Top Tips for Working Remotely

With phase two of lockdown now heading our way, it’s again time to get your motivation back for remote working.  Sounds easy, right?

Not for everyone. The newfound freedom is tough for some employees to adjust to, especially going back into the second phase, so better to have a plan and structure in place to keep up your productivity. Since companies rarely explain effective ways to work remotely, IPM have put together a few recommendations that have helped their team with working from home.

Remote working is becoming more common, so consider the habits below to get the most out of the days you’re not in the office.

1. Find a workspace

First, you’ll have room to spread out your work materials — such as papers, books, and reports — and leave them out the entire day. This beats working at the kitchen table. Then, you have to clean up your materials for lunch; get everything out to work in the afternoon; and clear everything away for dinner. Second, a dedicated workspace can help your motivation. When you go to this designated space, you know that it’s time to work.

2. Invest in work materials

I’ve worked for both type of companies and find that having the right materials, whether or not I buy them, is well worth it. Investing in a few supplies is a relatively minimal cost to do great work and maintain the autonomy working remotely offers.

3. Make a schedule

I also schedule breaks. For example, after writing an article for two hours, I’ll take a 15-minute break. Taking breaks is an important part of managing your energy throughout the day. Leaving your home or apartment for a bit and taking a walk is a great way to boost your energy levels for the afternoon ahead.

4. Communicate with colleagues

I find it helpful to check digital communication tools at designated times during my day. When I create my daily schedule, I note when I’ll check email and Slack, for example. Some people set up an automatic response on their email, alerting colleagues when they should expect a response. And still others, like managers, may find it helpful to tell team members in advance when they’re available to talk or respond to emails.

5. Have designated work clothes

6. Reduce distractions

7. Determine the end of your workday

That’s why it’s important to determine in advance when you’re workday will end. Include this in your daily plan discussed above. Then, close your laptop and place it in your book bag or close your office door so your computer is out of sight.

8. Use your peak hours effectively

The answer to such questions can help you determine your peak work periods. I’m a morning person; I prefer working early in the morning and immediately after lunch. I prioritize my important tasks for these periods and the save less-important stuff for later in the day when I’m mentally fatigued. Knowing when you work best can help you get the most out of your day.

More companies should explain how employees can be effective when working remotely. Until then, try out the above suggestions and see what works best for you.

Green Homes Grant Scheme Now Open

The UK Government announced back on the 30th September, applications had  opened for the Green Homes Grant Scheme, which allows landlords and homeowners to apply for a grant of up to £10,000 towards the cost of making homes more energy efficient.

The Green Homes Grant Scheme

On 8 July 2020, the UK Government announced the Green Home Grants Scheme for landlords and homeowners to help make their property more energy efficient.

Under the scheme landlords and homeowners in England can apply for a voucher to fund at least two-thirds of the cost of hiring tradespeople to upgrade the energy performance of their homes, up to a maximum contribution of £5,000 or up to £10,000 for lower-income households.

The aim of the Green Home Grant is to upgrade over 600,000 homes across England, with the UK Government saying that this will save households hundreds of pounds per year on their energy bills.

The scheme is now open for applications, if you’d like to find out more please click on the link below.

Apply for a Green Homes Grant

Preparing for a change in temperature in your property

Lettings agents’ group ARLA Propertymark has issued a seven point guide for landlords as winter approaches.

The guide ensures the points are Covid-secure, and are:

1. Clear out the gutters: Falling leaves may look picturesque, but they can cause big problems if left untouched in your gutter. Frozen water, heavy leaves and blockages can all lead to leaks and water damage or even broken gutters, so it’s important to keep them clear from any debris to minimise the risk.

2. Keep it breezy: When it’s cold or wet outside, windows usually stay shut; however, this can lead to condensation in your property which can cause damp. You should speak to and educate your tenants on the issue and encourage them to open windows in particularly humid areas such as the kitchen and bathroom. You can also help by ensuring extractor fans are working properly in these areas.

3. Bleed the radiators: If your tenants are feeling cold despite having the heating on, it could mean that the radiators need bleeding. Bleeding the radiators doesn’t need to be a big job and it will make sure the pipes in your property are being heated properly when the temperature drops. The best thing to do is to speak to your tenants and explain that this will keep them warmer too! Alternatively, if local restrictions permit it, you can go to your property and bleed the radiators yourself. Remember to speak to your tenants before visiting to make sure that they are not shielding, self-isolating and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. It’s also important to remember to socially distance and wear a mask to protect them once inside the property.

4. Trip Hazards: Wet and cold weather leads to slippery drives and icey steps, but this can also lead to cracks in pathways which may cause tenants to trip and fall. In order to prevent this, it’s best to stay on top of any existing cracks from small to large and either get someone professional to fix them or clear the debris and fill them yourself.

5. Check the boiler: It’s good practice to get your boiler serviced around once a year, but with lower temperatures outside, tenants will be making the most of their heating, especially as many will be working from their homes, so it could be worth getting an extra service. As long as your tenant is not self-isolating, they can allow a plumber into the property to check the boiler works efficiently which will keep them warm and your property in good condition.

6. Safety first: With long dark nights drawing in, it’s worth double checking that the burglar alarm and security lights are working in your property. Tenants might not be out and about as much as expected due to social distancing restrictions, but with less natural light, a visible alarm can still be a good deterrent. You may also want to consider chatting to your tenants to make sure they don’t leave expensive items on display which could attract thieves when they are out the property.

7. Insurance: Even with all of these checks, things can still go wrong particularly if the weather really takes a turn, so you should ensure your current home insurance is up to date and check the policy gives sufficient protection for any weather-related damage particularly to your boiler and roof.

Jenrick extends ban on evictions and notice periods

The ban on evictions extended for another 4 weeks and new 6 month notice periods to be in place until at least 31 March 2021.

Renters affected by coronavirus will continue to be protected after the government extended the ban on evictions for another 4 weeks, meaning in total no legal evictions will have taken place for 6 months, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced on the 21st August 2020.

The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.

The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.

When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.

The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been evicted since the start.

As a result, according to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing reduced fees with their landlords.

The vast majority of landlords have shown understanding and leadership, taking action to support tenants.

With coronavirus still posing an ongoing risk to public health, the government will continue to take action where necessary to further protect households in both the private and social rented sector are supported over winter, helping to keep them safe.

Today’s extension to the stay and 6 month notice periods will ensure those most at risk are protected. If tenants are unable to afford their rent we encourage them to speak to their landlord to agree a solution, and some households may decide to consider moving.

Government will continue to work with the judiciary and stakeholders to ensure that the courts are prepared for eviction cases to be heard safely.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:

I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months.

I am also increasing protections for renters – 6 month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.

However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.

Further information

Case listing, including prioritisation, is a judicial function and we are working with the judiciary through the Master of the Rolls’ Working Group on possession to consider the categories of serious cases that would be prioritised when hearings resume. Further detail on those categories will be set out in due course and we will engage with key stakeholders on this.

Independent polling for the National Residential Landlords Associationrecently found that 87% of private tenants have paid their rent as normal throughout the pandemic so far. An additional 8% said that they had agreed a reduced rent, a rent-free period or made some other agreement with their landlord or letting agent.

The extension to the ban on evictions and prioritisation of the most serious case applies to courts in England and Wales

The intention to extend notice periods to 6 month applies to England only.

On 5 June the government announced that the suspension of housing possession cases in the courts had been extended by a further 2 months.

To support those on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit in the private rented sector, Local Housing Allowance rates have been set to the 30th percentile of rents in each area. For those who require additional support Discretionary Housing Payments are available.

As announced at the spending round for 2020/21 there is already £180 million in Discretionary Housing Payments for Local authorities to distribute for supporting renters with housing costs in the private and social rented sectors.

We remain committed to bringing forward reforms to provide greater security to tenants, but it is only right that this is balanced with an assurance that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reasons to do so. This is vital to ensuring the future supply of good quality housing in the rented sector.

We will bring forward legislation in due course, once the urgencies of responding to the pandemic have passed, to deliver a better deal for renters and a fairer more effective rental market.

SOURCE: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jenrick-extends-ban-on-evictions-and-notice-periods

IPM welcomes new director, Sarah Parkyn

NEW DIRECTOR APPOINTMENT AT IPM

IPM is excited to welcome Sarah Parkyn as a new director of Inspired Property Management effective from the 1st August 2020. The appointment will expand the board of directors from three to four independent directors, bringing valuable experience and insight to the board. This appointment will enable the board of directors to enhance its commercial experience and operational insight, particularly within property industry.

Sarah is an award-winning property manager with over 20 years’ experience in the property management. In 2019, Sarah won two awards for achieving the most outstanding exam papers in both the Associate and Membership exams for the IRPM, resulting in her MIRPM and AssocRICS qualification. Sarah will continue her role as Director at Resident’s Quarter alongside her new appointment.

Sarah Parkyn, director at Inspired Property Management, said: “It’s a huge honour to have been appointed as a director at IPM, especially during these challenging times as this shows IPM’s continued commitment to growth and leadership for the business. I’m excited about working closely with Danielle Parker and David Poppleton to contribute to the strategic leadership and management of the company. IPM provide a fantastic service for their customers, and are highly regarded as professional leasehold block managers.”

“Having worked as the director of Residents Quarter Limited with Danielle and David over the last three years, I have witnessed first-hand their dedication to making IPM, one of the leading Property Management agencies in the Country. I’m thrilled to be joining them to lead the team and take the next steps for future growth at the company.”

Danielle Parker, director at Inspired Property Management, commented: “I am delighted to have Sarah join us at this important and exciting time. As we have previously worked with Sarah, we understood her drive and experience within the industry and felt this was a good fit as part of the leadership team to continue with the expansion plans for the business.”

“Sarah is an exceptionally qualified and experienced director who will utilise her vast knowledge to ensure the further development of IPM through the next phase of growth, she will have my full support and that of our other directors. I am excited for what we will achieve now and in the future.”

New leasehold reforms to ‘transform the future of home ownership’

The Law Commission of England and Wales has published a package of leasehold reforms which it says will “transform home ownership for millions of people in England and Wales”.

The improvements would make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to buy the freehold, extend their lease, or convert to commonhold. The reforms will also pave the way for a system where flats are sold with freehold title (as part of a commonhold).

The reforms would also make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to take over the management of their building without buying the freehold, by exercising the right to manage.

It has been estimated there are at least 4.3 million leasehold homes in England alone.

The reforms – laid out in three reports – work in tandem with planned changes from the Government, but the Law Commission says it is ultimately up to Government to decide whether the reforms should be compulsory (in all or some circumstances), incentivised, or left optional.

The first report, the Enfranchisement report, recommends changes to make the scheme of enfranchisement rights work more smoothly and efficiently. This would allow buildings with up to 50% non-residential space would qualify (rather than 25%, as is currently the case), as well as enabling leaseholders to make a claim straightaway, rather than having to wait for two years.

Additionally, the price to purchase a block would be reduced by allowing leaseholders to compel landlords to take “leasebacks” of some flats.

Leaseholders would be able to buy the freehold of multiple buildings at once and a new right to a lease extension for a term of 990 years would be introduced, in place of shorter extensions of 90 or 50 years under the current law.

The second report, the Right to Manage report, recommends the removal of existing obligations on leaseholders to pay the landlord’s costs of the RTM process, including of any Tribunal action.

It also wants to make the RTM claims process easier by reducing the number of notices that leaseholders must serve, and giving the Tribunal the power to waive minor procedural mistakes in the process.

The third report, the Commonhold report, sets out a plan to make commonhold not just a workable alternative to residential leasehold for all involved, but the preferred alternative.

The recommendations place leaseholders in control of the conversion process and enable conversion to commonhold without the agreement of every person, with safeguards to protect those who have not agreed.

It also wants to introduce flexibility into the way commonholds can be built and managed, enabling their use for developments of all types and sizes – moving away from a “one size fits all” approach which the Commission says makes the current scheme too inflexible for many developments.

Professor Nick Hopkins, Commissioner for property law, said: “The leasehold system is not working for millions of homeowners in England and Wales. We have heard how the current law leaves them feeling like they don’t truly own their home.

“Our reforms will make a real difference by giving leaseholders greater control over their homes, offering a cheaper and easier route out of leasehold, and establishing commonhold as the preferred alternative system. The reforms will provide a better deal for leaseholders and make our homes work for us, and not somebody else.”

Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government, Welsh Government, commented: “These comprehensive and much anticipated reports mark a significant step towards much needed reform. It is clear that the current leasehold system often fails resident leaseholders and these reports will give us a better understanding of the issues involved; we now need to take the time to consider them carefully.

“The Law Commission have undertaken a mammoth task in unpicking the current law, engaging widely on the options for change, and putting forward comprehensive recommendations and I’m grateful to them for their excellent work.”

How to spot structural problems in apartment blocks

How do you know whether your building is showing normal signs of settling, or sinking dangerously into the earth on which it’s built? It’s a fine line, and as a landlord it’s worth being able to spot the warning signs. If you manage a property or properties in a residential block, then you are responsible for the maintenance and ongoing safety of the building.

What are the types of structural problems on buildings?

Any structural issue should be dealt with urgently and serious problem that can have dangerous implications for a building, so it requires constant attention if it becomes evident.

What is subsidence?

When the ground on which a property is built collapses or subsides, it can take the foundations of the building with it, and compromise the whole structure, causing one side of it to sink.

This causes major cracks to appear and puts the entire building at immediate risk of collapse. Subsidence can happen to buildings of any age, as it is a problem resulting from the ground and soil.

Change in the texture or makeup of the ground underneath your property can cause subsidence. While there are a number of reasons why this may occur, weather is often a major factor. Excessively hot and dry spells can cause the ground to subside and crack as it loses its moisture, especially if your property is built on clay. Equally, large amounts of rainfall can wash away soil and soften the ground to such an extent that it loses its integrity. Other causes of subsidence include nearby plants and trees – when these are too close to a building.

What is heave?

When the ground underneath all or part of a property begins to move upwards and expand this is known as heave. It can cause significant damage to a building and is often linked to changes in soil moisture.

The most common reason that heave occurs is the removal of nearby trees or other vegetation, which causes the ground to gain moisture and swell.

What is landslip?

The term landslip refers to the gradual or sudden movement of soil on a slope. Landslip is usually caused by nearby works which undercut a slope, removal of walls, redirection of a water channel or the overloading of debris at a higher point.

What are the signs of structural problems in a residential apartment block?

Cracks are the biggest indicator of structural problems, but it is important not to assume that all cracks are evidence of a serious issue. Hairline cracks occur in walls as a normal part of a new building’s settling process, as walls naturally swell and shrink slightly according to temperature.

However, more prominent cracks are a sign of serious problems. Cracks are likely to be caused by structural problems if they are:

  • More than 3mm wide (i.e. thicker than a 10p coin)
  • Visible on both sides of the wall
  • Close to doors and windows
  • Wider at the top than at the bottom, and run diagonally

There are other signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Doors and windows beginning to jam as their frames warp
  • Wallpaper crinkling where it meets the ceiling or floor
  • Cracks where an extension joins the main house

Any one of these signs of structural problems is a cause for concern and should be investigated thoroughly without delay. As a landlord you should carry out regular inspections of the exterior and interior of the property in order to spot them before they become a problem.

What to do if you suspect structural problems

If you think that your property may be suffering damage as a result of structural problems, you should contact your landlord insurance provider immediately to see if these issues are covered. The first step will be to have a qualified surveyor visit the property. They may decide that the best way forward is to closely monitor the building for a period of time without yet taking action, rather than taking immediate invasive action which could risk further damage to the structure. The foundations of the building may also need to be closely investigated and soil samples might be taken.

How to fix structural problems?

If the cracks are deemed severe enough to need action, underpinning is the most common solution to structural problems. This is a process which reinforces the structural support of the building’s foundations in order to strengthen them.

In more extreme cases, partial demolition and rebuilding may need to take place in order to ensure the building can continue to be safely occupied.

How Digitisation is Impacting Residential Buildings

Like all UK industries, property is impacted by COVID-19 and the effect of the lockdown on the way it works. But despite this ‘new normal’, we cannot ignore our sector’s other key issues. The use of building technology is changing the way we live. In the last decade we have seen a revolution in technology; in particular the way in which data influences our daily lives. It is increasingly being used by stakeholders across the property sector to inform decision-making and digitise both information flow and transactional business.

In response, today the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) publishes the second part of its 2020 Tech Insight programme. Making the right connections: the impact of technology on building management is a white paper highlighting the key issues raised by the impact of technology on the way our buildings are built and managed. From building management systems to resident portals and from repair reporting to the internet of things, there is a myriad of ways in which technology can be used to improve the pace and quality of service delivery.

The IRPM brought together a group of leading industry experts to discuss the impact of data and advances in building technology on the management of residential blocks. The white paper captures this conversation, highlighting the technological challenges for the sector and sets out next steps for the property management profession.

Key points are that:

  • Assets that are digitised will yield higher values.
  • A cultural shift is needed if the property management sector is to reap the benefits of digitisation – and in turn deliver value for residents.
  • If property managers can effectively harness the data they hold and use it to drive innovative customer-facing products, in future this will act as a differentiator between technical competence and technical excellence.

To address these challenges, the paper pinpoints the need for:

  • A platform for tech and software providers to communicate with the property industry.
  • Cross-industry collaboration to determine what is needed by operators and occupiers and avoid development of unsuitable and ineffective solutions.
  • Government intervention to unleash the potential of this market segment.

Launching the White Paper today, Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM said: “These discussions and white papers are pivotal to start the conversation around the ways in which technology is already impacting our residential buildings and will change the way they are built and managed in the years to come.”

Please click here to download the full white paper.

Certificate of compliance: what is this and why do we need to pay for it?

Question: We are buying a leasehold flat and our solicitor says that he needs to get us a certificate of compliance, and we will have to meet the cost of this. What is this certificate?

Answer: In the course of the conveyancing process your solicitor must have discovered a restriction on the title to the flat in favour of the landlord or the management company that would prevent you being registered as the new proprietor or owner unless the Land Registry is provided with a certificate of compliance.

In general, this is a document which confirms that you and your solicitor have complied with the various covenants and obligations listed in the terms of the lease.

Common requirements for a certificate of compliance would be that you have to enter into a deed of covenant with the landlord or managing agent in which you confirm you will observe the terms of the lease.

This deed of covenant should be signed by you and sent to the landlord or managing agent by your solicitor together with a notice of assignment and/or notice of charge, and any fee that is due to the landlord or managing agent for issuing the certificate of compliance.

Once you and your solicitor have complied with the requirements, the landlord or managing agent should issue the certificate of compliance which your solicitor can produce to the Land Registry. The registry will then remove the restriction on the title so that you can be registered as the proprietor.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

5 Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Mental Well-being

Stress is a natural reaction of your body when it adapts to changes or adjustments that are required in life, this is now more prevalent than ever finding the new ‘normal’ for people. Our body reacts to these changes in multiple ways, some changes can be physical and some changes can be mental or emotional.

A person can experience both good and bad types of stress. For example, “good stress” might result from getting married or having a baby. And “bad stress” might result from the death of a loved on, a break-up, or an unexpected job loss. While the causes and emotions involved can be very different, stress can have similar physical effects no matter the cause.

The human body is designed to handle stress

Stress is necessary for us, as it keeps us alert and motivated. It’s part of our natural “fight or flight” response that protects us.

But too much of anything is bad for you, and stress is no exception. Too much stress can cause damage both physically and mentally.

In this chaotic world, it is difficult not to get overwhelmed by stress. The struggle of adjusting to the new changed in your work life, managing and supporting your family, and not being able to interact socially with friends can cause an abundance of stress that your body might not be able to handle. That makes it essential to take some time out to address these new changes and relax, reduce stress, and focus on your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Learn to cope with, and reduce, stress in your life

Here are five ways you can reduce stress and live a happier, more relaxed, life.

1. Eliminate unnecessary causes of stress

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to find out what’s causing it and eliminate those root causes wherever possible. Is it your work, your school, or your commute? If you can figure out what stresses you, you can work to eliminate those things or make positive changes.

Try to accept that the current situation will not be forever and it’s just for a period of time.

2. Go easy on yourself

You need to accept that you will never be able to control everything. Also you can never do things perfectly no matter how hard you try because perfection lies in the eye of the holder. Learn to accept these realities and stop beating yourself up over these things.

Also, it’s important to maintain a sense of humor. Laughter can go a long way toward reducing stress and keeping you relaxed.

3. Take time for yourself

To reduce stress and find more mental peace, you need to spend some downtime with yourself. Going outdoors, even if this is juts in the garden or for a brief walk will have many health benefits for both body and mind.

Or if you are a music-loving person you can listen to music that relaxes you. Meditation and prayer are also great restful things you can do to reduce your stress while enjoying some peaceful time by yourself.

4. Eat well

Eating a well-balanced meal is an essential way to keep your stress levels low. Eating healthy, fresh, whole foods not only helps your body feel well in general but also reduces stress and can help regulate moods.

Frequently skipping meals or overloading on sugar and junk foods can increase your body’s stress reactions over time and waistline!

5. Exercise

Exercise a vital part of your life. It keeps your body healthy and helps reduce stress. Exercise can help reduce stress because it releases endorphins in the brain and makes you happy. And being happy is the key to reducing stress.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your physical stress and elevate your mood. An average person needs to exercise at least three hours each week to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce stress. To maximise exercise’s stress-busting effects, choose activities you love. That might include a favourite sport, running, cycling, yoga or you can even get on-line with Joe Wicks PE for the nation.

When you focus on these five things, you should feel less stressed and more relaxed in no time.