Changes to the rules concerning assured shorthold tenancies for Landlords

Changes to the rules concerning Assured Shorthold Tenancies come into place on 1 October this year. So how will this affect you as a landlord?

The Act brought into force new rules in which Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) in England could be granted and terminated, and which restrict the Landlord’s ability to serve a notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to terminate the AST.

Between 1 October 2015 and 1 October 2018 these requirements only applied to an AST created on or after 1 October 2015. However, from 1 October 2018 the requirements will apply to all ASTs irrespective of when the AST was granted.

Q. What is the effect of the act?

A. A landlord will only be able to serve a Section 21 Notice once he has first complied with the regulatory requirements under the Act. These are that the landlord must have provided the tenant with the following:
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) free of charge.
A Gas Certificate.
The current version of the ‘How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England’ booklet.

Q. What if the tenancy was granted prior to 1st October 2015?

A. There is no longer the option of serving the non-prescribed form of Section 21 Notice which does not require compliance with the Act. Only the prescribed form of Section 21 Notice can be used from 1 October 2018.

Q. Can the landlord comply with the requirements after the tenancy has been granted?

A. This is a topic of much debate. In a recent County Court case which is non-binding which was heard in February this year, it was held that the Gas Safety Certificate must be provided to the tenant at the start of the tenancy and that a Landlord is unlikely to be able to serve a Section 21 Notice where it is served late.
The view is that it cannot have been Parliament’s intention to give a tenant full security of tenure and the Landlord cannot be forever precluded from serving a Section 21 Notice. Binding authority is required to give clarity.

Q. Does the landlord have to use the prescribed form of Section 21 Notice?

A. Yes, from 1 October 2018 the prescribed form of Section 21 Notice must be used for all ASTs.

Q. Can possession proceedings be issued after 1 October 2018 relying on a Section 21 Notice served before 1 October 2018 which was not in the prescribed form?

A Yes, the Act should not affect the ability to issue proceedings after 1 October 2018 but relying on a Section 21 Notice which was correctly served prior to that date.

Q. Will the Court grant possession where there has not been compliance with the statutory requirements for an AST granted before 1 October 2015?

A. It remains to be seen whether the Courts will grant possession where a prescribed form Section 21 Notice has been served on or after 1 October 2018 but the Act’s requirements had not been complied with prior to 1 October 2018. It cannot be the case that the landlord will forever be prevented from obtaining possession although Courts may not be sympathetic when faced with a landlord who has failed to take action during the three year transitional period.

Q. Will it affect the accelerated possession procedure?

A. The current Claim Form for Accelerated Possession requires compliance with the Act’s requirements. There are therefore difficulties with using the current claim form and relying on the accelerated possession procedure when the Act has not been complied with for pre 2015 tenancies.

From 1 October 2018, a landlord may only be able to proceed by means of the ordinary possession procedure route.

Holiday Checklist before leaving your apartment

We’re always a little nervous after we leave our apartment for a long holiday. Are we going to come home to a stinky house because we forgot to take out the trash? Will I have a leak? Let us help to allay them with this handy checklist of things to do before you leave your apartment.

Compiled from our own experience of queries we have received from tenants and our excellent customer service team. This list can help you remember everything that is easy to forget in the excitement of preparing for a trip of any length of time. Follow this list and we promise you won’t come home to a stinky house (and hopefully you won’t have a swimming pool newly installed in your bedroom, too).

Temporarily stop mail and newspaper delivery

 or arrange for a neighbour to take care of it.

Prepay bills

that will come due while you are away or any service charges for your apartment.

Finish up perishable food in your refrigerator

or donate to neighbours.

Take out the trash and recycling

no one likes returning to a smelly house.

Do the dishes

you’ll be so glad on your return

Run your garbage disposal

to stop any nasty smells on your return

Coming home food

leave a meal waiting in the freezer

Unplug appliances like

coffee machine, computer, TV and other appliances and electronics. Make sure any electronics left plugged in have surge protection

Time your lights

or consider doing this to keep burglars at bay.

Turn down the AC and heat

 unless of course a pet sitter and pets will be there and think of the season you are too.

Put on clean sheets

 it’s always nice to come home to a clean bed.

Water plants

or arrange for a neighbour to water them

Close and lock windows

to make sure your apartment is secure

If you’ve got a spare key hidden

 somewhere outside your house, you may want to remove it, unless of course, you’ve forgotten to take your key on vacation with you.

Sprinkle a little baking soda

 in toilets and down the sink drains to avoid coming home to the stench of stagnant water.

Make sure you have not left any wet clothes

 in your washing machine or drier. Consider turning off all the water, but at least turn off the water supply to your to washing machines, dishwashers, ice-makers and toilets.

Now turn on your email out of office.

 Do this even if you are planning on checking email. It will relieve you of the pressure to answer quickly and reduce the number of emails you get.

Got any great tips that we have missed, then why not email one o our team.

Happy Holidays…

9 HOT TIPS TO COOL DOWN YOUR APARTMENT

How to keep cool in your apartment when the thermometer rises

The UK is currently experiencing one of the longest, summer heat waves since records began. While some apartment-dwellers have been blessed with air conditioning, many other apartments haven’t required such a luxury, as the UK is not known for it’s long hot summers. The team at IPM have put together some tips of how to keep your home cool when the thermometer goes up.

Keep your blinds closed

Did you know that limiting the amount of sunlight coming into your house can help keep your house cool? Sunlight carries a large amount of heat, and blocking it out can mean estimated savings of 10-15% on your cooling costs.

Leave those doors open

Nothing halts a cooling breeze or draft quicker than a closed door. By allowing air to circulate naturally, your apartment will automatically feel cooler.

Use this ice-cold fan hack

Yes, this really does work. Fill a large bowl with ice or ice packs and put it directly in front of a fan. When the fan blows across the ice, it produces an air conditioner-like chill that’s sure to cool you down.

Don’t forget those extractor fans

While we’re on the subject of fans, why not put those exhaust fans you have in kitchen and bathroom to good use? Both can suck the hot air out, allowing cooler air to move in — particularly useful after a cooking session or a hot shower.

Think about fabrics

Are your sheets, pillowcases, pyjamas or other clothing summer-friendly? It might be time to step away from the flannel and fleece. Switching your fabrics to cottons and other lightweight material lets your body breathe easier and stay cooler.

Chill yourself out

While your apartment may be hot, there are still things you can do to ensure you’re keeping yourself as chilled as possible. Focus on wearing lightweight clothing and use a cold washcloth to cool down areas such as your head and neck. A cool bath can also be very refreshing, and don’t forget to keep downing the ice-cold drinks.

Make use of the night

When it comes to cooling your apartment, nighttime is indeed the right time. Temperatures generally fall in the evenings, giving you a chance to set up some fans near your windows and suck in that cool breeze.

Stop cooking indoors

It’s a fact: when you turn on the oven, it heats up your apartment. Instead of meals that require your oven, focus on cooling summer salads, BBQ’ing outdoors or even look into a slow cooker which can cook your food without all the extra kitchen heat.

Keeping your apartment cool in the summer is no easy feat without an air conditioner. What are some of your top tricks for staying cool when the thermometer is in the red? Share your tips with the IPM team and we’d be happy to publish them here.

Be cool!

 

World Cup Fever

Football can change the way friends, neighbours, especially people of different political opinion, ethnic nationality think about one another.

Although other sports have the capability of bringing people together the number of countries and people involved in these sports: basketball, handball misnamed football and long tennis or volley ball and tracks among others are small compared to the number of people who play, watch and act as soccer fans.

The World Cup can still be a magical time in the city, seeing pockets of people gather to watch and cheer and talk. The world’s game, celebrated in cities all around the UK by different cultures and nationalities. For a few weeks, it is everywhere you look. In bars and restaurants and cafes. In living rooms. In the lobbies of office towers and the TV screens behind the counters in variety stores and gas stations.

The games themselves are exciting to watch, but many of us find them more fun if we have a community to watch them with. The current World Cup 2018 is a great opportunity to bring friends and neighbours together. Endless possibilities abound with the latest World Cup and England’s current top performing team.

The eight last-16 ties will be played from from Friday 30 June to Tuesday 3 July. On each day of football, one match will kick-off at 3pm UK time and one match at 7pm.

Teams that have reached the last 16

  • Uruguay (winners of Group A)
  • Russia (runners-up in Group A)
  • Spain (winners of Group B)
  • Portugal (runners-up in Group B)
  • France (winners of Group C)
  • Denmark (runners-up in Group C)
  • Croatia (winners of Group D)
  • Argentina (runners-up in Group D)
  • Brazil (winners in Group E)
  • Switzerland (runners-up in Group E)
  • Sweden (winners in Group F)
  • Mexico (runners-up in Group F)
  • Belgium (winners in Group G)
  • England (runners-up in Group G)
  • Colombia (winners in Group H)
  • Japan (runners-up in Group H)

Why not get to know your neighbours better and invite them to join you in watching the next game. Football helps bring people and communities together.

Recycle your rubbish

Recycle your rubbish the right way!

Not a month goes by when the IPM office doesn’t hear about issues with rubbish or recycling at one of the blocks of flats which we manage.

Missed Bin Collection

Sometimes the issue is to do with the council. This is an issue which is easily rectified, but it must be done as soon as possible. If the council have missed a bin collection, then they must be notified within 24 hours in order for them to reallocate a collection to your property. Most councils now prefer for these issues to be addressed via online forms, so it is actually much easier and more effective for the issue to be directly addressed by you, the leaseholder or tenant, rather than us dealing with the issue. The form you are asked to fill out doesn’t account for third party interests such as block management companies, so it is much easier for a resident to contact the council directly.

Sort your rubbish the right way

Another refuse issue occurs due to residents not disposing of their refuse correctly. Lots of the sites we manage have bin areas, which can be accessed by residents (normally via a coded lock) and by the people who collect the refuse. Simply leaving your rubbish in the bin area, i.e. not putting it in the relevant bin means the council will not collect it. It could be either refuse or recycling, and as such the council will not collect it.

Don’t follow the lead

This initial issue means that others will start to follow by example, leaving their rubbish bags in the bin store instead of in the bins themselves. Before long, piles of rubbish are in the way. The council will not collect from sites with this issue, which means a private contractor would need to be instructed, at a cost to leaseholders’ service charges. If we can prove that a particular tenant left rubbish, we will charge it back to that tenant.

Paper means paper

Recycling also causes an issue. As soon as there is any cross-contamination from refuse to recycling, the council will not be able to collect. This will also incur a cost to the site, by having to instruct a contractor to reorganise the recycling.

Rubbish and recycling will always be a contentious issue as it involves both communal and personal responsibility. We all have a responsibility to recycling where we can. Not only that, but communal living necessitates respect for your neighbours. Everyone wants to live in a clean and safe environment, and we can all do our best to make sure that happens.

For more information about your developments recycling procedures you can contact your IPM development manager directly.

Spring into action with a spring clean to your property

Whether you live in a managed flat or a private apartment you should still consider what you can do to personally maintain your property.

With the days finally getting longer and lighter and winter releasing its icy grip. This can only mean one thing…Spring is nearly here! While many of us will take the opportunity to get our flats and apartments in order inside, we tend to neglect the important stuff outside.

This is especially important for landlords or owners of apartments and flats who have an obligation to tenants and other residents for maintenance. Your roof is vital all year round and it’s taken a battering from the storms, ice and snow that winter has brought – so it might need some attention.

Declutter your gutter

Excessive wind and rain will have taken their toll on your guttering and downpipes this winter. Clogged up guttering can cause blockages, which can lead to poor drainage, overflowing water and even problems with, damp inside flats and apartments in the building? Ask you managing agent to remove the leaves, moss and other debris that have found there way into your drainage system.

Roof protection

Moss and dirt won’t cause huge problems, right? Wrong! Moss, mould and dirt will eat away at your roof defences and weaken them. Moss also contains a lot of moisture, which can lead to damp problems in your apartment too.  Check with your managing agent if they have a schedule of maintenance for the roof and never attempt any repairs.

Chimney and vent hot spots

The immediate area around chimneys and vents is prone to damage. Bad weather can have adverse effects on the seals around the chimney and other fixings like roof lights and windows. Check for signs of damage in your attic or in the top floor flat of the building if any light or drafts are coming through cracks there could be a problem that needs attention. Shop around for an appropriate sealant or retile damaged areas if the crack or gap is significant within your apartment.

Potential tree damage

The bad weather will have damaged the grounds and natural surroundings of your building. Although trees collapsing onto your property are unlikely and will be looked at by your managing agent, long branches scrapping across your roof or the windows of your apartment can be a nuisance and will cause problems too. Overhanging trees can also blow leaves and dirt onto your roof too and clog up your guttering.

Landlord of flats or apartments has an obligation to maintain the communal grounds too.

Always inspect your apartment/flat and if in doubt ask your managing agent what is in the agreed maintenance plan to make sure you are covered for your Spring clean. Never attempt to clean any communal/ roof areas, as professionals should do this.

Our team can help if you are looking for a new managing agent for your block property with transparent maintenance schedules and simply pricing plans

 

 

 

Improving energy efficiency in blocks of flats

If you live in a flat there are a number of different people or companies who might need to be involved in any changes you want to make to your home. The following guidance is for owners, renters, freeholders and management committee members in blocks of flats who are thinking about energy efficiency improvements.

Blocks of flats in England and Wales are owned by a freeholder who has overall responsibility for the building and communal areas, while individual private flats are owned by leaseholders. In many cases, blocks of flats are managed by a property management company or a residents’ management committee on behalf of the freeholder.

What to consider

If you are thinking about energy improvements in a flat or across a block of flats, carefully read the lease for each flat concerned. Leases make up the local law for your block of flats and can vary between flats in the same building. Leases determine what parts of the building belong to individual flats and what to the freeholder, and what permission flat owners need to get from freeholders before they make different improvements.

If you are thinking about making energy improvements to your flat, or your block of flats, what you can do varies depending on your status

Private tenant

If you’re a private renter you can usually make changes to the light bulbs (but check your tenancy agreement) and obviously upgrade any of your own appliances to a more efficient model. Generally, if you want fixed improvements, such as insulationwindowssolar panels or a more efficient heating system, you will have to ask your landlord, and bear in mind they will usually then need to seek permission from the freeholder of the block. However, if you are willing to pay for energy efficiency improvements yourself, you do have some additional rights under the 2011 Energy Act.

Flat owner

If you own a flat, either as an owner occupier or private landlord, your ability to make different improvements inside your flat will depend on the terms of your lease. You must check the terms: leases can vary even within the same building. The lease will determine what belongs to you, e.g. you might own the glass inside your windows but not the window frame, and determine whether, for example, you can make structural improvements inside your flat. Usually there is a need to seek your freeholder’s consent for most improvements inside the flat and you may have to pay an administrative fee for the freeholder to give their consent.

If you are a private landlord who owns a flat you have additional rights to make energy efficiency improvements under the terms of the 2011 Energy Act – please see box below.

Management committees, building management companies and freeholders

If you are involved in managing a block of flats on behalf of the freeholder (for example as a residents’ management committee) you are in a great position to make energy efficiency upgrades. You might think, for example, about changing windows or installing wall insulation and loft insulation across the block of flats. You will need to review the leases for all the flats in the building. Unfortunately, leases can pose difficulties: if leases do not allow you to share the costs of improvements (often leases allow for the costs of building repairs and maintenance to be shared but not improvements), you will, at least, need the agreement of all the flat owners as to how you are going to allocate costs and you may need to reach agreement to revise lease terms. In either case you will need to consult a solicitor.

This is a complicated area and you are strongly recommended to carefully consult the regulations and to seek legal advice. In strict legal terms a freeholder is a long term landlord, and a leaseholder is a long term tenant. In this guidance, for the avoidance of doubt, we use the term “landlord” to mean a person or organisation renting out a flat on a short term tenancy, and “tenant” to mean a short term tenant.

 

Considerations when altering a leasehold residential property

What you should consider when making alterations in your leasehold residential property?

Lease covenants

Lease covenants about alterations usually fall into two categories, an absolute prohibition on alterations or a qualified covenant. An absolute covenant means that you are not allowed to make any alterations to the property. Should this be the case, you may attempt to negotiate with the landlord possibilities of obtaining consent. This may need to involve the payment of a premium to the landlord as an incentive to grant consent. The landlord however is not under any obligation to agree to your alterations no matter how much value this may add to the property.

A qualified covenant may permit certain alterations subject to obtaining the landlord’s consent. In such circumstances, there is an implied obligation on the landlord not to unreasonably withhold or delay consent. There is no clear answer as to what constitutes reasonably withholding consent. It will depend on the individual facts and circumstances.

In certain circumstances, your landlord may provide their consent subject to certain conditions. These conditions may be the payment of their legal fees and / or payment of a reasonable sum for any damage to the property or diminution in the value of the freehold interest of the property. Your landlord may also request an undertaking from you to reinstate the property at the end of the lease term. Any application under the lease will normally require you to pay the landlord’s reasonable costs, whether or not consent is given.

Planning permission

In addition to considering whether landlord’s consent is required, you will also need to consider whether you need planning permission, Building Regulations approval or Party Wall Awards. You may need the consent of any lender as well. You should also note that if you have a share of the freehold or are a shareholder in the landlord company, you will still need to obtain any consent under the lease from the other freehold owners or the company.

As a rule always make sure you have the consent in writing as you may need to provide this to a buyer when selling the property.

If you would like to find out more about our Property Managers and how they can manage your residential block, giving you clear and transparent schedules, please get in touch today and speak to one of our experts.

What’s going on in the housing market after The Election?

The latest election result has once again surprised the pundits and the general election has ended in a hung Parliament. There can be little doubt that whatever your political views, a hung parliament at this very crucial time in our nation’s history is not good news. On a more positive note there will be much more cross-party discussion ensuring thorough and robust debate on key issues, most especially Brexit and the economy.

What’s happening with the housing market?

The housing market, is proving to be much more resilient despite the political uncertainty. The average property price in the UK hit an all-time high of £303,200 in May. Across England and Wales this year house prices have increased by 4.8%, a rise on the previous month’s 3.5% according to the most recent HPI from Your Move. The latest figures from the Land Registry showed that in March London prices increased 1.5% with outer London recording an increase of 5%.

Your Move said house prices rose by 0.3% month-on-month in May as the housing market remained strong.  An estimated 62,500 homes changed hands in May, a substantial figure demonstrating the housing market remains buoyant.

How will this result effect landlords and tax?

If this minority government can survive, we would expect it only to do so without any dramatic changes to their agreed manifesto. Earlier this year even with the planned national insurance increase announced at the Budget, that even with a majority government it is difficult to do anything outside of the manifesto.

Therefore for as long as the minority Tory government is around, we should expect much the same. This could be seen as good news from a tax perspective, with the planned tax-free personal allowances and basic rate band increases to be introduced over the next few years, without any increases to Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax or VAT. For landlords this unfortunately also means that the deeply unpopular tax relief restriction on mortgage interest is expected to survive, with the gradual implementation continuing from now through until April 2020 when the full restriction is in place.

Tax is ever changing and evolving, with at least one Budget each year with the potential to change significant legislation each time. It is normal for there to be both winners and losers out of any Budget changes. Many feel that landlords have been on a losing streak in recent years under Tory guidance, and arguably this would continue under a Labour Government.

The great unknown for all is the Brexit impact – if things go well on negotiations, would the economy start to see improvements for all, such that tax levels could be cut, or will we see an expensive exit that will make current spending commitments and tax levels completely unsustainable?

Owning and Managing a Listed Building

Owning and Managing a Listed Building is considered by English Heritage and the Government to be a building of special architectural or historic interest, and worthy of protection. Houses are the most common buildings to be ‘listed’ but listed buildings range from major structures, walls, to individual boundary stones or lamp-posts.

Inclusion on the statutory list protects the exterior and interior of buildings from all types of inappropriate and unsympathetic alteration, under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Buildings are listed to ensure that their “special interest” is passed down to future generations in good condition. The longterm interests of a historic building are best served by keeping it in use, and listing protects buildings while allowing appropriate positive change to occur.

Who decides?

The Government decides which buildings are included on the statutory lists, based on recommendations by English Heritage. Anyone can suggest buildings to English Heritage, using a simple form available on their website, but a building will only be included on the list if it is judged to be of special interest after being visited and assessed by an English Heritage inspector. You can visit www.englishheritage.org.uk for more information. If a historic building that may be worthy of listing is under threat, the local authority can serve a ‘building preservation notice’ on the owner and occupier. This ‘lists’ and protects a building for six months pending a decision by the Government as to whether it should be added to the statutory list.

It is a criminal offence to carry out work to a listed building, other than minor like-for-like repairs, without first obtaining Listed Building Consent, and it could lead upon conviction to a period of imprisonment and a very heavy fine.

What grade is it?

There are around 374,000 listed buildings in England. Buildings are classified into grades to indicate their relative significance:
Grade I (one) Buildings of exceptional interest – about 2.5% of all list entries (note: this can include whole terraces as just one entry) in England.
Grade II* (two star) Particularly important buildings of more than special interest – about 5.5% of all list entries in England.
Grade II (two) Buildings of special interest which warrant every effort being made to preserve them – the remaining 92. Each grade is equally protected under the planning system, the main difference is that English Heritage must be consulted on applications for works to buildings of grade I and II*

What alterations need consent?

Listed Building Consent is required for any alteration which materially affects the ‘special interest’ of a listed building. For example, consent would normally be needed for any of the following alterations:
External:
• Adding an extension or rebuilding walls in different materials.
• Changing the roof pitch or roof covering materials.
• Inserting roof lights, removing, altering or adding dormer windows, adding solar panels or other microgeneration equipment.
• Altering or removing chimney stacks and pots.
• Covering existing wall surfaces e.g. with render, cladding or paint.
• Changing the size of door, window or other openings.
• Altering window frames or doors, replacement with different types, including replacement of singleglazing with double-glazing.
• Removing historic features e.g. door cases, chimney breasts.
• Forming new openings for any reason, including boiler flues.
• Changing the material of any rainwater goods.
• Adding any feature including porches, signs, satellite dishes,

security alarm boxes, CCTV cameras or external floodlights.
• Inserting cavity wall insulation.
• Works to boundary walls.
• Works to buildings in the grounds that were present in 1948 and at the time of listing.

Internal:
• Altering the plan by removing or adding walls or forming new openings.
• Taking out or altering original features including staircases, fireplaces, decorative plasterwork, panelling, shutters, doors, architraves and skirting boards.
• Installing new ceilings, partitions, doors and secondary glazing.
• Filling in cellars, or digging out cellars to increase usable floor space.
• Removing or replacing floors or floor finishes.
• The obliteration of wall paintings, decorative tiles and mosaics.
• Installing new ducting, waste pipes and openings associated with new bathrooms.
• Inserting damp proof courses or tanking systems. Some works that require Listed Building Consent may also require Planning Permission or Building Regulations approval. You should check with the council before you apply for consent.

Listed Building Maintenance

If you own a listed building you should keep it in reasonable repair. The most important element of caring for historic buildings is maintenance, which if undertaken regularly can avoid the need for repair or restoration work altogether, saving you money and time, and sustaining the historic fabric of the building into the future. By establishing the nature, extent and cause of any problems at an early
stage by carrying out regular inspections, owners will have the opportunity of remedying defects promptly and economically.

Damp problems, in particular, can often be remedied quickly and without using expensive and invasive damp proofing methods. Damp is usually the result of water getting into a building, for example through a leaking or blocked gutter. If the water source is removed and the building left to dry out naturally, the problem will normally be resolved. The inspection of a large house or similar sized building may well be within the capability of the average owner but if historic buildings are of particular importance or complexity, it may be necessary to employ experts from different specialisms to design appropriate repairs.

IPM have experience in managing a range of listed buildings and objects from a listed mill, a clock tower, a chess board and many other listed properties within their portfolio. If you would like to discuss your listed building and are looking for an expert in managing this type of property or development, please get in touch with a member of our team.