Stamp duty abolished for some first time buyers – and rates relief for retail


Yesterday’s Budget speech didn’t include many dramatic new measures to boost the property sector  but we certainly welcome the Chancellor’s first time buyers’ stamp duty abolition on shared ownership homes valued at up to £500,000. This is a good way to get normal working families into secure accommodation as an alternative to rent.  With the huge increase in numbers of homes for sale and/or part ownership developed by housing associations, we see HAs very much as the developers of the future. With a red tape, tick-box-based planning system and some developers guilty of land banking sites to maintain prices – stimulus for social housing must be the answer to the housing crisis.

With the London property market cooling we also welcome the extension of the government’s ‘help to buy’ initiative, which supports many developers and ensures that UK purchasers can buy  UK property – without that ability there is a serious risk of the remote or overseas landlord problem getting out of control.  It is absolutely vital that we don’t alienate young buyers by pushing them out of our cities in favour of yields-driven landlords who overcrowd properties that were originally designed as family homes.   The good news for renters and sharers is that increasingly there are quality, purposefully designed build-to-rent homes coming onto the market in pure rent environments.  But accidental landlords – those who, say, rent out their batchelor pad – got no comfort yesterday as tax relief and claimable allowances continue to be phased out.

We hope that the promised £400M for schools will be in part directed into ‘fit for work’ measures. On a day-to-day basis at Ringley we remain challenged by the lack of employability skills in many of the youngsters we support. We estimate the employer burden on filling those gaps is costing us up to £3,500 per employee.

Having been an Ambassador for Apprenticeships from the start, we welcome the £695M to develop apprenticeships.  However, we remain concerned and are working with training providers on a number of challenges, in particular the fact that we cannot truly offer to take apprentices through to degree level in some disciplines such as IT and that, for example, IT apprenticeships often reflect old technologies and need updating fast.

The budget did provide much-needed help for the retail property sector. Landlords of our beleaguered high streets and retail centres should be able to hold their rents and reduce the uncertainty of void units with the announcement that rates for small business are to be cut by 1/3rd over the next two years. This is a much-needed reduction and some relief from the pressures of a changing landscape and digitalisation, which falls particularly unequally on break-even small businesses.  Not sure we are ready to open our lavatories to the entire general public quite yet though!

We hope that the money local councils will receive to revive their high streets will inspire creative thinking as the reason for having a town centre continues to shift.    More on that soon…..





Government pledges to keep renters safe

On Friday, we were delighted to see the announcement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that it is going to carry out what it describes as a “wide-ranging review” of health & safety in the private rented sector. Local councils can already take action against landlords that don’t keep their rental properties up to scratch but the rules haven’t been updated for over a decade and, in our view, closer scrutiny of rented homes is overdue.

Poorly maintained and unsafe properties are not the norm – and we pride ourselves at Ringley that all our tenants can be safe in the knowledge that their homes meet all current health & safety regulations. However, as the government said last week, a minority of landlords are renting out unsafe, sub-standard accommodation and this has to stop. To misquote the old saying, a few bad apples give all of us a bad name so we hope this review will help tackle the problems faced by tenants who find themselves living in poor quality housing. If we end up with minimum standards for common health and safety problems in rental accommodation, then three cheers for that!

The other important issue being considered is whether  all landlords should be obliged to fit carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. At the moment alarms are only required in homes with solid fuel appliances such as log burners – which are notorious for the potential to build-up carbon monoxide.

In the UK, carbon monoxide poisoning in the home accounts for 50 recorded deaths per year, and as many as 4,000 medical visits, according to the Department of Health, with almost 1% of households exposed to high carbon monoxide levels each year. This is roughly quarter of a million homes – and that’s 250,000 too many. This gas is a silent killer, with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning ranging from headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomachs, nausea, chest pains, and in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and even death. A blanket requirement to fit alarms across the board really could save lives.  In the meantime, we would advise all our tenants to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. They are not expensive and you can buy one almost anywhere from Argos to Amazon. Why run the risk?


How long will you wait to get your deposit back?

Nearly a fifth (18%) of tenants renting from private landlords say they have waited more than three months to get a deposit back, according to a survey carried out by the Nationwide. The average waiting time was found to be almost two months and the mortgage lender also revealed that 4% of those asked had experienced a delay of more than six months.

Not good enough says a leading deposit protection scheme. In fact, the money should be returned within 10 days of the tenant requesting it after they move out of the property.

The survey of more than 2,000 private tenants reveals that 35% had previously lost some or all of their tenancy deposit and as we commented in this blog earlier in October, 18 to 24-year-olds are particularly likely to have money deducted from their deposit to cover end of tenancy cleaning costs.

At Ringley we are proud of the relationships we build with both landlords and tenants. We work hard to ensure all our landlords treat tenants fairly and with respect. Sometimes there is a good reason for withholding deposit monies but if you have a problem – and believe your money is being withheld for no good reason  –  please contact us as soon as possible. If we don’t know, we can’t help.

Paul Wootton, Nationwide’s director of specialist lending, believes solutions to the problem for tenants could include transferring deposits from one tenancy to the next, providing appropriate short-term loans or offering a guarantee. What do you think?

‘New’ Proptech tool is old news– we were there first!

Here at Ringley, a story published in Letting Agent Today has really got our backs up.  Inventory services provider No Letting Go has just announced their new proptech tool. It automatically sends a copy of an inventory to a tenant, allowing them to check it in their own time and upload images showing issues they want to put forward. The aim is a good one: to significantly cut pre-tenancy admin for letting agents and landlords. “We’re convinced that this service represents the future of check-in reporting and authorisation” says Nick Lyons, chief executive and founder of No Letting Go.

Well we’ve got news for Letting Agent Today. Ringley has been providing this service for our landlords and tenants for years via QuickInventory – a platform that we developed ourselves and which has saved countless hours of unnecessary admin both for us, our clients and their tenants.

Our proprietary software incorporates SignFast e-signing technology, allowing tenants to sign and return inventories in exactly the same way as No Letting Go’s supposedly groundbreaking tool.

The press can’t always be expected to know when a product promoted as innovative has been around for some time but at Ringley we are secure in the knowledge that we were there first!

What’s the cost of renting versus buying?

 You can now find out how much it would cost to rent a house in different parts of the country over a ‘lifetime of renting’ – assumed to be 50 years – thanks to a new Proptech tool designed by furnishing company Thomas Sanderson. This clever piece of software also compares the average cost of buying a property now against those lifetime renting costs.

So how does it work? Well, it’s really easy – just go to and enter your chosen postcode or city. The app will work out how much it would cost to rent a house in that area for a total of 50 years.  The software brings up a map of the area that you have chosen, showing different average rents for different postcodes. If you then click on your chosen postcode, you can see the difference in lifetime rental payments and the cost of buying a home in the same area.

Ringley is based in London NW1, so we thought we’d do some comparisons of our own. The results were staggering. A lifetime of renting in our area would cost a tenant £2.25M, while the average house price currently just tops £1M – a difference of 111%!

The app also shows the 10 most expensive locations for renting as well as the 10 most affordable. Areas that will eat up your rent the quickest are London – no surprises there – Surrey and Berkshire. In contrast, the most affordable part of the UK is Scotland. It’s all maybe a little predictable but still an interesting exercise for renters, especially if you’re thinking of moving.

Longer tenancies – what do you think?


Longer tenancies have been in the news lately, with some build-to-rent providers offering tenants the option of a three-year contract instead of the standard six month or one year AST. The government picked up on the trend and recently consulted on the idea that all landlords offer longer rental periods to tenants. But is there really a demand in the market for longer contracts?

Some tenants say they would welcome the move, especially if they have children in local schools and an easy commute to work – after all, who needs the disruption of moving if they don’t have to? Others, particularly younger people with no family commitments, often prefer the flexibility of being able to move around without being tied into a long rental agreement.

According to AXA, six out of 10 renters are happy with tenancies of 12 months or less. A survey carried out by the insurer reveals that more than two thirds of tenants would still opt for a shorter tenancy even if they were given the choice. However, according to the survey,  long leases such as those commonly used in mainland Europe, would be attractive to a quarter of renting families as opposed to single renters and those without children.

A recent poll of 2,000 tenants by online letting agent MakeUrMove also found that only 7.2% of tenants would prefer a tenancy lasting three years. Around a third of those polled said they would like tenancies to remain at 12 months and a further 20% would like tenancies to last no longer than two years.

So three years doesn’t seem a particularly popular choice. However, some 29% of tenants did say they would prefer a tenancy to last significantly longer than three years. Over two in five surveyed (43%) had already spent more than five years in their current rental property.

Ultimately, it seems that the government’s Tenant Fees Bill, now making its way through Parliament is a far more popular proposition than multi-year leases. Six in ten renters say they have had to pay the types of fees to landlords and letting agents that the Bill seeks to outlaw, says AXA. These are mostly fees for starting, ending or renewing a tenancy agreement. And a quarter of tenants say they have had to pay for the pleasure of having a credit or reference check done against them too.

Landlords – could this be you?


Private landlords in the London Borough of Barnet are being offered a grant to help them bring empty homes back into use. Anyone who rents in London knows housing really is in short supply so its great to see a council bringing empty homes back into use as soon as possible. It’s also refreshing to see a local authority putting its money where its mouth is and offering a financial incentive to get the ball rolling.

The good news for landlords is that up to £25K is on offer to help get their properties into the rental market; either by refurbishing them or converting commercial properties to residential use. Of course the size of the grant on offer depends on the property in question.  At the moment, £15, 300 is up for grabs for a one-bedroom property, £20,400 for two bedrooms and the full £25,000 for three bedrooms. Obviously, to get their hands on the money, landlords have to agree to actually rent their properties out once works are completed – but to add an additional incentive an extra £2, 500 is available to anyone signing up by 30 November.

So if you live in Barnet and have an empty property – or more than one – in your portfolio, don’t hang around. To apply for an Empty Homes Grant, call 0208 359 4359. And who knows, if the initiative proves successful, other London boroughs may follow suit. Here’s hoping!



Could your phone keep you out of rent arrears?

Everyone tries to avoid falling into rent arrears. Sometimes it happens due to financial problems and sometimes it’s just a simple mistake. Rising rents in property hotspots are adding to the problem. But using a payment automation platform could make all the difference, according to one PropTech entrepreneur, who says a simple SMS message generated by an automated system could be enough to keep most tenants on track.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer at PayProp UK explains that seeing the live status of a portfolio via an automated system can quickly and easily show letting agents which tenants are in arrears in real time. These tenants can then be automatically reminded via their mobile phone to pay their rent.  According to Neil, around 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt and a staggering 64% of tenants who are in arrears respond within 48 hours of being reminded. “Automating arrears management processes could save agents and their clients thousands of pounds each year,” he told Letting Agent Today in October.

Neil also suggests that increasing automation could help future-proof letting agents against the higher levels of transparency and regulation which are now being introduced by government into the lettings sector. (Read more on this at ) “With incoming laws requiring mandatory Client Money Protection scheme membership and banning up-front fees, it’s vital that agents can easily prove their transparency by producing a record of all incoming and outgoing payments…” Automated payment systems are a quick win for agents and could really help tenants to make their payments on time.

Will your job be safe in an AI world?


There’s a lot of noise around artificial intelligence at the moment. Automated supermarket check-outs are commonplace and driverless cars will soon be taking over our streets. However, according to AI expert and former president of Google Kai-Fu Lee, property managers can rest easy because, alongside therapists and fiction writers, management professionals are likely to remain irreplaceable – at least for the foreseeable future!

The reason these jobs are safe says Lee, is that AI can’t yet conceptualize or plan and lacks any sense of caring or empathy – all skills that professional property managers use on a daily basis.

Good property managers not only understand the ins and outs of the blocks they manage and the legal and regulatory framework within which they operate, but they also have essential human interaction and communication skills. They are able to motivate, negotiate, and persuade; effectively connecting with residents on behalf of landlords and freeholders. According to Lee, the best managers are also able to establish a strong workplace culture and value system within their own organisations through their actions and words.

Routine maintenance, cleaning, gardening and even reporting service charge expenditure to the annual AGM may all be carried out by robots in the future but, says Lee, “While AI may be used to manage performance, managerial work will continue to be carried out by humans”.  Good news all round for both residents and their property advisers we hope you’ll agree!

Is wearable tech on offer from your landlord?


We’re all used to seeing on-site gyms as part and parcel of the offer in smart apartment blocks but now build-to-rent housing developer Moda is taking personal fitness for residents to a new level. With the recent announcement from the World Health organisation that we are all sitting around too much and not getting our recommended one and half hours a week of exercise, this could be good news for anyone living in a Moda block who is worried they are turning into a couch potato.

In the first tie-up of its kind in the housing market, the company has just announced a partnership with a new health and fitness platform called Hero. The aim is to give residents access to a training club in their block that will use wearable tech and 3D body scanners to measure their fitness and create tailored exercise and diet regimes for them. Moda customers will also have access to personal advice from Premier League coaches and nutritionists. And just in case block managers are feeling left out, Hero will also provide ‘mental health first’ training for Moda’s on-site management staff.

This may be a property first but it certainly won’t be the last tie-up we’ll see between a developer and an outside provider. Block operators are ever-more savvy about what will encourage residents – particularly in the build-to-rent market – to sign on the dotted line. Increasingly flat owners and renters are buying into a lifestyle and providers are keen to set the pace. What will they come up with next? At Ringley, a quick office poll came up with some interesting ideas. Our money’s on smart flats where you can activate heating and appliances from your phone, free health screening, pet-friendly blocks and – to attract the growing number of families now renting their homes – on-site childcare, including a babysitting service. Watch this space to see if we’re right!