Flooding: is your home at risk?

Is your home at risk of flooding? Dozens of flood warnings are in place across England today, with the Environment Agency issuing 60 flood warnings and nearly 160 alerts for coastal areas from Mount’s Bay in Cornwall to Seahouses, Northumberland.

With many rivers already swollen to bursting point after the last few days of heavy rain, block managers in these areas should already be preparing for the worst-case-scenario, delivering on-site protection such as sandbags or flood barriers to at-risk properties.

If flood warnings are broadcast, residents should be advised to move their cars to higher ground and belongings should be removed from ground floor flats and stored further up the building wherever possible. If residents have pets, they should try and make arrangements for them to be looked after by friends or relations and they should also try and find suitable overnight accommodation for themselves in advance should the worst happen. Some block insurance cover will allow for emergency accommodation but not all, so check with your property manager or landlord.

It is important for block managers to talk to residents, particularly anyone who is elderly or vulnerable, to make sure they know what to do and where to go should they find flood water coming into their homes. Checklists of what to take – such as medical supplies, mobile phones and bank cards – if residents are forced to evacuate, will help people plan in advance and leave the building calmly in an emergency.

Renters should make sure they have contents insurance with flood cover and don’t be afraid to ask your property manager/letting agent/landlord what, if any, flood protection measures they have in place. There should be a flood emergency and evacuation plan for your building. If you don’t have one, you and your neighbours can request one is drawn up. The Environment Agency runs a free flood warning service so anyone living in a flat can find out quickly if their block is at risk from potential flooding. And if you live in a ground floor flat, again, don’t be afraid to ask for sandbags to be provided so you can keep them on hand in case of emergency.

Renters living in houses rather than flats should speak directly to their letting agent or landlord if their home is in a high-risk area, to find out what they can usefully do to protect themselves or what action to take if their home becomes flooded.

Could you make money from corporate rentals?

Does your rental property have the wow factor?

 Have you ever thought about company lets? If not, maybe you should. Corporate tenants work for companies which have agreed to cover the costs of renting a home for their employees. This is usually because they are relocating to a new part of the country or are on secondment to a different part of the business. Major cities attract the most corporate renters but even in rural areas, major employers often need rental property for temporary staff or new employees. Rather than renting through the company, businesses are likely to give staff an accommodation allowance and let them find a suitable home themselves.

For landlords the advantages are clear. Corporate tenants come with the security of regular rental payments from a reliable source and a reduced risk of arrears and – hopefully – disputes. They are likely to be on a fixed-term contract so will be able to sign up for a  tenancy agreement of two to three years, depending on their employment arrangements. And as most are highly paid professionals, they will be happy to pay a higher monthly rent if they find the right property.

Happy days we hear you say! But it’s important to appreciate that as well as coming with great credentials as renters, corporate tenants have extremely high expectations. They demand excellent value for money – even though they’re not the ones paying the rent! Furnished property is favourite and quality is key. As one expert in the sector says: “If you want to attract top corporate professionals, then you have to provide the wow factor that makes your property more attractive than anything else being offered in the same building. 

So, what are these tenants looking for? High quality décor, fixtures and fittings goes without saying. Families moving to the UK from overseas will be looking for fast, accessible local transport links, excellent amenities and good schools if they have children. Corporate tenants also expect properties to be well-maintained and they will expect to have a reliable point of contact to quickly resolve any problems. That makes excellent property management a must. A dedicated property manager and the reassurance of either an on-site concierge or a 24/7 service will give your corporate let the edge.

So if you are a landlord thinking of going down this route, contact us for advice. Our property managers will be happy to advise you.

Are you content to rent?

Are you a long-term renter – or would you like to buy the home you live in?

Would you like to buy your rented home? If so, you’re in the minority according to Landbay which has carried out a tenant survey just as the Labour party is considering giving renters the right to buy. The specialist buy to let lender, says only 42% of private tenants want to purchase a property, based on a poll of 2,000 private renters in the UK.

The survey findings reveal that:

  • Older renters are the least interested in buying a home: only 13% of over 55s want to purchase in the near future.
  • Among those tenants aged 35 to 44, only 46% want to buy. 
  • Around two thirds of millennials aged 25 to 34 want to buy soon. 

There is also a notable gender discrepancy with 47% of women across all age groups keen to buy a home, compared to just 34% of men. 

The number of people planning to buy is highest in London (48%) and in Northern Ireland (47%). Those in the South West and Wales are least keen, both coming in at 37 % interested in buying – despite relatively lower house prices in these areas.

So why are the majority of tenants content to rent? Flexibility of tenure comes out on top and is largely seen as positive. A quarter of renters without home ownership aspirations say it’s the key attraction.

As Landbay rightly points out, there is still the assumption that most tenants are simply renting while they save a deposit to buy their own home. But the changing nature of employment, which supports the trend towards more flexible living arrangements make long-term renting attractive to a small but important majority.  

Earlier this month we slated Labour’s plans to give private renters the right to buy their home – even if the landlord had not put the property on the market. Landbay’s findings point to the wrong-headed thinking behind this proposal. Why pledge to introduce a right to buy policy if renters don’t want to purchase the homes they live in?

 Instead, any future government should encourage greater flexibility in the rental market, promote development of build-to-rent homes for all ages – not just young professionals – and look at ways to bring homes back into failing town and city centres. High quality, affordable residential property can be a driver to boost local economies and bring people and businesses back into neglected urban spaces. Vibrant, mixed-use development that works for all of us  – investors, landlords and a wide range of tenants – must surely be the way forward.

How landlords drive up quality in the rented sector

Refurbishment is big business in the rental sector – and is helping drive up quality

Despite recent attempts by politicians to colour the PRS as sub-standard and riddled with rogue landlords, in fact the quality of rented accommodation is on an upward trend.

A survey published this week by InterBay Commercial proves the point. According to the specialist buy-to-let lender, the number of rented homes in England deemed ‘non-decent’ by the Office for National Statistics has fallen for the tenth year in a row. The most recent data reveals a decrease to 24.5% in 2018 from 44% in 2008. There is still a way to go but the vast majority of landlords are now providing good quality homes for people to live in. And this is in spite of the rapid expansion of the sector in the last decade, adding 1.5 million new rented homes.

Confirmation that quality is being driven up year-on-year is borne out by the latest English Housing Survey. This shows that the vast majority (84%) of private renters were satisfied with their current accommodation. 

In addition to the professionalisation of the sector due to the advent of buy-to-rent, which is promoting high-quality living space, InterBay claims that landlords’ commitment to upgrading properties has been a key factor in this improvement. 

The lender’s survey of more than 700 property investors shows that 70% of landlords who recently undertook a refurbishment did so to improve the property, either to enhance the presentation or to elevate the quality of the accommodation for tenants. 

As well as ensuring a property is an attractive prospect for potential tenants, refurbishment typically bolsters a rental property’s value and income potential: 74% of those who undertook a refurbishment said it enhanced the property’s value, and 82% saw monthly rents rise. Even after accounting for those who did not see the value of their property rise, the typical refurbishment added £13,000 to a house’s value.

So it may be an easy target for political point-scoring, but the private rented sector has been the success story of the housing market in the last decade. Growth and professionalisation have improved both choice and quality for tenants.

However, faced with a range of potentially damaging future policies and proposals from across the political spectrum, continued investment is not a foregone conclusion. Rather than demonising landlords and driving them out of the market, they should be well-regulated and properly supported. Interbay Commercial thinks that, should the current rate of change in the PRS continue, “it will weigh on landlords’ decisions to spend more on their portfolios, and risks undermining a decade of progress”.

We agree wholeheartedly.  

Why bother with an inventory?

“Why bother with an inventory?” This was a comment spotted online, beneath an article looking at the importance of inventories to landlords and letting agents. It’s a fair question. Unless your tenancy began before 1 June, check-out fees and charges for services such as a professional clean at the end of your tenancy are now banned unless there are good reasons for them. However, deposits have been capped not outlawed altogether and landlords are still entitled to deduct money at the end of a tenancy if damage has been done. But robust evidence is needed.

The Association for Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) says, “assessing what constitutes fair wear and tear to a rental home is among the least understood areas of the lettings process, and one which can create much ambiguity and cause the most disputes when a tenancy ends”. Alleged property damage, cleaning and redecoration are among the most common reasons for a dispute between landlords and tenants, the AIIC says. And the Tenancy Deposit Scheme confirms that more than 60% of TDS disputes involve cleaning.

So setting a benchmark for cleanliness and the condition of the property and its fixtures and fittings is crucial. That means providing a detailed and accurate inventory. At the start of the tenancy, the tenant should check and sign it off – ideally, says the AIIC, within seven days This should be done again when the tenancy ends

To make this easy for our clients and their tenants, at Ringley we have our own app called Quick Inventory. You can just download via the app store – it’s as easy as that! And if you would prefer a third party to provide an inventory for you, we have partnered with evolve who will do it on your behalf. Go to https://www.evolvepartnership.co.uk/ to find out more.
An inventory should include written notes and photographic evidence, as well as details of the contents. If the tenancy ends in a dispute, evidence provided by both the landlord and the tenant will be needed to resolve the problem. So don’t get caught out – download our app today.

What do renters want?

Are property providers getting it right?

Here’s something interesting. Global law firm CMS has just published wide-ranging research into renting around the world. Urban being: the future of city living is a major piece of work and one of the most interesting aspects is the section on What renters want.

The researchers look in detail at how consumer preferences differ between generations and from the views of rental property providers. CMS says “As the popularity of the residential sector grows and more players enter it, one of the key means to differentiate will be through a serviced offer, so getting the right blend of amenities is key. So there are decisions to be made about what is actually going to make a difference in terms of customer retention”. This report aims to provide some pointers.

According to the researchers, the property sector has got four of renters’ top five preferences right. These are: proximity to transport links and place of work, outdoor space and safety and security. However, a spacious living room area is the third most important feature of a rented home to 54% of consumers but only 26% of property professionals think this would be important. And larger kitchens also come out high on the list.

Other factors where the industry and its customers are markedly out of sync include permission to keep pets (10% to 43%) and car parking (46% to 19%). Views also differ on whether a spacious main bedroom is required (49% to 14%).

Property providers could learn a lot from this report. And it makes interesting reading for all of us living or working in the sector. To download a copy, click here.

Top London rents: what else could you buy?

We all know how pricey London can be – after all, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. With Hamptons International confirming this week that average rents are up by 2% since last August, everyone living in the capital must sometimes wonder how much more they could get for their money if they lived elsewhere.

Property experts FastSaleHomes.co.uk decided to have some fun with this. They have surveyed London’s rental properties to find out just how much money renters in the capital’s poshest areas actually spend on their properties. The research is a real eye-opener. Here’s what you could buy with the money you would have to spend on renting these properties for a year.

The average UK house price is around £240,000, so with the £260,000 you would have to pay every month to rent a penthouse flat in Mayfair, you could BUY a three-bedroom house in Southampton. Or, a car enthusiast could buy a McLaren 720S supercar (which starts at £208,000). Alternatively, your month’s rent could sail two people around the world on a 112-night cruise – with spending money to spare. With the roughly £3M in rent payments for the next 11 months, you could invest in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Florida. Or with just one year’s rent, you could buy around 16 properties in the East Midlands.

Two months’ rent on that Mayfair flat comes in at a whopping £520,000, but if you fancy moving to Manchester instead, that’s enough to buy you a new and luxurious three-bedroom flat in the city centre.

If you want to set your sights a tad lower, a flat in Hans Place – only a stone’s throw from Harrods – would cost you £97,500 monthly rent. The property comes with luxury amenities including a cinema room and 24-hour uniformed security and concierge services. However, if you could live without that, two or three months’ worth of rent and you’re already looking at making a big property investment outside of London. That £300,000 will buy you a four-bed, two-bathroom house in Edinburgh.

Or if you feel like splashing your cash, you could just buy a luxury car such as the Lotus Exige 3.5 Sport, or even an entry-level yacht, for only a month’s rent. A year’s rent in this part of Knightsbridge equates to around £1.1 million – which could net you up to seven properties in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Of course, for most of us, this is all just pie in the sky. The average monthly cost of renting in London is around £1737 pcm. But with three years’ rent you could buy a terraced house in Middlesborough or Blackpool.  And if you’re happy to continue renting, you could save yourself around £700 pcm by moving to Manchester and up to £1000 pcm by considering Leeds or Huddersfield.

So if you are thinking about leaving London behind – and don’t need to commute back into town every day –  why not look further afield. There is life – and property – outside the capital that could be worth considering. Why not check out the sales and lettings on our LifebyRingley website to find out more.

The top 10 property hotspots are outside London

Buy-to-let: where’s the best UK location?

Forget the south of England. The best places to let property are now in northern towns and cities, according to new research from Rightmove, which analyses asking rents outside London.

Data from the property website shows that northern towns and cities now dominate the top ten places where asking rents have increased the most – excluding the capital – since July 2018. So if you want to get the best return on your investment, where are the best places to buy rental property?

Pudsey topped Rightmove’s table for highest rental growth. Tenants in the West Yorkshire town can now expect to pay around £680 per calendar month. That’s a 12% hike from £607 pcm a year ago. Commenting on being placed at the top of the leader board, John Sheader, lettings manager of Manning Stainton in Pudsey, said: “It’s booming in Pudsey; as an area it’s really close to Leeds and …with people who work in the city moving to Pudsey, the demand has increased and so its prices have been playing catch-up. It’s only 15 minutes from Leeds city centre by car, and even quicker by train – Pudsey has a station with direct access into Leeds. It’s the perfect location for younger people.”

Pontypridd in Wales was second in the table, with Bury in Greater Manchester coming in third. Both towns have witnessed year-on-year asking rent increases of 9%.

Esher in Surrey was the only place from the south of England to make the top ten, with average asking rents rising 8% from £1,614 in July 2018 to £1,743 in July this year. The west London suburb is also home to the highest asking rents outside the capital.

In Scotland, the highest rental growth was in Stirling. Average asking rents increased in the city by 7% from £658 to £707 pcm between July last year and July 2019.

Rightmove’s Rental Trends Tracker for Q2 2019 also reveals that around the country (excluding London) asking rents stand at a record high of £817 per month, running at 2.7% up on a year ago as rents continue to steadily rise.

Demand from tenants looking for a new home increased 7% between May and June, an uplift seven times bigger when compared to the previous four-year average of just 1% at that time of year, as tenants waited to move until after the fees ban came into force in England on 1 June.

Rightmove’s property expert Miles Shipside believes a range of drivers are pushing rents to a new record high. Fewer landlords – as some have exited the market due to more punitive taxes – have combined with lower tenancy costs to create higher demand for rented homes. “It’s the more northerly locations that have driven this increase and they dominate the top ten hotspots when you exclude the capital’s more rarefied market,” he says. “These rent jumps are good news for landlords who have ridden out the tax hikes, though they may cause some tenants to falter after the initial excitement of the potential of upfront savings under the tenant fee ban.”

Top ten rental hotspots (for two-bedroom properties):

Rank Location Average asking rent (July 19) Average asking rent (July 18) % change
1 Pudsey £680 £607 12%
2 Pontypridd £550 £505 9%
3 Bury £629 £578 9%
4 Newcastle Upon Tyne £701 £644 9%
5 Esher £1,743 £1,614 8%
6 Stirling £707 £658 7%
7 Durham £579 £539 7%
8 York £833 £776 7%
9 Rochdale £535 £499 7%
10 Dundee £611 £570 7%
Note: The data for towns/cities comprises average asking rents for two-bedroom properties only, between 1 July 2018 and 31July 2019.

No slowdown for BTR pipeline in the Northwest

Last week, the Northwest Insider event looked at issues around housing supply and demand. Life by Ringley MD Sam Hay was there, so for those of you who are interested, here are a few of the most interesting takeaways. 

When it comes to rental values, build to rent property continues to command a premium. Pounds per square foot does not come into BTR, instead it’s all about quality of product. Rental growth for July was around 1.13% but Andrew Cook from M&G commented that there will be pressures on pricing as more schemes come onto the market.

Low entry costs on BTR flats are making things much easier for renters. Increasingly, people want a transient way of life and easy entry and exit, so they are likely to try different buildings before they settle longer term. Lifestyle choices are changing fast and renting is no longer frowned upon. Renters react positively to being viewed as customers, not tenants; maintenance issues are dealt with fast and longer-term leases are expected to take off. As a result, BTR is a huge growth area with 1.4 billion total investment this year in Manchester alone. Manchester is currently at the hub of BTR and is very much being used as a test case. Manchester City Council thinks there will be an undersupply but at this moment in time, due to Section 106 requirements, consents are slowing down.

One downside of the BTR explosion and the high demand for one-bedroom homes, according to Tim Heatley from Capital and Centric, is that Manchester city centre is not ready for families. Chris Shaw from Urban Splash agrees. He thinks offers in our town centres need to change, and there should also be schemes in rural areas. Maybe with new ways to sell being considered, such as pre-approved mortgages where you turn up and pick your home. At the moment it is easiest to develop BTR schemes in city centres and building an investment case in other locations can be difficult.

Lambert Smith Hampton told the Northwest Insider audience that 54% of all housing investment in the North East is now for ‘alternative’ homes, such as BTR and student accommodation. The success of the latter in Manchester and other university towns has provided a model for new developments in the region. Diversification and a huge undersupply of high quality residential housing are now driving investment in residential portfolios as opposed to the standard commercial property investment model. There is even an argument in favour of BTR as a separate asset class.

Making the case for a new housing court

In June, we blogged about the idea of setting up a new, dedicated housing court. This has worked well in Scotland, where landlords can take action quickly when faced with rogue tenants. And, according to one of the biggest-ever surveys of landlords and letting agents done by the Residential Landlords Association, it would go down well here too.

The RLA says a massive 79% of private landlords with experience of using the courts to repossess properties are dissatisfied with the way they work. And 91% of landlords support the idea of setting up a new housing court.

Last week we urged you to get behind our campaign to keep Section 21. If it is scrapped, as the government plans, the existing court system will be completely overloaded with repossession cases. It already takes an average of five months to repossess a property – and this will get worse if nothing is done.

And it’s not just landlords who are unhappy with the way the system works – or doesn’t. Separate research from Citizens Advice proves that tenants too are put off taking landlords to court by the existing legal system.

More than half of tenants the consumer body spoke to, said the process is too long and too complicated. This stops people taking action when they are stuck with a bad landlord or a poorly maintained property. A properly funded and staffed housing court could go a long way towards solving the problem.

Everyone living and working in the rental sector is facing the most far-reaching changes we have seen for decades. As the RLA, rightly says, if the new Government decides it wants to go ahead with its proposals, “significant and bold” reforms need to be made to our court system. Anything else will lead to chaos.

Chris Norris from the National Landlords Association is calling for any improvements to the system to be in place, properly funded and fully functional before the government “even contemplates” changes to Section 21.

Even better; improve the court system so that it functions for everyone – and leave Section 21 alone.