advice on helping an elderly relative with their next property move, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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Calculating Your Buy-to-Let Return

Calculating Your Buy-to-Let Return

A two-minute read to help you quickly determine the return on a buy-to-let property.

If you’re looking for a property to rent out, it’s important to understand the numbers involved. You may have inherited a property and are thinking of letting it. Use the information here to identify if that is a prudent thing to do or if the capital from selling the property could be better invested.

Find the numbers

The simplest way to work out your gross return on a rental is to estimate some numbers. You can have a browse on the property portals to get a vague sense of what properties in your budget sell for and let for. These figures change across the country so it’s important to start with your own research.

Quick and easy

Here’s a simple calculation to get you the basic overview. Let’s use an example of a £150,000 property that rents out for £500 a month.

500 x 12 (months in a year) = 6,000 p.a.

Divide 6,000 by the purchase price of £150,000 = 4%.

For some investors, a 4% gross yield would be sufficient. Others look for higher but it’s all rather area dependent, we normally suggest looking to achieve 5-6%.

Deduct your deductions

We’ve worked out your gross figures. But it’s the net figures that are the ‘money in your pocket’ numbers. To work these out, you’ll need to employ a little more guesswork. Better still, ask a local property expert, like us, who deals with these things, day in, day out. Then you’ll be closer to an accurate estimate. The figures you need are:

  • Solicitors’ costs (if you’re purchasing a property)
  • Landlords’ insurance
  • General property maintenance
  • Agency fees
  • End of tenancy cleaning costs

These can be off-set against your income for tax purposes.

Taxes, taxes, taxes

It’s reasonably straightforward to submit your tax returns yourself. They need to be done annually and submitted by the following January. It’s recommended though to use an accountant. They will be up to date with all the latest options open to you. Not only that, they can often help in other areas, like looking at your pension or investment options.

For rental opportunities, get in touch with us on 01268 500988. Our lettings specialists can help you consider the market and the best options out there for you.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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How Sellers Can Spot a Committed Buyer

In this two-minute read, we look at ways sellers can identify genuine buyers.

With demand currently outstripping supply in the housing market, sellers are in the driver’s seat, but there is still one hazard that could derail a sale: the flaky buyer.

In a hot market, it’s not uncommon for panicky buyers to make an impulsive offer or go beyond their financial limits.

A buyer might do this because they fear that prices are rising and the market is getting away from them. Or perhaps they’ve been outbid in the past and don’t want to lose out again.

Whatever the motivation, the result is the same: the buyer isn’t committed and drops out weeks or months into the sales process.

Not only is it frustrating for the seller but it could also cost them financially if they’re part of a chain which then collapses because the parties involved grow impatient.

Here are some tips to help you identify genuine buyers.

–         Arrange a second viewing. If the buyer makes an offer after the first viewing, your agent should arrange a second visit to see if they are still as keen as mustard. The buyer should be quizzed about their plans for the property to see if they’ve thought through the purchase.

–         Do the admin. Ensure your agent gets the buyer to fill in an offer form that includes details about their mortgage provider and solicitor. It’s preferable to go with a buyer who already has their ducks in a row.

–         What’s the story? Chat to the buyer about why they are moving. If they’re expecting a baby and have family in the same street, it’s a fair bet that they’re the real deal. If they know little about the area or their story keeps changing, question if they are committed to the sale.

–         Ensure the lines of communication are open. Ideally, your buyer will keep you informed of their progress on the survey, searches, and chasing solicitors. Be wary if things go quiet quickly.

–         Work with an experienced agent. Even though it’s a buyer’s market, a good agent can streamline the process for you. They’ll be good at spotting the genuine buyers from the chancers.

For more advice about selling your home, contact us here at Nest in Essex.