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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.

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Leaving your Mistoria property

liverpool student lettings

To ensure a smooth exit from your Mistoria Salford or Liverpool student lettings there are a few things we need you, the tenant, to do. Most of it is common sense and involves cleaning up after yourself to ensure the property is left in the same state you found it in when you moved in.

The less cleaning up and maintenance work the Mistoria team have to do at the end of a tenancy, the quicker your deposit can be returned to you, in full.

So we all know where we stand and to ensure a happy outcome, we’ve put together the following check-list so you know what is expected of you before you leave.

Kitchen
Please ensure the fridge freezer is defrosted and that there is no food left inside it, or in the kitchen cupboards.

Do not leave any cutlery, cups, glasses, pots and pans or any other kitchenware behind.

Please clean oven and hob. We recommend ‘Oven Pride’. This is a fairly cheap product that can be purchased from any leading supermarket. (Please ensure you read and follow the instructions on the packaging when using this product).

Bathroom
Please ensure the seal around bath/shower is cleaned and that no bathroom products are left behind. Please ensure bath/shower plugholes are draining and that there are no blockages (from hair for example).

Bedrooms
Please ensure no personal items are left behind. When cleaning your bedroom, please pull-out and clean behind the bed and wardrobe. For safety, ask another housemate to help you with this as these can be heavy items.

Floors and Surfaces
Please ensure that all surfaces all cleaned (desks, wardrobes, windowsills, etc). Ensure all carpets have been hoovered and floors mopped, where applicable. Please empty the hoover when finished.

Rubbish
Remove all rubbish from the property and ensure it is placed into the correct bins. (Failure to place the rubbish in the correct bins may result in the council refusing to empty the bins. Should this happen, tenants will incur a charge for this removal).

Please note, if any rubbish is left behind, you will be charged. This is classed as Tenants Damage and can be deducted from your deposit.

If you have had any pictures or posters etc. hanging on the walls of your bedrooms, please ensure no marks are left from blue tac, Sellotape, etc.

If you would like any further advice regarding what could be classed as Tenant Damage in your property please do not hesitate to call Ian, the Mistoria Maintenance Manager, on 07794 913 390. He will be more than happy to help.

If your property is left in the same condition as when you were given the keys, we will endeavour to return your deposit within 14 days of the final utility bills being received by Mistoria.

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Tenant duties in a Mistoria Liverpool or Salford student house

Salford student house

There’s lots going on throughout the academic year, and we understand that studies, sports and socials sometimes take priority to your responsibility in your student house. So, we thought it worth reminding you of your duties as a Mistoria tenant.

When you first moved in, you and your housemates will have been told how we expect you to behave and look after your property whilst you’re living there, but here’s a reminder of your the simple dos and don’ts…

  1. Keep the property clean and tidy at all times – common sense, surely you do this at home, so why not in your term-time house.
  2. No food to be left/eaten in bedrooms – we know you do this, but be smart and don’t leave evidence of it.
  3. No Blu-Tac on walls – it causes grease marks.
  4. Rubbish to be removed, do not pile up bags in the yard – again, common sense, who wants to live in a rubbish tip?
  5. Keep all rooms vented – open windows a little whilst you’re at home, use extractor fans in bathroom when showering and the kitchen when cook, or open the windows and back door.
  6. Tenants are shown how to top up boiler, clean out hoover and clean out filters in washing machine – stuff you may not have known before to a little maintenance on your part will ensure these essential; household items stay in a good state or repair and effective working order.
  7. Tenants to be shown what the likely cause of black mould is and shown how to avoid black mould and condensation in the property by using the silent fans as well as opening the windows and doors frequently – as in point 5, plus don’t put wet clothes directly on radiators. Also see our dedicated condensation page.
  8. Smoking is NOT allowed in properties, especially Cannabis – make your student house a nice environment for everyone and smoke outside, away from open windows and doors.
  9. Drug taking is Forbidden. Any form of recreation drugs are Forbidden – it’s illegal. End of.
  10. Baby wipes/wetwipes and kitchen roll must be disposed of in a bin and NOT flushed down the toilet – these wipes do not break down like toilet tissues and can cause blockages.
  11. Shower plugs to be kept clean as they will clog with hair – a quick wipe with some toilet roll after each shower should do the trick.
  12. Use boiler timers or set rooms stats – this help keep the house pleasant, stops mould and prevents pipes from freezing in cold weather.
  13. INTERNET – Downloading/streaming films will reduces speed and restrict other household users.
  14. Use the Freshdesk online ticketing service on the Mistoria Estate Agents website to report maintenance issues – texts and emails won’t be responded to.
  15. Keep gardens and yards clean – see point 4.
  16. Anti-social/irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated – you each have equal responsibility to make your student house a safe and pleasant place to live for yourselves and your neighbours.

Failure to follow the above points may result in the Mistoria maintenance team being called out and you being charged for any work carried out to fix or replace the problem.

If you have any questions about any of the points listed above, please contact your local Mistoria office on 0800 500 3015.

If you’re looking for a Liverpool or Salford student house, please contact us and let us help you find the perfect place to call home for the next academic year.

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Student house deposit procedure and quarterly inspections

student house deposit

As Mistoria Estate Agents tenants, you should already be aware of our deposit procedure. It is laid out in detail in your tenancy agreement. However, we still get asked lots of questions about deposits and we’re always looking for ways to improve our processes and communications with our tenants to ensure the best possible outcome for all concerned when it comes to returning deposits at the end of the tenancy. With this in mind, we thought it worth highlighting again how we handle your student house deposit, and some improvements we have put in place to ensure we’re all happy at the end of the year.

Last year there were a few delays on our part in returning deposits in a timely manner to a small number of tenants. This was an internal issue that we have since addressed and put right, however the situation inevitably caused some upset to those affected and we were determined to take tenant comments on board and make changes where necessary. We took the opportunity to look at the whole deposit process and how we can do things differently to avoid similar problems in the future.

The biggest change is the increased focus on our Quarterly Inspections. Going forward we will use these to help us identify any possible issues in plenty of time before the end of the tenancy, and inform tenants in writing of these issue so they may be rectified before vacating the property.

To give this some context, there are four reasons why deductions may be made from your deposit:

  • If you are in rent arrears
  • Late (rent) payment fees
  • If you have caused damage to the property
  • If you have exceeded your utility usage (gas, electric and internet)

Quarterly inspections of the property should enable us to identify the above, giving all a full audit trail of any damages, and time to act on them.

Here’s how the whole process works:

  • Inventories are carried out at the beginning of tenancy to represent the condition of the property on move in
  • Any maintenance will be picked up during quarterly inspections and tenants will be notified in writing of any possible tenant damages shortly after to allow opportunity to rectify them.
  • Photo evidence is taken at quarterly inspections which will show any damages and also show if the tenants have rectified between inspections to the end of the tenancy. A final dated photo will be taken on check out for any outstanding damages that are to be deducted from the deposit.
  • Utility usage is notified to tenants on a quarterly basis, this way any over-usage is known before move out and also gives tenants the chance to alter the usage in the property throughout the year. This will help to reduce or eradicate any deductions for utility usage exceeding the CAP stated in the tenancy agreement from the deposit.
  • A final check out will be carried out on move out and any damages notified to the tenants on the quarterly inspections will be checked to see if rectified. If not then the cost to repair will be deducted from the deposit.
  • Tenants are also advised to take their own photos on move out to use if there are any disputes.

Tenants will be notified of the inspection dates in advance and the appropriate 48 hours notice will be given.

We hope the inspection system will help improve transparency and a better relationship with our tenants. Everyone will know where they stand and any potential delays to deposit returns at the end of the year should hopefully be avoided.

If you have any further questions about our student house deposit procedure or quarterly inspections, please call 0800 500 3015.

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How to stop condensation in your house

how to stop condensation

Have you ever noticed that your windows or cold external walls sometimes get water droplets on them? That’s condensation.

It’s caused when warm moist air makes contact with cold surfaces. It happens in all homes from time to time but if it’s happening a lot, then it could lead to bigger problems.

Why is it a problem?

If left untreated, mould can form – black furry deposits in the corners and grooves of your windows and walls. This is bad for two reasons. Firstly, mould can be dangerous to your health as it contains harmful bacteria. Secondly, mould means that water has seeped into the gaps and is now settled on the inside of the walls or window frames. Over time this can turn into damp which can cause supportive structures in the home to weaken. This is when it becomes a big problem for us.

How to stop condensation

Enough of the scare stories. Here are some really simple things you can do to avoid condensation…

how to stop condensation– Use extractor fans

You know these? Extractor fans aren’t there for no reason, they remove moist air from bathrooms and other spaces with little to no other ventilation mean such as windows. Make sure they’re are switched on EVERY time you wash, shower or bathe.

Similarly, the hood above the hob in the kitchen has an extractor fan fitted. Whenever you’re cooking on the hob, make sure it’s turned on. Boiling water generates lots of steam which will settle on the walls and windows unless extracted.

Where installed, bedroom fans should also be left on.

how to stop condensation– Open windows

Opening the windows in your home also helps to prevent condensation. It lets the warm air escape and fresh cooler air come in. When it’s cold outside you might not want to open the windows but a little fresh air for 5 or 10 minutes a day will make all the difference. Plus, fresh air is good for you and could get rid of a few of those nasty smells that can appear over time. Leaving bedroom windows on the first vent setting whilst you are asleep and leaving your bedroom door slightly ajar will help air circulate and reduce condensation on your bedroom window in the morning.

Ensure you open the window in the bathroom and kitchen after bathing or cooking, again, just for 5 or 10 minutes to let the steam escape.  REMEMBER to close and secure them again before you leave the house!

how to stop condensation– Don’t cover radiators

Avoid putting wet washing on the radiators. The water vapours mixed with the warm air from the radiator will rise and settle on the walls and windows, creating condensation. Invest in a clothes horse and stand this next to a radiator instead.

Whose responsibility?

It is your responsibility to ensure you are doing all you can to avoid condensation and damp.

Following these simple steps will have a big impact. However, if the problem persists please let us know as soon as possible so our maintenance team can inspect and treat the affected area before it gets worse.

Please bear in mind we will have to pass on any repair costs to you and your housemates if you haven’t kept to your part of the deal. So turn on those extractor fans, open the windows, don’t cover radiators and wave goodbye to condensation!

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Student tenancy deposits and how they work

student tenancy deposits

We’re frequently asked questions about student tenancy deposits; what they’re for, what we do with them and when will they be returned?

In an effort to show transparency and to help answer some of your questions we’ve put together a handy guide to tenancy deposits.

Why do I have to pay a deposit? What is it for?

A deposit is required in the majority of letting arrangements for a number of reasons. At the very beginning of a tenancy it secures your hold on the property, ensuring it cannot be let to anyone else.

At Mistoria Estate Agents, and many other letting agents, the majority of our properties are let out on a room-by-room basis. We therefore ask for a deposit from everyone letting a room in the house. This system protects all the other tenants in the house, as well as us, the letting agents, and the landlord. Imagine if someone you shared with suddenly upped and left! When the next set of utility bills arrive and they aren’t around to pay them, you and the rest of the tenants in the house would be lumbered with covering their share of the costs. Alternatively, the letting agent or landlord would have to stump the cost of the vanishing tenant. Neither scenario is fair and that’s why deposits are taken off each tenant.

Deposit Protection Service

The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) protects deposits for tenancies in England and Wales. It is required by law that all landlords and letting agents put all tenant deposits into a deposit protection scheme.

Tenancy Deposit Protection was introduced in April 2007 as part of the Housing Act 2004 in England and Wales, as a way to raise standards in the lettings industry and ensure tenants are treated fairly at the end of the tenancy.

Mistoria Estate Agents adhere to this process and we put ALL tenancy deposits into a protection scheme for the length of the tenancy. NO DEPOSITS ARE HELD BY MISTORIA ESTATE AGENTS.

Getting your deposit back

In the vast majority of cases, deposits are returned in full at the end of a tenancy. The only time this doesn’t happen is when there are outstanding utility bills to pay or there is damage to the property that is the fault of the tenants.

Property damage

When you leave your Mistoria property, our team will go in and check the condition of the property. If any unreported damage is found, the cost of repair for this may be taken out of your deposit. If the damage is in a communal area, deductions will be taken equally from all tenants’ deposits. If it is a bedroom, the cost will be taken from that tenant’s deposit. No money will be taken without informing the affected tenant(s) first and you will have the right to appeal this decision.

Outstanding utility bills

At the end of your tenancy, which for student tenants is 30th June, there will still be utility bills to bring up to date. As stated in your tenancy agreement, your rent is inclusive of gas, electric and water utility with a cap in place. “At the end of the tenancy the total allowance for the tenancy period will be compared to the total actual usage to establish whether the utility cap has been breached. Any unused allowances within a particular period will be carried forward, or backwards, to offset against over usages of the following or preceding period. Any over usage as calculated at the end of the tenancy will need to be paid back to the landlord or the landlords’ agent within 7 days of submission of an invoice.”

Regardless of the date you choose to move out of your Mistoria property, the final utility bill payment will be divided equally amongst all tenants.

At the end of a tenancy we request final statements from the electricity and gas suppliers. It typically takes six weeks for these bills to arrive, we then need time to check them. Mistoria Estate Agents manage over 300 student properties, and with an average of four tenants per house that’s approximately 1,200 tenant deposits to work through.

We ask that you are patient and allow us a reasonable amount of time to process deductions and return your deposit.

Our tenancy agreement states deposits will be returned within 10 working days of agreement. This means 10 working days after we have contacted you informing you of your share of the final utility bill payments, NOT 10 working days from the end of your tenancy.

At this time we contact the Deposit Protection Service and request your deposit is returned to us. Once the funds are transferred to us we will debit the amount due for your share of the utility bill and return the remaining amount to you.

We hope the above has helped answer some of your questions. Please refer to your tenancy agreement in the first instance if you have any questions and for full details of the deposit/utility bill payment process. You can contact the office on 0800 500 3015 if you have any other specific questions about your deposit that haven’t be answered here or in your tenancy agreement.

Full details of the Deposit Protection Service can be found on their website: www.depositprotection.com/tenant-info. Here you can read about our (Mistoria Estate Agents) obligations as a letting agent and what happens to your deposit. There’s also information about Deposit Disputes and what can be done when you and your landlord or letting agent disagree about the amount of money they wish to deduct from your deposit.