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The Benefits of Regular Property Inspections for Landlords

In this three-minute read, we look at why regular inspections should be central to your property management strategy.

When you’re a busy landlord juggling a multitude of responsibilities, it’s easy to let a crucial part of managing a property – regular inspections – slide.

Landlords usually carry out inspections with clockwork regularity at the start of a tenancy, but things can get a little lax over time.

Perhaps the tenant presents as a model citizen, and the landlord develops a false sense of security. (To which we say, remember Walter White, the unassuming science teacher turned crystal meth baron in the TV series Breaking Bad.)

Or maybe, the tenant pays their rent on time and never says a peep, so the landlord assumes that everything is ticking along nicely (silence is golden, right?).

No matter how much you like your tenant or how busy you are with other commitments, never skip or delay a property inspection. They are one of the best ways to protect your investment – and head off disaster.

Here are six reasons why landlords should carry out regular inspections.

  1. Maintenance

It’s easier (and cheaper) to rectify a minor maintenance issue than a major one. A tenant may not mention a leaky tap or a little bit of damp, but these problems can morph into expensive repair jobs if left unresolved. It’s also essential that you check that carbon monoxide monitors and smoke alarms are working.

  • Paper trail

The photographs and notes you take during each inspection (yes, you should be doing this) create a valuable paper trail. If there is a dispute at a later date, you’ll have evidence to support your side of the story.

  • Build rapport

If your tenants find you approachable, they’ll be more likely to let you know when there is an issue and treat your property respectfully.

  • Contractual obligations

It’s important to know that your tenants are complying with their contract and haven’t sublet the property or sneakily adopted a pack of Great Danes.

  • Spot illegal activities

With regular inspections, you can ensure your property isn’t being misused by a criminal gang. We know this sounds far-fetched, but gangs – particularly those involved in cannabis production – are becoming increasingly brazen. Trust us, the last thing you want is a police cordon and Sky News reporter outside your property.

  • Insurance disputes

Many insurers won’t pay out on a major claim if the landlord hasn’t conducted regular inspections. They argue that by neglecting to visit the property, the landlord has not been vigilant and has therefore invalidated the policy. Whatever you make of this justification, cover yourself, so you don’t wind up out of pocket.

For advice about our property management services, please contact us here at Nest in Essex.

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Five Reasons to Leave Property Viewings to the Experts

In this two-minute read, we look at why it pays to get an experienced estate agent to handle viewings.

When it comes to selling a property, many people overlook the important role viewings play in the process.

They mistakenly believe that viewings are simply about opening doors and making sure would-be buyers don’t nick any valuables.

In fact, buyers share crucial information during viewings that can be helpful during negotiations and push up the final selling price.

Cutting corners on viewings – as many low-fee and online-only agents do by insisting the seller handles them – only chips away at the end result. Here are five reasons to entrust viewings to an experienced professional.

  1. Honesty

Brits are a polite bunch who don’t like hurting other people’s feelings – which is lovely if you’re hosting a tea party, but not much use if you’re selling a property. Buyers are much more likely to give honest, constructive feedback to an agent than an owner.

  • Personal safety

When you open your front door for a viewing, you’re essentially letting a stranger in to wander around your home. In most cases, buyers are genuine and well-meaning, but many sellers prefer to have a professional in charge for peace of mind.

  • Buyers prefer it

There’s a reason why sellers are asked to remove family photos and personal belongings before a viewing: too much personal information is a turn-off for buyers. Similarly, buyers can feel awkward when an owner, especially one with a strong emotional attachment to the property, conducts viewings.

  • Spot genuine buyers

Viewings are an opportunity for the seller to suss out if a buyer is for real. As well as achieving top price, you’re looking for a buyer who won’t mess you around or drop out at the last minute. A good agent will ask the right questions during a viewing to glean if the buyer means business.

  • Negotiation

If you’ve never negotiated a large transaction before (and let’s face it, selling your home will probably be the largest transaction of your life), why start now when so much is at stake? Let an experienced agent with a proven track record handle it for you. They’ll be calm and level-headed and immune to any buyer shenanigans.

To learn more about our sales success, get in contact with us here at  Nest in Essex

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Do Landlords Need to Register with the ICO?

This two-minute read takes a look at the ICO and what landlords need to do.

Back in 2018, the rules around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and data handling changed. Things like ‘This website uses cookies; do you accept?’ popped up everywhere.

The ICO is the Information Commissioner’s Office and covers the whole of the UK. The ICO website explains that they are ‘The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.’

It’s the law

It doesn’t matter how many properties you have, how many tenants, nor how many people you work with or have working for you. It is the whole business that must be registered. As a landlord, you are considered to be a business, even if you’re a sole trader.

Not just for agents

Some landlords think that their letting agent has to be registered and therefore, they themselves are exempt. This is not the case. Anyone who handles personal data and stores it electronically must register. This could be as little as a name or phone number for the tenant that was texted or emailed to you.

What are the costs?

The ICO fee will be between £40 and £2,900 per annum. The fee is paid annually. It is worked out depending on the size of the business and turnover. There is a self-assessment you can carry out on the website. Have a look at it here. This will show you what amount you will have to pay.

What’s the risk?

Tenants could raise complaints about you to the ICO if they believe you’re misusing their data. The ICO might then investigate. If you had a complaint about the tenant, like unpaid rent, the tenants could use your non-registration against you. If you don’t register with the ICO and get caught, the fines can range from £400 to £4,350.

How to do it

It’s a simple 15-minute process to get registered. It’s not something an agent can do on your behalf. Visit this webpage to get started.

You’ll need to give the ICO:

  • The name and address of the business that needs to be registered
  • Turnover and staff numbers
  • Business details
  • Credit/debit card details

The fee will be due again in 12 months’ time. It could be easier to give the ICO direct debit details.

If you are an local landlord and would like further advice about this or any other lettings issue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat on 01268 500988

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What Can I Do To Boost My Property’s Kerb Appeal?

This three-minute read will help you maximise the kerb appeal for your property.

A HomeOwners Alliance survey showed that 68% of potential buyers felt a property’s kerb appeal influenced their decision. Use these quick and easy tips to help your potential buyers fall in love at first sight.

Pathways and driveways

If you access your main entrance via a pathway or over a driveway, make sure you give it some TLC.

  • Refresh gravel
  • Pressure wash to remove discolouration or slippery bits
  • Remove weeds

Top tip: Add solar lights along the route for added elegance.

Front façade

The front of your property is like its shop window. Make sure any soffits, fascias, or guttering are clean and in good order. Clean the windows and frames, or repaint if necessary. Little things like that subliminally reassure viewers that the bigger things have been taken care of too.

Top tip: Clean or repaint your front door, polish the hardware, and add a hanging basket for a burst of colour.

Green fingers

There are low maintenance ways of making a front outdoor area more appealing. You can pick up outdoor plants, even from a supermarket. Pop a few around to brighten any space. If you have a lawn or hedging, keep it tidy. Alternatively, ask a responsible young person if they’d like to earn some pocket money by doing it for you.

Top tip: Choose plants without flowers if you won’t remember to deadhead them. The foliage and pots will still look striking.

Add storage

It might be that you don’t mind your bins and recycling boxes at the front of your home. However, for others it can be off-putting. Broaden your property’s appeal as much as possible by adding a bin store. You can use some trellising to create a divider or go all out and box them in.

Top tip: Surround or cover with pots of flowers or shrubs. You could even train climbers up the side.

Boundaries

If you have fencing or gates, make sure they’re looking their best. This might mean a lick of paint or wood stain. If you’ve got a fence post or panel that’s seen better days, just replace it. It’s unlikely to cost much in time or money. It does, however, prevent any offers from including that as a reason to knock the price down.

Top tip: Add trellising to a fence for some extra foliage.

Identification

You know where your house is. It seems obvious to you. But when you’re travelling around trying to find somewhere, possibly battling with family members, sat nav, or other traffic, it can feel stressful. Make it easy for your viewers. Add a house number or name that is clear and easy to read.

Top tip: Visit your local garden centre. They often have a range of signage so you can choose one that fits the style of your property.

Give your property the best chance of making a good impression. If you would like any advice, please do get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat on 01268 500988

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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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.

COPYRIGHT AGENCY NAME 2021

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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 gov.uk 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