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Whats the Difference Between Leasehold and Freehold?

Purchasing a house is one of the most complicated and stressful events most people will go through in their life. In the mix of all the legalities, mortgages and just hoping the purchasing chain won’t fall through often really important details get overlooked. That’s where Mistoria can help ease the process by being proactive with all parties involved.

Over the past few years something called the ‘leasehold scandal’ has been popping up in the media. The people who have been caught up in it did not realise when they bought their house what exactly they were buying when they signed the contract. This is not common in the North West you will be pleased to know, but we thought it would be worth writing this article to let you know what the issue is all about.

Leasehold and Freehold

In British law there are two different forms of home ownership, one is freehold and the other is leasehold. To get the former out of the way first, a freehold is what you’d expect when you purchase a house once you’ve signed on the dotted line, all of the property is yours. So if the property you are looking at is freehold then you can’t be affected by the issue and this is therefore the preferred option. That doesn’t mean however that any leasehold property must be viewed with concern, far from it, but it is worth checking the details of the lease.

If you’re in the process of purchasing a leasehold property what in reality that means is you’re buying permission to occupy that property for a set number of years, usually a very extended period far beyond the life of the building itself for example 999 years. New build properties on new estates seem to be where most of the shorter leaseholds are causing problems.

Leaseholds may sound like a form of rent (and some do argue it is) traditionally leasehold rents are for a very long time, usually between 100 to 999 years. When you purchase a lease, the freeholder usually has some responsibility for maintaining public areas around the property. So, for example, if you buy a leasehold flat the freeholder may be responsible for maintaining the staircases and lifts – typically the maintenance comes with a small rent to pay.

On top of maintenance fees, the leaseholder also usually pays a ‘ground rent’ – literally a rent on the land the property is built on. It’s these payable rents where the scandal has broken out, for a long time the rents were usually very small, some people would pay an annual ground rent of £1 a year, so a tiny sum and this is still very common.

But recently some property builders have been discovering the law around leasehold is very complicated and massively in the favour of the freeholder, giving them leeway to increase rents without any say by the leaseholder.

In return, this has meant people are now paying attention to the fact their property is leasehold and discovering how this may impact them.

Check with Mistoria and we can advise

So, if you’re buying a house what should you do? Firstly there is no need to panic. It is worth noting that the vast majority of people who live in leasehold properties have not been affected by the scandal.

Nevertheless, make absolutely sure you know what you’re buying, check with us and we can advise you the leasehold status of the property you are considering. Secondly, if it is leasehold ask for a copy of the lease and get it checked out by a lawyer that knows the area well. As a rule of thumb any lease that is less than 80 years can start to significantly affect the value of the house, but it all depends on what is in the contract.

If you do buy a leasehold, often it is possible to buyout the leasehold at an additional charge and become the freeholder. Do this as soon as possible, the owners may be willing to sell it for a few thousand.

Property law in Britain is very old, some of the stories coming out of the leasehold scandal date the ownership of the land back to the 1600s which all means it is intensely complicated and hard to understand. However, the scandal hasn’t gone unnoticed by the government, and while it has been accused of taking its time to tackle the issue at the start of May the Competition Market Authority announced it was going to start a full inquest into the issue. Whatever the results of the inquest are, there is enough political will in parliament for some significant change, although what and when that change will come into force is anyone’s guess.

So for the moment just give us a call and in the vast majority of cases you will find there is no problem.

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What can you get for your money when renting as a student in the North West?

salford student houses

Whether you’re just starting university or have been studying for a while, the yearly cycle of finding a place to live somehow manages to be frustrating and exciting at the same time.

The first decision you’ll have to make is house or halls, so which is better?

Assuming your budget is limited (and let’s face it, no student is flooded with cash), keeping your rent low is always high on the list of priorities.

Student Halls of Residence

Student halls are notoriously expensive, the University of Liverpool’s in-house halls are advertised at almost £150 a week. The private ones aren’t much better with most costing more and a few offering rooms for below that.

What do you get for that price? A standard room (which is what £150 per week will get you) will usually have enough room for a single bed, a desk, somewhere to put your clothes and that’s about it.

You’ll have access to a kitchen too, but that will likely be shared by five or more people, the same can be said for the showers and toilets.

It’s worth noting that in most cases halls also cover bills so you won’t need to worry about paying for your wifi.

There’s also the social aspect, especially for first years, flat parties in student halls are the way a lot of people make their first friends while at university. They also tend to be extremely messy and annoy the security staff who work in the building.

Student Rental Houses

Your other choice is to get a student house in any of the central areas of the city. If we carry on using Liverpool as an example, you can find a pretty big bedroom for around £80 to £110 a week. Sometimes they’ll include bills, sometimes they won’t, but if they don’t adding £10 a week to your calculations should roughly be right. So, you’re going to save hundreds in the long run.

By picking a house you also have much more flexibility in choosing who you live with. If you have a group of mates who want a place together then you can all find a house to fit you all. If you’re on your own you will at least usually get the chance to meet the people who will be living there before you sign any contract.

If you do go down this route, the house will also more likely have more communal space in the kitchens and living rooms shared with three to five people rather than the more crammed halls.

Don’t think this means you’re going to miss out on the social aspect of it either. What’s stopping you going to any of the party’s other people will inevitably host in their halls? At least you won’t be responsible for cleaning up the mess when you’re hungover the next day.

Contact our local team or browse our properties in Salford, Liverpool and Bolton.

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Tenant Fees Act

student tenancy fees

One June 1st 2019 the Tenant Fees Act will come into force prohibiting landlords and agents from charging any fees to tenants other than those that have been permitted by the act. Any contract that is signed after June 1 must adhere to the new regulations including those for student tenancy fees.

The act applies to all short hold tenancies and student accommodation, but it only applies in England. Letting fees are already banned in Scotland and, while they are currently still legal in Wales and Northern Ireland, a similar policy was put before the Welsh government in June 2018 and is expected to come into force this September.

It’s become tradition in recent years for letting agents to charge administration fees on top of the usual deposit and first month’s rent when moving in a new tenant, but the act bans them as it is not a permitted fee.

What the act defines as a permitted fee are:

  • Rent
  • The deposit
  • A holding deposit to secure the property which is maxed at one week’s rent
  • Any changes to the property, e.g. the introduction of a pet or a change in the contract – this is capped at £50
  • Utilities like gas and water
  • Council tax
  • TV license fees
  • ‘Communication fees’, e.g. telephone and broadband

The act also allows for a fee to be charged if a tenant terminates the contract early, but in this case the landlord must be able to show reasonable loss has been suffered.

The new legislation also allows for certain fines to be written into each contract, but defines when and how much they a tenant can be charged. Late payment of rent is the main one, this can only be after 14 days have passed and interest at a maximum of 3% above base rate.

Fees that are no longer permitted include:

  • Property viewing
  • Referencing
  • Administration charges
  • Guarantors Inventory checks
  • Pet fees/deposits
  • Renewal/exit fees
  • Professional end of tenancy cleaning
  • Third party fees – unless the tenant chooses to undertake the services themselves
  • Gardening services -unless this is included in the rent

The last major change the act implements is restrictions on how much can be charged for a deposit. If the total annual rent is less than £50,000, the deposit is capped at five weeks rent. If the rent is between £50,000 and £100,000 then the landlord can request up to six weeks.

Deposits must be protected in one of the three government backed tenancy schemes within 30 days of the payment being taken.

Breach of the legislation is a civil offence and can incur a £5,000 fine. If there is another breach within five years of the initial one, then it becomes a criminal offence which could carry jail time.

In addition to this. the landlord or agent who charged the unlawful fee will not be able to evict a tenant until they have repaid all of the illegal charges.

If in doubt the full policy can be found on the government’s website.

We would be more than happy to talk to any prospective tenants about how the new rules will be implemented by Mistoria, so if you have any questions about student tenancy fees then please contact our team.

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The importance of landlords knowing their local regulations

landlord services north west

Recently a couple was fined £8,000 for failing to comply with multiple occupancy regulations in Kent, and while their example is an extreme one, it serves as a useful insight into the importance of knowing the law with regards to HMO properties and investments.

The Azads were found guilty by Bexley Council of housing 17 people in a bungalow that could legally only bed eight individuals.

Now, that isn’t to say any reasonable person thinking of entering the HMO market would flagrantly disregard the regulations and common decency, but it does show that local authorities will go after people who break them.

Regulations are tougher on multiple occupancy homes compared to single or family rents, on top of the usual regulations there are strict rules on everything from the number of toilets in the house to the extra safety precautions required.

For example, if there are five or more occupiers, then there needs to be more than one toilet in the property by law, this number increases as the number of people in the property increases.

There are similar regulations around access to kitchen appliances like cookers, fridges, and freezers. Even more seriously, there are extra rules for HMOs to ensure the safety of all of the occupants, most of these are related to the proper installation of fire escapes and fire doors, but they all need to be met.

On top of all of that, each local authority legislates its own refuse collection policy, and all will have different requirements for the proper disposal of rubbish from multiple occupancy homes. Some councils will say an HMO with five people must have a larger bin, whereas others may say a property can have an extra bin with six or more people. All of these extra bins need to have a place to be stored safely. It gets even more complicated when you start to consider recycling.

One of the fines Bexley Council handed down to the Azads was because their property had collected too much rubbish and they had no way of properly disposing of the waste produced by that many people.

Investing in an HMO can offer lucrative returns when done properly, but failure to meet all of the extra legislation can result in costly consequences.

Mistoria is an expert in all matters regarding HMO regulation and can assist anyone who is thinking of making an investment in the market. Please contact our team for assistance with your properties or for advice on any landlord services North West including Salford, Liverpool and Bolton are all areas we are very familiar with.

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A Guide to Leaving Your Property

student property to rent

As we approach the end of another academic year, many students will soon be moving out of their student accommodation. Some will be leaving university for good, others are simply heading into a new student property. It’s important to leave your home in a good state to avoid any repair or cleaning charges. Knowing where to start can be a real challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.

To ensure a smooth departure from your student property there are a few things you, the tenant, need to do. Most of it is pretty obvious and involves things like cleaning up thoroughly to ensure the property is left in the same state you found it in when you moved in.

We have put together the following guide to help you and ensure your tenancy completion goes smoothly and to avoid unnecessary charges against your deposit.

Inform your landlord or letting agent

A few weeks ahead of your moving out date, make sure you check in with your landlord or letting agent for a reminder of anything you need to bear in mind when leaving your accommodation. Maybe even check the date you need to move out, in case you are not sure. It’s easy to forget these details in the middle of all the excitement around moving out.

Clear Everything Out

Take time to sort through your belongings and decide whether you really need to take everything with you. You may be surprised at how much stuff you have accumulated since moving in.

When you have sorted through your belongings, you might find yourself with a pile of things that you don’t want. You have offered them to your flatmates but they don’t want them either. So why not donate them to charity?

A piece of good advice is: if it’s rubbish, dispose of it, if it can be reused, recycle it. And if it’s something you don’t want or need, but it’s still in good condition, donate it to someone else who can benefit from it. If you think you can make some extra cash, sell it on eBay or Gumtree. That’s a great way to sell unwanted items. Kitchen utensils you own or clothes in good condition that you no longer want or need are probably suitable for donation.

Local food banks such as The Trussell Trust provide emergency food for people in crisis and welcome any donations of non-perishable food. And charities such as Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation, always appreciate clean clothing in good condition. Remember them before disposing of anything reusable.

Some Advice on Packing

Before you chuck everything in boxes, think carefully about what you are packing and when you might need it. Pack any items you are less likely to need soon at the bottom of boxes and any essential items such as phone chargers and your toothbrush should be packed at the top so they are  easy to access. You don’t want to be going through all your boxes trying to find these items. It is a very good idea to write on each box what it contains as we promise you will forget what is where.

If you are packing fragile or sharp items such as glasses, picture frames and knives, wrap them up and keep them safe. You don’t want any accidents or damage in transit, so use bubble wrap or clothing or newspapers to protect your items.

Clean your Room and Property

When you are ready to vacate your room, don’t leave your accommodation without giving it a good clean before you go. One of the most important moments of your tenancy, the final clean of the property you’ve been renting is always going to be key for the return of your deposit. Your room was in a good, clean condition when you moved in and should be left how you found it. It’s vital that everyone joins in, as the cleaning process needs to be a team effort.

Try to tackle everything and clean as thoroughly as you can. Having a clean room and flat will help to ensure you pass the room inspection upon checking out and avoid any additional charges incurred from hiring professional cleaners to come in. The key is to do a thorough job so that the landlord or letting agent doesn’t need to order a follow-up clean, which would unfortunately come out of your deposit.

Bear in mind that during the cleaning of the property, you can do everything yourself, but consider getting an extra pair of hands involved by promising friends a rewarding pint after the clean up. Plus, the more of you that are involved, the easier the work will be!!

Make an Inventory check

The next step is to make sure to compare all the items in the house against the record laid out in the inventory. You will have signed this document when you moved in. If there has been unreasonable wear and tear of certain areas of the house or items such as furniture have been damaged, it’s worth discussing this with the agent. Fixing these things yourself or have it fixed professionally by yourself may be cheaper than us having to buy a new one. We have to pass things on to the next tenant in a good condition.

Damage check

Sometimes, as hard as you try to avoid it, damage will happen. The important thing is just to be honest about them, rather than trying to hide them when you move out. If you are fair with the landlord, he may take a kinder view towards repairs. If you don’t mention damages, you will find it harder to argue your case when they are discovered. So if something has happened during the move, inform and discuss it with the agent.

Keep a record

It’s essential that you make a note of the final meter readings on your date of departure for gas, electricity, and water. For additional peace of mind, take a date-stamped photo of any meters themselves so that you have concrete proof if any providers try and question your records. Keeping a record of any damage and photos of your cleaning efforts is also a good idea.

Don’t chuck out all the important paperwork that’s built up during your time as a tenant too soon. Hang on to bills, Tenancy Agreements, deposit documentation or anything else that may serve a useful purpose in case of any questions that are asked later after you have moved out.

Pay open accounts

It’s essential that you pay off any outstanding bills when the time comes for you to move out of any rented home. If you fail to do so, you could incur fees from the utility provider or the letting agent due to the hassle of chasing any debts. You may also find late fees beginning to stack up, whilst things can get even more serious the longer you don’t pay.

Communication

It’s important to remember to update your address and contact information with the agent and other organisations when you move out of a property. They may need to contact you as will your university, bank, Royal Mail, Amazon, and any other companies you have an account with.

If you don’t update your postal details, private mail will still go to your old address and it could be opened by the next occupants. Leaving a forwarding address with your landlord or letting agent, is important for any mail to be sent through to you.

Your deposit

We aim to have a smooth handover with all tenants and will do everything we can to return your deposit to you once we have checked the property over and dealt with things like final utility bills. It is normally having to wait for things like these final bills to come through to us that causes any delays. If you have any concerns please contact your local office for an update.

Storage

If there’s going to be a period between tenancies in two student properties or if you are leaving your accommodation, but don’t have a new place to move into straight away then you might be wondering what to do with all your belongings. It may be that you need to temporarily secure a storage facility. If you know this is going to be the case, make sure you organise it as far in advance as possible.

Security

The most obvious point you could think of is to not forget to lock the property when you move out. Any sign of a burglary without the need for forced entry will be incredibly obvious and the cost to you (and your housemates) could be immense. So be sure all windows and windows are closed and locked.

Return your key

The last thing to do is to make sure you hand back over the keys when you have left the property. Amongst the hustle and bustle of moving, it can be easy to forget to hand over your keys back to your local office. If you take them with you and they get lost, the process of the letting agent or landlord being forced to change the locks could prove expensive. The property owner is entitled to expect the keys swiftly, or they may choose to change the locks and incur additional charges for the inconvenience. So, make sure you leave them out on the side and don’t pack them away.

Whether you are leaving because you have finished your studies, or are just moving out for summer, we hope that your move goes well and you enjoy the next chapter of your journey.

And if you’re returning, we look forward to welcoming you back for the new term in September. Are you still looking for student property to rent? You are more than welcome to contact Mistoria to see what we have to offer. Mail us at info@mistoria.co.uk or call us 0800 500 3015.

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New Homes Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018

fitness for human habitation act

On 20 March 2019, the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’. With this new act, tenants are given the right to sue landlords who fail to adequately maintain their properties. The new act is an update to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985. It extends to England and Wales; however, its practical changes are only for England. Wales maintains its own fitness consultations.

What is the new law about?

We must stress that there are no new obligations for landlords under this Act; the legislation requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety.

The Act is designed to prevent tenants from having to endure unsafe or unsanitary conditions of their rented homes. The Act must make the landlords responsible for the condition of their rented houses and flats and prevent causing serious harm to the tenants.

The Act gives tenants who encounter such situations legal grounds to take their landlords to court if they persist in not maintaining their property in a condition that makes it ‘fit for human habitation’.

If a landlord is found guilty on these grounds he can be sentenced to pay compensation to the tenant or require the landlord to repair the property adequately to be healthy and safe again.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act applies to tenants who live in private or social rented houses and flats. The type of housing, the way of paying rent, housing benefit or universal credit does not affect the application of the act. The Act applies immediately for signed lease contracts on or after 20th March 2019. Tenants who signed the contract before 20th March 2019 will have to wait until 20th March 2020 before being able to claim rights on the Act against their landlords. However, they can turn to the local council to act on their behalf and take action on the matter, but only when the conditions of the home are dangerous or inhuman.

The new Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, outlining what constitutes a property to be unfit for human habitation. Such issues which classify a property as ‘unfit’ and need to be reported are:

•    Damp and mould growth
•    Excess cold
•    Excess heat
•    Asbestos and MMF
•    Biocides
•    Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
•    Lead
•    Radiation
•    Uncombusted fuel gas
•    Volatile organic compounds
•    Crowding and space
•    Entry by intruders
•    Lighting
•    Noise
•    Domestic hygiene, pests, and refuse
•    Food safety (inadequate provisions)
•    Personal hygiene, sanitation, and drainage
•    Water supply
•    Falls (baths, between levels, level surfaces, and stairs)
•    Electrical hazards
•    Fire
•    Flames, hot surfaces etc
•    Collision and entrapment
•    Explosions
•    Position and operability of amenities etc
•    Structural collapse and falling elements

There are several exceptions when it comes to the responsibility of the landlord to fix certain problems such as problems caused by irresponsible or illegal tenant behaviour. Other examples are events completely beyond the landlord’s control (also called “acts of God”), repair possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants which were not included in the inventory at the beginning of the lease.

As with any new regulations, only time will tell exactly how it is interpreted by the courts, and whether there will be unintended consequences.

What landlords should know

For all landlords, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act means they must make sure that the provided property is fit for human habitation. The property needs to be free from any possibility that the state of the property can cause harm to the tenants or anyone in the household. There is a list of issues that can make the property to be classified as unfitted. The Act makes primarily the landlord responsible for the habitation circumstances of the rented property.

Not all unfit properties are being reported to landlords or agents. Sometimes it is the tenants who create an unhealthy environment for themselves without being aware. For example, inadequate ventilation of the property; drying clothes indoors on the radiator with no windows open causes condensation and moisture to build up, causing damped walls. For landlords to be sure tenants are taking good care of the rented property should conduct regular inspections and maintenance routines.

It is important to bare in mind that a thorough inspection needs to be undertaken before the tenancy has begun. It is advised to let the tenant be present during the inspection. Of course, there will be tenants who will refuse access for inspections knowing they are responsible for an unsafe environment. In this case, the landlord cannot be held responsible. To prevent tenants creating an unsafe environments for themselves, landlords should provide tips on a diverse range of maintenance subjects to the tenants. They should also let the tenants sign a declaration stating their responsibility for damage or creating an unhealthy environment. Keeping records regarding tenant inspections and correspondence regarding property problems may come handy when presenting proof of repair and maintenance if the parties end up in court.

Overall most landlords needn’t worry too much about the new act. A well-maintained property shouldn’t be deemed unfit. Only those whose properties suffer from serious disrepair issues should be affected.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we take on property maintenance responsibilities for our landlords. Our service means you don’t have to worry about keeping up to date with the latest legislation changes and how to implement them; our experienced team of letting agents are here to do this for you. We will ensure your property in compliant with this, the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act, and any other rental property regulation. You can trust us to take good care of your property, and your tenants. Contact on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

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Pet-friendly rental property

pet friendly rental property

In the UK, an estimated 12 million households own together around 51 million pets. Recent research carried out by Zoopla discovered that there’s a growing trend in the search for “pet-friendly” rental property. The term ‘pets’ ranked as the third most searched keyword in the latest analysis of the nation’s most sought-after features for rental homes. The ownership of pets is increasing and could represent great opportunities for landlords to invest in line with this growing trend.

The outcome of the research

Zoopla’s discovery of the growing search for pet-friendly rental homes compliments another research on the matter. SpareRoom recently undertook research on the same subject. This research showed that almost 4 out of 5 tenants who own one or more animal have struggled to find pet-friendly accommodation. The study also revealed that 78% of tenants experienced difficulties finding adequate housing due to the majority of landlords not being keen about tenants keeping pets and refuse to allow them. As a matter of fact, 69% will not allow pets in their properties. 21% of tenants surveyed admitted that they currently own a pet without their landlord’s knowledge

As for the reasons landlords refuse pets in their property, 57% cited the smell, 55% are concerned about pets causing potential damage to the property and 37% admitted concern over whether the pet was properly trained. Oddly enough, 88% of pet owners claim they have never experienced any complaints or even caused damage to the property, in contrast to the concerns of landlords.

Benefits of Pet-Friendly Rental Property

Despite landlords’ reservations, there are benefits of allowing pets in rented properties. One of the benefits being the possibility of having a larger potential tenant pool. Having a larger group to choose from allows the landlord to pick the best-suited tenants for their property.  Due to the difficulty in finding other pet-friendly rental housing motivates pet owners to rent for longer in the same location, which can reduce void periods and therefore give landlords a better return on their investment.

The biggest benefit for landlords is money related. The increase in demand gives landlords stronger bargaining power to charge higher rent. Especially when there are few pet-friendly properties around the area. Some surveys have shown pet owners to have a higher income than average , meaning they may be willing to spend more when the property suits their demands.

Pet owners are often mature and take good care of their pet showing their responsibility, a desirable quality for property owners when accepting tenants. Likely these potential tenants will treat the property with care and with respect.

One can argue the social and ethical benefits of allowing pets in properties. Having pets around can have a positive effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of tenants, they can reduce stress and make the owner feel happier. By allowing animals in a property, owners don’t have to sneak in their pets which can result in unwanted conflict between landlord and tenant.

Cons of Pet-Friendly Rental Property

As mentioned before, landlords have multiple reasons why they don’t allow pets, the biggest concern being pet odours. There are ways to decrease or limit odours, including using a professional cleaning firm at the end of a tenancy. However, well trained pets and responsible owners shouldn’t have a problem with pet associated smells.

The potential damage to a property; chewed up carpets and furniture, scratches on the floor and doors and even noise disturbance, are concerns for landlords. Again, properly trained animals with sensible owners are unlikely to display this type of behaviour. Some pets even copy the character of their owner and often won’t miss behave if their owner respects the property.

Some landlords admit concern about the risk of animal liability, particularly biting and other aggressive behaviour when improperly trained. This is a reasonable concern but with good communication and by asking the right questions about a potential owners’ pets, a landlord can gain a better impression of the animal and whether the tenant and their pet(s) are right for the property.

When it comes to HMO properties and house shares, there is always the possibility of losing other tenants when allowing pets into a property. Some tenants may have allergies relating to certain animals or have other personal reasons for not wanting to live with a pet. In order to lower the possibility of losing current tenants, a landlord should make clear to all tenants at the beginning of a tenancy, even those without a pet, if a property is pet-friendly or not.

Pet-friendly Rental Property at Mistoria

Whilst the issue around pet-friendly rental property continues to be one that is hotly debated, at Mistoria we believe in keeping a track of current property market trends and feeding this back to our landlords. Pet-friendly rentals are an area we are often asked about and is something we are advising our landlords on. There will always be landlords that do not wish to allow animals in their property and this is something we fully respect. For those who are more lenient, we hope to work with them to find a happy-medium and a way for us to work together to find and manage suitable tenancies involving pet ownership.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we’re an open-minded, professional team who work hard to build good relationships with both the landlords and tenants we serve. We’re keen to educate both sides on sensible property management and work with all concerned to deliver successful and long-term tenancies.

If you own a rental property and would like help with tenant sourcing and management please get in touch. Similarly, if you’re a tenant searching for a particular type of rental property to meet your needs, please contact us. Call 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

Summer photo created by freepic.diller – www.freepik.com

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Tenant Fees Bill

Tenant Fees Bill

It has been announced that the Tenant Fees Bill is set to come into force on 1st June 2019.

The Bill will ban letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector and cap tenancy deposits in England. The ban will apply to all tenancies signed after 1st June.

The aim of the Bill is to deliver a fairer, good quality and more affordable private rented sector by reducing the costs that tenants pay at the beginning and throughout a tenancy and improving the relationship between tenants and landlords.

The ban will allow tenants to see how much a property will cost them with no hidden costs.

For landlords, this means you will only be allowed to take payment for rent and deposits from tenants. There are just three other ‘default fees’ you will be able to charge a tenant for, and they will also be limited;

Damages
If a tenant causes damage to your property beyond reasonable wear and tear, you may charge them for the cost to repair the damage.

Loss of keys
You may charge the tenant for the cost of replacing them and reasonable costs and evident must be provided in writing (receipts etc). You cannot charge for your time or inconvenience.

Late rent payment
You can charge 3% above the Bank of England base rate in interest.

Landlords can still charge for changes to a tenancy requested by the tenant. £50 would be considered the norm and any charge above this would need to be justified. If tenant wants to leave the contract early, they will be liable to pay the rent up to a maximum of the length of the fixed term of the contract.

Deposits will also be restricted to the equivalent of five weeks rent where annual rent is below £50k.

Failure to comply

Failure to comply with the Tenant Fees Ban could land you in a whole heap of trouble. If you charge a fee that is not permitted, tenants will be able to reclaim the money they have paid, plus interest, via the county court. Trading standards will also have the authority to fine you up to £30k.

You will also be unable to serve a Section 21 notice if you have charged a tenant a fee where you shouldn’t have and kept the money.

How Mistoria Estate Agents can help

At Mistoria Estate Agents, we can manage your buy to let property, including tenant finding and management, on your behalf. This means we can take the burden out of staying compliant with new areas of legislation, including the Tenant Fees Ban. Let us do the hard work of managing your investment whilst you get on with the other areas of your life. Call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk to see how we can help you.

A full guide to the Tenant Fees Ban can be found on the RLA website www.rla.org.uk/feeban.

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‘Right to Rent’ breaches human rights

right to rent

The High Court has ruled that the current ‘Right to Rent’ checks breach human rights.

The scheme requires landlords and letting agents to check the immigration status of tenants by checking their passport or visas and has been in force across England since 2016. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.

The scheme was introduced under the 2014 Immigration Act which aimed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the UK.

In a review of the process, brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), judges said the policy had “little or no effect” on its aim of controlling immigration.

It said evidence “strongly showed” the scheme was causing landlords to discriminate against potential tenants because of their nationality or ethnicity, something the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) agrees with. The RLA has welcomed the ruling saying the scheme had turned landlords into “untrained and unwilling border police.” RLA research had found that fear of getting things wrong led to private landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport or those with limited time to remain in the UK.

This discriminatory attitude of landlords, through fear of possible prosecution under the Right to Rent scheme, has in part, led to the High Court ruling.

On the flip-side, the Home Office said it was “disappointed” by the ruling and said an independent study found no evidence of systematic discrimination in its policy and the scheme was intended to discourage illegal residence in the UK. The government are expected to appeal against the decision.

What does all this mean for landlords?

For the moment, nothing changes. Landlords and letting agents in England are required to continuing checking applications has they have been doing.

If you are a landlord and require assistance managing the tenants, and/or maintenance of your property, Mistoria Estate Agents can help. Let us take the hard work out of being a landlord and ensure you comply with current regulations, including Right to Rent checks. Call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

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How to avoid pest infestation problems

pest infestation problems

A recent study carried out by a manufacturer and retailer of blinds, shutters, carpets and curtains showed that 64% of Brits who have experienced a pest infestation in their property were renting at the time. Of the 2,000-people surveyed, 57% responded that they had encountered problems related to pest at some point within their home.

Most of us have once encountered some creepy crawlies in our homes. However, dealing with a recurring infestation is a totally different situation, which may become expensive and stressful at the same time. There are many reasons why a pest infestation may occur. It is worth establishing what exactly led to such a situation, in order to prevent it from occurring in the future. If disrepair of property is the reason for creatures making their way inside and there is a noticeable presence of pest and vermin, it can be a health and safety hazard for who is currently living in the property.

One reason rental properties may be more prone to infestations could be a lack of (understanding of) responsibility. Just who’s job is it to prevent and deal with pests? Is it the tenant or the landlord? With each side (perhaps) presuming the other is on top of upkeep in the home, those pesky pests can make their way in and quickly cause havoc.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we want to remind our tenants of their responsibilities when it comes to preventing pest infestations. At the same time, we want to highlight to other landlords their responsibility when it comes to maintaining their properties to avoid pest problems, and how using a full service letting agent like Mistoria Estate Agents can means we take on that responsibility for you.

Tips to avoid pest infestations

These tips apply to landlords and tenants alike.

In short, if there is disrepair in the property concerning holes in the floor, walls or ceiling, it is the responsibility of the landlord to deal with and solve the pest problem before tenants move in to the property and during the tenancy. However, if poor hygiene and upkeep of the property is the issue, it’s the tenants that need to up their game.

The first and best pest control method is to prevent your property from becoming vulnerable to pests in the first place. When the pest infestation does enter the property, it can be costly to get rid of and repair the havoc caused by the pest.

Communication between landlords and tenants is important as most of the time it is the tenant who will first notice the signs of a pest problem. It would suit the landlord to occasionally check upon the tenants, to see if they have noticed anything that needs further attention. Periodic inspections of the inside and outside of the property can help landlords and tenants to catch troubling pest issues at an early stage. It is advised all rental property undergo quarterly checks to ensure there is no damage or concerns.

Keeping the place clean and tidy is as important as checking for damage. Pests will be attracted to anything that could be seen as a food source. Landlord should inform tenants, via the tenancy agreement, that they must keep the property clean and tidy. Keeping surfaces and floors clean, especially of food, storing leftover food in containers and not leaving rubbish bags unsealed and lying around will help to keep pests away.

The outside area surrounding the property also needs attention. Keeping the area clear from any rubbish and old furniture prevents the chance for pests to build nests in them. Keeping food outside for wildlife such as bird seeds can attract pests to the property. To prevent this, it is recommended to elevated food from the ground and away from the house. This can be easily done by investing in a bird table or feeding stations for the wildlife.

Advice when you have a pest infestation

If there are noticeable signs of damage caused by any infestation, you need to get in touch with your local council’s environmental health department. They should provide you with the details of a pest control service near you and can give you information depending on which species is causing the problem. Alternatively, they may advise you on what to do to sort out the problem yourself, if the problem is manageable.

Private pest control companies are always an option when the problem is not self-manageable. If you choose to hire a private company resolve the problem, it’s going to cost you. It could even cost more than the fees charged by the council. It is always worth a quick call around for some quotes to find out prices differences.

Bear in mind that some landlord or property insurances may provide coverage of the costs and help in such situations. Often a standard policy covers costs for nest removal. Having the right insurance coverage in place can be worth it, as it may save you time and money in case of pest infestation removal.

Mistoria tenants and landlords

In the first instant, Mistoria Estate Agent tenants should contact us to report any pest problems and we will be able to advise you on the next steps. We may need to visit the property to assess the situation and determine how we move forward. Remember, it is the tenants responsibility to maintain good hygiene habits to prevent pests, however if the disrepair of the property is at fault, the landlord/letting agent must repair the problem. If you’re a landlord and would like to know more about your responsibilities and how Mistoria Estate Agents can help manage your property, please call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.