Monthly Archives: November 2012

Just when you thought it was safe to consider a holiday – let’s talk about rented property Licensing

Well, you have to give it to Bristol City Council, there’s never a dull moment – and in the Autumn Edition of the Landlords News we hear that Discretionary Licensing has been approved by the Council cabinet. The scheme is for the Easton and Lawrence Hill area.

ALL private landlords are to licence their rented properties. There has been consultation, the licensing scheme will ensure that landlords meet certain standards, and tenants meet a minimum standard of behaviour.
Those landlords already running licensed HMO’s will be well aware of the ‘fit and proper’ criteria, but this could be new to many other landlords running smaller properties in the Easton and Lawrence Hill area.

Bristol City council say that their fee for compliant landlords will be one of the lowest in the country, but fail to comply and the fee will be much higher.

 
As we approach Spring 2013 further details of the scheme will become clear.  There will be two parts to the scheme, discretionary Licenses that will apply to HMO’s, and Selective Licences for the single-family unit houses.

 
The quality of rented accommodation in Easton and Lawrence Hill is thought to be sub-standard, and the introduction of the scheme will empower the Council to oversee more closely rented properties in this area of Bristol and to bring about a raising of standards.

 
Maybe the introduction of this scheme in an area that is heavily-tenanted by the Private Rented sector will encourage landlords not only that owning properties in this area but in other areas, too, to maintain a higher standard.

 
If landlords do not look after their tenants to an adequate standard, then sooner or later the Council will step in and intervene. Landlords, you owe it to your tenants to look after them, your property is a great investment – treasure it and treasure your tenants.

 
If you’d like to find out more about our central Bristol lettings agency, please feel free to get in touch here.

What’s a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) and why is it relevant to rented properties?

At City Rental Services, keeping up to speed with Health and Safety legislation is of great importance – and ensures that we continue to enjoy an excellent level of repeat business by word-of-mouth referrals.

Our landlords and tenants trust us to understand (and be familiar with) current legislation.

One important aspect for rented properties in Bristol is the requirement for a Portable Appliance Test (PAT), and this should be carried out annually.

Invaluable guidelines have been published by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recently here, and are worth a close read by landlords. This is information that could save lives.

In essence, a PAT test is the examination of electrical appliances and equipment, to ensure they are safe for use.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to carry out the test and label equipment that has been inspected, this is a useful management tool ensuring electrical equipment is up to standard.

Needless to say, at City Rental Services we ask our landlords to complete PAT tests on the electrical equipment in their properties before presenting them to the Bristol lettings market.

Typically, a PAT is carried out on equipment with a plug on such larger items as fridge freezers, washing machines and dishwashers.

Don’t forget any other smaller electrical items such as toasters, kettles, irons or an electrical lawn mower, which might be stored in a garden shed, forms part of the Inventory at the property.

Whilst there is no legal obligation to carry out a PAT test, should the worse case scenario happen and there be no evidence of regular PAT testing, it is highly likely that a landlord or letting agency would be viewed as lacking in their Duty of Care to their tenants.

If you’d like to find out more about our central Bristol lettings agency, please feel free to get in touch here.

What’s the difference between wear & tear and damage to a rented property?

At City Rental Services, one of the most difficult areas involved with managing rented properties in Bristol can sometimes be handling disputes between what constitutes fair wear & tear versus actual damage to a rented house or flat.

And given that rental deposits are often required in full to ensure the tenant can move into another property, or to use the cash for their first home, it’s critical that both tenants and landlords understand and appreciate the differences between wear & tear and damage to a rented property.

One of the most important items in ensuring that fair wear & tear is established at the end of a tenancy is referencing back to the inventory which is provided to a tenant at the start of a tenancy – this will list all items included in the rented property, and the condition of these items prior to letting.

And whilst a tenant has a duty of care to return the rented property at the end of the tenancy in the same condition they received it, fair wear & tear is excepted from any damages.

It’s important to appreciate that the definition of ‘fair wear & tear’ will be dependant on the length of the tenancy – for example, a tenant who has been in a rented property for over a year would have a far higher level of excepted wear & tear compared to a tenant leaving a property after only six months.

Similarly, a family of 4 or 5 would have a greater allowance of ‘fair wear & tear’ over a single tenant occupancy.

A landlord should also not end up in a financially-better-off position than they were at the start of the tenancy – so, in practical terms, replacing a carpet for a brand new one should only be approved it absolutely necessary, rather than as an exercise in the landlord attempting to get something for nothing, and eating up a tenant’s rental deposit for unjustifiable reasons.

Appropriate steps to take if an item is out of the ‘fair wear & tear’ classification at the end of a tenancy agreement could include:

·      Cleaning or repairing an item
·      Replacement of an item so damaged it cannot be used again
·      Compensation for the value of the item

Most letting agencies currently use the Apportionment Method when looking at ways of accounting ‘fair wear & tear’ on rental properties: this breaks down the cost of ‘fair wear & tear’ to allow monetary values to be placed on items.

A classic example of this would be a red wine stain on a carpet sustained during a tenancy period – this is not considered ‘fair wear & tear’ and if the stain couldn’t be removed by cleaning, replacing the carpet and apportioning costs on the basis of carpet age, condition of carpet at the start of the tenancy, and the expected lifespan of the carpet would be a reasonable route.

If you’d like to find out more about our central Bristol lettings agency, please feel free to get in touch here.

What has tree surgery got to do with rented properties in Bristol?

At City Rental Services, we appreciate that this blog post title might confuse some on first inspection, but at this time of year, tree surgery is an important consideration for those owning rented properties in Bristol.

As leaves start to fall during the Autumn, now is the time to attend to trees and shrubs around a rented property  to minimize potential property damage.

As property portfolios mature, some trees can get out of hand, and can cause major problems, including:

* tree roots in drains

* leaves blocking gutters

* light levels reduced

* damage from fallen branches

* risk from entire tree collapses

It’s worth remembering that some trees are also protected, and local authority permission is required before any work is carried out on such listed trees – a reputable tree surgeon will usually obtain this on a client’s behalf.

We use Kustom Landscapes in Montpelier for tree surgery work on our rented property portfolio in Bristol.

Shredding small branches and weeds can also be a useful exercise, whilst logs are a precious commodity at this time of year for wood burners. Large sections of felled wood can be used by furniture makers, local artists or for wood sculptures. Bugs really appreciate a nice pile of logs, too.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Council can serve a Notice demanding overhanging branches and bushes be removed if obstructing pavements.

If you’d like to find out more about our central Bristol lettings agency, please feel free to get in touch here.

 

Does your lettings-only agency in Bristol understand the Deposit Protection Scheme in full?

At City Rental Services, keeping up to speed with current property legislation is critical – especially rules and regulations around  the various Deposit Protection Schemes which changed in April of this year.

We wrote about this recently here to highlight the importance of choosing a letting agency in Bristol, with a full working knowledge of the current DPS schemes.

At this time of year, it’s worth reflecting on the 2012 student season.

Term has started, and most students are busy at college – a few are still coming to Bristol to choose a rented property and we are able to help them find a spare student room and introduce them to new flatmates.

But we are already receiving enquiries for the student season 2013-2014 and Bristol landlords have started to register their properties.

Dealing with the payment of student deposits, however, presents its own special problems – with payments being made for next year’s student season from January onwards.

The Localism Act which came into effect in April 2012 means that the correct Prescribed Information must be given to each student tenant when they pay their deposit, and those deposits must be registered within 30 days of receipt.

However, these student deposit payments are not made simultaneously – and letting-only landlords will have to make sure they have a system in place to handle the various payments received within the timeframe, and give the relevant information and deposit certificate.

Most letting-only landlords use one of these two schemes:

Deposit Protection Servicewww.depositprotection.com

or

TDSLwww.mydeposits.co.uk

If you’d like to find out more about our central Bristol lettings agency, please feel free to get in touch here.