The BIG Broadband issue

With the advances in technology and many people being reliant on their Broadband for watching television, managing their appliances, monitoring their homes and the ever evolving world of remote working, broadband infrastructure is now in demand more than ever.

Previously many management company knew very little about the broadband infrastructure  available across their developments. Now it’s become one of the biggest issue for tenants, which means it’s now very much hitting the top of property managers agendas.

It’s become a huge part of the decision-making process as much as proximity to good schools and transport links. It forms the foundation of the connected home and when it doesn’t perform well, it impacts on people’s ability to work and enjoyment of technology advances.

Broadband lottery

Resident management companies and property managers need to understand what infrastructure is available, and crucially what the process is to enhance it so they may inform all tenants of how they can improve on their infrastructure. Currently broadband is very much a post-code lottery.  USwitch recently reported that the average speed in the UK was 46.2Mbps, but 13% of homes have speeds below 5Mbps. Also, according to research by Think Broadband, one in eight new properties have speeds so slow they fall below the Government’s minimum requirement of 10Mbps.

Speedy resolve

Here are the different types of broadband infrastructures available:

  • ADSL broadband – Many blocks still only have access to copper based ADSL broadband that cannot deliver over 5Mbps.
  • Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) – this is what is most commonly available and sold as ‘fibre’ by many of the big Internet Service Providers. This is somewhat misleading, as FTTC simply means that there is fibre to a junction box on the street, so the connection into the building is still delivered over copper phone lines. As a result, there continue to be huge issues with peak-time slowdowns and distance attenuation, further away the property is from the telephone exchange, or the higher the flat the poorer the service.

  • Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) – also known as ‘full fibre.’ the ‘gold standard’ of broadband – its now available across 8% of the UK and the government is commited for everyone to have it by 2033. With full fibre the customer can enjoy symmetrical gigabit broadband services at 1,000Mbps. With these speeds, HD movies can be downloaded in seconds and families can simultaneously access the Internet, without any frustrating slowdowns, buffering or timeouts.

Fibre for all

Once installed, a full-fibre connection can also be leveraged for other purposes which could add value to the development for residents – such as offering communal Wi-Fi hotspots. In addition, in the future this type of broadband will almost certainly be used for IPCCTV (Internet-enabled CCTV) for security systems and monitoring. Also, if every unit in the development is connected at once, which can easily be done in a new development, it means that residents can be online within minutes of moving in – removing wait times for installation and maximising rental returns.

Connectivity is now an essential utility for all tenants. Flat owners and renters expect it as standard. Property managers that provide a future-proofed reliable connection are therefore a step closer to minimising rental voids and, crucially, keeping tenants satisfied. If you’d like us to discuss managing your block of flat, please contact a member of the team today.

I still don’t understand my service charge?

At Inspired Property Management we like to help our clients and customers and ensure they fully understand what a service charge is and why they have to pay it.

Most new apartment tenants have no idea what a service charge is or why it’s required. IPM will guide you through understanding your service charge and the reason it is required.

What is a service charge?

Service charges are payments made by residents for services that are provided by the landlord or managing agent in respect of common parts of buildings and external communal areas of the estate. For example; if you live in a flat, you are required to pay services for internal communal areas in the building that your flat is situated as well as external communal areas. Examples of these charges could be internal cleaning, painting and gardening. Examples of further services you may be charged for are: sweeping of footpaths, litter picking and gardening to communal areas. In short, service charges are costs that are incurred by landlords for the upkeep of communal areas which are then charged to residents under the terms of their lease or transfer agreements. Your lease will detail more information on your services charge and may specify your individual percentage share of estate/block costs.

How do service charges work?

Estimates At the beginning of your service charge year (which is detailed in your lease) we will send you a service charge estimate. This letter estimates the amount we expect to spend on your block/estate during the next year. IPM calculate the estimates based on known servicing costs, contracts and prior year actual costs. You then pay for the full service charge year based on the amount listed within the estimate. Service Charges are variable, meaning that they will change each year depending on the amount spent on your block or estate. Your estimate may increase some years and decrease in others.

Final Accounts

Once the financial year ends, IPM have 6 months to review all expenditure carried out to each block and estate for the past 12 months. Once we have reviewed all of the expenditure, we post out an end of year statement to each resident which details the actual costs incurred. The estimated service charge amount is also shown on this statement as a credit; the charges are shown as a debit amount. The end of year statement then shows whether overall your service charge for that year is in credit or in deficit.

Please note – your estimated service charge amount on your final account statement will be less any ground rent or sinking fund payments. This means you only pay for the services that have been provided. IPM do not make a profit from service charges as we are only allowed to pass on costs that we have incurred. You can check your actual account against your estimate to see the exact differences between estimated costs for each element and the actual costs for each element. If we are unable to finalise the review of expenditure to your block or estate within 6 months we will send you a Section 20B Notice. This is a formal notice required under service charge legislation which sets out the amount we estimate your service charge might be.

Credit

If your end of year statement of account is in credit this means that the amount you have paid towards your service charges for the year is more than the actual amount spent and money is due back to you.

Debit

If your account is in debit this means that the amount that you have paid towards your service charges for the year is less than the actual amount spent. You are liable for the additional costs under the terms of your lease.

Other Charges

In addition to your service charges depending on your lease you may have to pay the following additional charges. Rent is payable if you are a shared owner and have not purchased the full 100% of your property. In this situation, under the terms of your lease you will be required to pay rent on the remaining share of your property. More details on your rent and how this is increased each year is detailed within you lease.

Ground Rent

Some leases allow IPM to collect a ground rent for leaseholder and shared owners. Please refer to your lease for more information on the amount of ground rent and information on when/how this increases.

Sinking Fund

Some leases allow IPM to collect a sinking fund from leaseholders and shared owners. Sinking fund monies are held separately from service charges in a bank account. They are collected each year and usually spent on major works for the block / estate; for example: A lift replacement, a new roof for the block or re laying tarmac on a road within the estate. Please refer to your lease for more information on the sinking fund.

Help and Support

If you still have queries surrounding your end of year service charge account then please contact our customer service centre on 01302 729500. They will be able to direct you to the correct team who can assist you with your query.

Outside of IPM there are also other organisations that may be able to assist you with your queries.  The Leasehold Advisory Service can provide free information, initial advice and guidance to members of the public about residential leasehold law.

What is a Year End Balancing Charge?

At Inspired Property Management we like to make it clear and transparent with all our charges and what is involved in the service charge and balancing charge.

Many service charge payers do not realise that the charge they pay at the start of the service charge year is actually an interim payment. It is an initial estimate of future expenditure for maintaining the building and is not the final service charge payment. In fact the service charge payment cannot be considered to be finalised until after the completion of the service charge accounts.

The service charge accounts will compare the amount budgeted for the year with the amount actually spent. If the actual is more than the budget then a deficit will be produced, if less was spent than budgeted, there will be a surplus.

This balancing charge, which in the event of a surplus will actually be credit, will ensure that the service charge is no longer an estimate. After the charge is invoiced you will only have been billed for the services/work carried out during the service charge year.

Previous Owner

Once you purchase a lease you become responsible for it; this includes the liabilities of the previous owner. For this reason solicitors should always ensure that arrangements are made for the payment of any outstanding service charges prior to the lease changing hands. They should also make enquiries into the financial position of the service charge and determine if a retention is required in case of a deficit.

18 Month Rule

18 Month Rule – As a leaseholder you can only be charged for expenditure within 18 months of the landlord or management company incurring the costs. This includes the balancing charge. This is the reason why service charge accounts have to be produced within 6 months of the year end (18 months from the year start and the first expenditure). However you may find that this is not the case, instead you could receive a section 20b notice, which provides a summary of charges. This provides the landlord or management company more time to produce accurate accounts and should also give you notice of the possibility of a deficit or surplus.

You may find that even though the accounts are produced within 6 months the charges are not applied for some time after this. This is perfectly fine as long as your landlord or management company provide a notice with the accounts (usually in the form of a covering letter) stating that there is a deficit and you will be invoiced for a balancing charge.

Ensure you read your Lease as it’s not 100% guaranteed that balancing charges will be required. Leases are all different and some may not have the provision for balancing charges. Some leases have the provision to recover a deficit position by charging however there is no provision to credit back a surplus.

If you have any questions about your Lease and would like further information about services charges please take a look at the FAQ section on our website where we have answered some of the common questions we get asked.

Benefits of a gym in your development or apartment block

There are many benefits to having a residential gym in your development or apartment block. It encourages people to exercise, increases the value of a property, and builds an excellent community amongst tenants and home owners.

Residential gyms are now at the forefront of a property developer’s mind when designing accommodation. They are now a key feature that sets properties apart in an already fiercely competitive market.

According to a 2018 survey, the UK fitness market is growing at an incredible rate. It’s currently the fastest growing business sector in the country, with an annual growth rate of 8.5%. In simple terms – people today care about getting fit and healthy as part of their lifestyle.

IPM have outlined the top benefits of having a residential gym:

The biggest barrier of going to the gym is the convenience factor. Waking up in the morning and knowing that there’s a gym 30 seconds away can make the world of difference to tenants.

Some of us need a little more motivation when it comes to getting up early and having a good workout. Building a gym is a fantastic way of encouraging people to commit to staying healthy.

The fact that residents do not need to leave the building means they are free to use their own bathroom.

Being able to go home after a workout to use your own shower full of your specific products, towels etc. is such a great advantage.

Returning to your own flat after a workout at your residential gym also means avoiding otherwise busy changing rooms at peak hours in any other gym. This leaves you free to change in the peace and quiet of your own home with no queues.

Most residential gyms are big enough to accommodate a wide range of equipment, giving users a level of variety in their workout, which is hard to get from a personal gym.

Let’s face it, bad weather can stop even the most committed keep-fit fan from leaving the house for a run – especially in winter months. Having a gym in the same building that caters to running, rowing, weights etc. makes exercise far more tempting.

Residential gyms can help to build a community for users and their guests. It’s easy to get to know your neighbours when you work out together. You can encourage each other, motivate each other and become real gym buddies.

For more information about how we could assist with managing your property and our experience of luxury developments with gyms please get in touch with a member of our team 01302 729 500.

Top 5 Property Management Tech trends to watch out for

The rise of “Proptech”

For all its intriguing, futuristic promise, “proptech” is still a rather nebulous concept. While developers or investors look to contain ever-expanding technology into bricks and mortar assets, proptech might mean anything from installing facial-recognition security sensors to tracking energy usage. It might involve enabling occupier employees to customise individual heating preferences with a smart phone app, or using sensors to follow individuals’ movements.

The Cloud

Rewind to a few years ago, “the cloud” was seen as a mysterious pocket of the internet that eluded principals and agents alike. Fast forward to now and the cloud is fast becoming the norm and legacy server-based software is quickly becoming obsolete.

This is due to the many benefits of cloud property management software including time and cost savings, scalability, increased security and greater accessibility. Additionally, cloud-based systems have client access which allow tenants and owners to log in and see their property and financial information 24/7, reducing the amount of communication required. At IPM was have already invested in the technology to allow all our tenants fuse free access anytime, anywhere using the on-line tenant portal.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

With VR, potential buyers and renters can virtually view a property from anywhere in the world, at any time. This means that the property is open for inspection 24/7, allowing agents and clients to save time and money while increasing efficiency and engagement.

Meanwhile augmented reality (AR) apps superimpose a computer-generated image of an object into real life, allowing people to do things like capture Pokemon (if that’s your thing) or virtually decorate a space using their phones or tablets. For brokers and developers, they’ll be able to showcase the potential of an unfinished space using AR to present a desired lifestyle and decrease time on market.

The chat bots

The modern consumer expects immediacy. They want answers to their questions and they want them now. That’s where property management robots like chatbots, voice bots and virtual assistants come in. Not only can they help answer consumer queries with little to no delay to keep consumer expectations at bay, but they can also free up your time to focus on what really matters.

Push technology

Another property management tech trend to watch this year is push technology. While this technology has been around for a few years, it has become increasingly popular as more and more agencies develop their own smartphone apps.

Agencies can use push technology to send content alerts to a smartphone’s locked screen and other notification areas in order to get users back on the app again and generate leads (phone calls).

Inspired Property Management take a view to invest in technology that not only offers our clients and tenants a better service but also allows them to manage their accounts freely and easily. For more information about how you can use our tenant portal click on the link here.

Why your development should have a Resident’s Association

A Residents’ Association (RA) is a local group, made up of local residents who represent the interests of everyone living in a particular area or building, they are set up for everyone to join and membership is open to all local residents (tenants and leaseholders). For the RA to be successful and effective it should represent and include all residents in the area its serves.

Why are they worth having?

A collective voice is a powerful voice. Being united with other people who share your living environment, means that you have the opportunity to influence and shape the quality of the services to your local community and improve residents’ quality of life.

For example, you can…

  • have a say on the services provided by Network Homes – i.e. cleaning and repairs.
  • develop the environment and community i.e. apply for funding for safe play areas and carry out social activities that bring you and your neighbours together.
  • lobby the council for local provision i.e. recycling facilities, improved lighting etc.

The formation of a residents’ association is a simple process, which requires a group of interested individuals with a common interest and an agreed constitution, by which the activities and rules of the association are governed. The recognition of residents’ associations is in Schedule 19 of the Housing Act 1980, as amended by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and 1987. This act of law entitles RA’s to certain rights and access to information which is not typically shared, such as work invoices, detailed transaction reports, stock condition surveys and fire risk assessments (FRA). This transparent and open approach with a small group of elected members is often valued by the wider majority; seen as an honest attempt for transparency, improved communication and better relations.

When carrying our planned work or major repairs, RA’s are a great sounding board for ideas and feedback. They are often happy to ballot members for when multiple options are on the table, or similarly, they will make the final decision on behalf of their members, as elected to do so. This approach put people and the centre of what we do.

For Managing Agents and Landlords, there is little administration required when working with an RA. It is easier and far more effective for RA’s to meet frequently with the Inspired Property Management team to ensure your goals are recognised for the development and your ideas are heard. If you’d like to know more about how our team at inspired can work with your RA please get in touch with a member of our team.

Decorate your apartment without upsetting your landlord

A few nifty tricks to give your home a very merry makeover without so much as a pin in the wall… Handy if your landlord has stipulated no holes in the walls.

Hosting Christmas for all the family in your new rental home? We have all the tricks of the trade to make your house feel Christmassy, festive and merry without pinning or painting anything.

Keep your landlord, and even your mother-in-law, on side with these nifty decorating techniques that won’t damage a wall, skirting board or doorframe…

If you can’t hang things on the walls or pin anything to doorways, then opt for ornaments. Glittery reindeers, giant nutcrackers and charming nativity scenes will create a traditional Christmas feel without upsetting the landlord. Smother mantelpieces, top tables and decorate the base of your tree.

Redecorate with a wreath

If you can’t go crazy inside, then you always have outside. People are putting exterior lights up, perching trees on their porches and of course the time old tradition – hanging beautiful wreaths. If you don’t want to pin it to your door, cascade the circular garland from ribbon tied to a door handle or brickwork above the frame.

Go crazy for candle displays

Candles omit a Christmassy glow, warming winter scents and can be glammed up to create opulent table displays. Surround simple tower candles with conifer cones, berries and rings of holly to give off an easy Christmassy vibe without redecorating a thing!

Go gaga for garlands

Bring the forest inside this winter by draping garlands of holly, ivy and fir across fireplaces, mirrors and winding them up staircases. Botanical displays around the home will instantly give off the smell and look of Christmas without damaging anything.

Invest in warm wintery accessories

With just a few hours of light a day (and even those are clouded, snowy and drizzly!) we all love wrapping up in a cosy onesie and nestling into our cushioned den with a chunky throw. Accessorise this winter with Christmas-inspired and adorned cushions and blankets that will transform that bleak sofa into a sanctuary.

Decorate a traditional tree

If you’re unsure about pinning things on walls then simply go to town on your Christmas tree. Get the biggest one you can, or a collection of tiny trees, and adorn it with a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands, a scattering of fairy lights and top with a beautiful angel.

Top it off with an amazing table display

We all spend a large amount of the big day in the dining room eating and drinking and eating some more, so decorate your table extravagantly. Invest in a large centrepiece and compliment it with fanciful dinner platters, serving spoons and festive flowers for a truly beautiful banquet.

How will you be decorating your apartment home this Christmas?

Tips courtesy of idealhome.co.uk – read more here

The impact of advances in AI on your home

Over the next five years, we are about to witness the world we live in entirely disrupted by improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Children today are growing up with AI assistants in their homes (Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa and the newly launched Vector Anki aimed at children) — to the point that you might consider their mere presence an extension of home organisation and home assistance. As voice and facial recognition continue to evolve, machine learning algorithms are getting smarter. More and more industries are being influenced by AI, and our society as we know it is transforming.

We all have various technology we use in our everyday lives like our smartphones, laptops, tablets and fit bit devices but with the ever evolving changes in technology, are we getting nearer to a home run by A1?

New technology is now available like the smart thermostat or smart lighting which can save you money, but what’s infinitely more exciting to people is the smart home could offload any decisions/choices and work by completing tasks independently.

A Smart Home Driven By Artificial Intelligence

In many industries, when you interview an ambitious leader, he or she will talk with you about how they will reinvent factory-built housing or the fitness space or retail. However, in some, people will talk about how they are part of an ecosystem and how their success is in large part predicated on the success of other companies in the ecosystem. In the case of the smart home, almost all of the players I interviewed talked about a future where the holy grail was a home driven by Artificial Intelligence.

Think of Artificial Intelligence as computing power that is able to perform particularly complex tasks that would otherwise require a human brain to perform. A motion sensor might trigger a light to turn on. But if a home had Artificial Intelligence, it might consider the time of day, the person walking around the home, and where she was walking in deciding which light to turn on and how long to keep it on for. Not every person I spoke to used the words “Artificial Intelligence.” A hot phrase you’ll hear again and again from experts is that a house needs to be “aware” or “contextually aware” before you can bring Artificial Intelligence into the home.

Let’s imagine the universe of things a house can be aware of: it can be aware of the presence of the people who live in the house (along with their personas); it can be aware of what they’re doing; it can even be aware of what every device in the house is doing. If you want the house to think like a human, the house needs to be able to analyse the data a human would analyse before making a decision.

Whether you are pro A1 or not this is definitely something which is shaping our homes in the future.

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.

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, which can 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…