Tenancy agreements made easy with PlanetRent

Produce tenancy agreements fast with PlanetRent

Tenancy agreements are either not read or are difficult to understand. Or at least that’s the way it looks from a report we spotted earlier this week in Landlord Today.

When renters have questions about their rights and responsibilities, they are turning to Google for the answers, says the article. No surprise there we hear you say. After all the internet is everyone’s first port of call if they need to know something.

But most of the questions being searched aren’t complicated – in fact, they are pretty basic. Clearly, tenants aren’t reading their rental agreement – or would rather not have the hassle of speaking to their letting agent or landlord to get an answer.

Research from Boiler Plan reveals the most common questions private renters asked Google in April. They were: 

  • Can landlords increase my rent – 3,200 Google searches
  • Can my landlord evict me – 1,880 Google searches
  • What are my responsibilities as a tenant – 1,600 Google searches
  • Can letting agents charge fees – 760 Google searches
  • Can my landlord keep my deposit – 550 Google searches
  • What are tenancy fees – 250 Google searches
  • Can you paint a rented house – 220 Google searches
  • Does the landlord have to fix my boiler – 130 Google searches
  • What repairs is the landlord responsible for– 110 Google searches

Our view is that tenants should always be asked to read their tenancy agreement and come back to the agent or landlord with the kinds of questions we’ve just listed. Some of these, such as issues around boilers, repairs and redecorating may not crop up until later in the tenancy but basic questions about rent, eviction and deposit monies should be ironed out right from the start. That way everyone knows where they stand.

Of course renters won’t read their agreement if it runs to 50 pages, so landlords should keep their paperwork short and to the point.

By using our new cloud-based letting platform PlanetRent, landlords can keep tenancy agreements simple. PlanetRent generates tenancy agreements in a matter of minutes, making them fast, accessible and easy to use.

PlanetRent is lettings automated. It puts you, the landlord, in the driving seat and helps you provide your tenant with everything they need to make their lettings journey simple and painless. We have a killer pricing model too. So why not check out PlanetRent today.


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Don’t forget – Tenant Fees Act in force from Monday!

The Tenant Fees Act applies to all tenancies in England from Monday 1 June

Landlords, from next week the Tenant Fees Act 2019 applies to all your tenancies and you are banned from charging renters any fees apart from those specified in the legislation. That’s rent, tenancy deposits, holding deposits and any default charges that are specifically stated plus a few others we list below.

The Act came into effect in England on 1 June 2019 with a one-year transitional period, which exempted existing tenancies from the new rules. This is about to end. So from Monday 1 June, all assured shorthold tenancies and HMO licences are subject to the legislation. The legislation also introduced a deposit cap that limits deposits to five weeks’ rent (or six weeks if the annual rent is £50,000 or more).

To remind landlords of the rules, here’s a list of allowable charges:

  • A refundable deposit
  • A refundable holding deposit – capped at one week’s rent
  • Rent, utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax
  • Fees for changing or ending a tenancy at the tenant’s request
  • Default fees for late payment of rent  
  • Fees for replacing a lost key or security device, where required under a tenancy agreement and with evidence of the cost in the form of a receipt or invoice.

If landlords charge for anything that isn’t on this list that’s a breach of the new legislation. This carries a fine of up to £5000. And even worse, if you break the rules again within five years of being fined the first time, that counts as a criminal offence and carries an unlimited fine. So make sure you understand the new rules.

For a full list of charges that are now banned under the legislation, you can read the Government guidance in full here.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that any deposit taken before 1 June 2019 that was higher than the five or six-week cap that is now in place, doesn’t need to be refunded immediately. Instead, renters should receive a refund at the end of the tenancy. The new tenancy deposit cap will apply to any new tenancy agreed after that.


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

PlanetRent makes deposit-free renting safe and easy

planetrent logo

Agents and landlords can now offer deposit-free rentals safely and easily with our new lettings platform PlanetRent. The average deposit paid by tenants over the past year sits at £1,299 according to mydeposits. With the earnings of a typical Brit estimated by the Office for National Statistics as £585 a week, most deposits would be more than half a month’s income.

By using PlanetRent, your tenants get a much better deal.  Our partnership with deposit alternative provider Reposit ensures landlords are protected while tenants can move into their new home and avoid putting down a hefty deposit.

Here’s how it works. Renters simply purchase a ‘reposit’, which costs just one week’s rent as a service fee. Reposit then offers market-leading property protection of 8 weeks to PlanetRent landlords – with very little admin and zero risk. PlanetRent landlords can use the service automatically, with all of the information around the tenant and the tenancy contract sent to Reposit at the first instance.

Research by Legal and General reveals that 15% of people have no savings at all, and just under a third have less than £1,500 in the bank. With coronavirus upending the economy, household finances are likely to worsen, underlining the need for solutions that reduce key living costs such as renting.

Landlord Today reports that a survey of more than 4,500 private landlords by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), shows 90% of landlords with tenants who are struggling to pay their rent are bending over backwards to help.

By using PlanetRent with Reposit, landlords and agents can cater to renters whose personal finances have suffered from the disruption caused by coronavirus. The partnership between PlanetRent and Reposit allows landlords to house a greater range of people, including those on lower incomes who can’t necessarily afford a traditional deposit, while staying protected, and those looking for their first job, just leaving education or looking for their first home.”

Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley and creator of PlanetRent, says:Deposits help ensure landlords are protected from any extra damage caused by tenants beyond reasonable wear and tear but for many renters, they are a huge financial burden and will be even more so thanks to the uncertainty caused by coronavirus.”

The partnership between PlanetRent and Reposit takes the pain out of renting. Our new cloud-based platform really is lettings automated – it’s quick, easy and hassle free for landlords and agents and now its deposit-free for tenants too.


Why not READ our Property Blog: www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Landlords in the firing line – again!

Landlords in the firing line don’t deserve always to be seen as the bad guy

Landlords in the firing line from another consumer group may once again be wondering what they have to do to prove that they are not always the bad guy. Following on from recent calls for tenants to pay no rent if they are suffering financial hardship due to Covid-19, this week Citizens Advice wants buy to let properties to be re-let only if the tenants in them want to move.

The proposal is just one in a list of tenant-related demands made by the organisation, most of which relate to the Coronavirus outbreak. But yesterday Citizens Advice told Letting Agent Today that “properties should only be put on the rental market if the tenant has said they want to move.”

We think there’s a major misconception here. There seems to be an assumption that just because tenancy agreements are for a fixed term, landlords automatically want to change tenants. They don’t.

Ringley Group MD Mary-Anne Bowring says: “The truth is that a sane landlord would want to end the tenancy only if they were experiencing problems with the tenants. Why face a void period if your tenant wants to stay.  A void means not only the loss of a couple of weeks rent but also the need to refresh the property, spruce it up a bit and maybe even change curtains, furniture or carpets”.

Citizens Advice is also calling on the Government to “accelerate its policy to scrap Section 21”. We wholeheartedly disagree with this too and have campaigned to keep a system that we believe is effective. Section 21 is simply a polite way to evict difficult tenants. It stops the court system being clogged up with many small rent arrears cases and gives landlords some certainty that their worst bad debt is the term of the tenancy without protracted court proceedings.

Most property owners who rent a home to tenants do a good job. They are not constantly trying to rip-off or evict renters who pay their bills and look after the property. So why put landlords in the firing line – again!


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Moving house? Now you can!

Time to get moving – but you must stick to the new guidelines

Have your moving house plans been brought to a halt by the lockdown? If so, you can now re-start the process. Yesterday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that, from today, anyone in England can move home if they follow the new Government guidance.

Since lockdown restrictions were implemented in March, more than 450,000 people have been unable to progress their plans to move house. The government hopes to re-start the market and get buyers, sellers and renters moving again.

Clearly, this announcement doesn’t mean a return to normality – far from it. The process of finding and moving into a new home will be different and that now includes doing more of the process online. Initial viewings will be virtual and vendors will be asked to keep away while potential buyers are shown around. Properties must also be thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in. So good news for commercial cleaning companies used by landlords and block managers.

After seven weeks in lockdown, the announcement is welcome news for the property industry as well as for buyers, sellers and renters. Ringley Group MD Maryanne Bowring said today:  “There’s no reason buyers or renters shouldn’t be able to move home if they are able to do so safely in accordance with social distancing guidelines”. However, she is quick to point to the fact that this doesn’t mean the housing market has returned to its pre-coronavirus state.

 Lockdown is set to continue in some form for an unknown amount of time and the resulting economic disruption is likely to weigh down on activity in the for-sale market. A stamp duty holiday, as proposed by RICS and others (see our 29 April blog for more details) could see a stampede in transactions while an extended Help to Buy will support some sales and in turn housebuilding.

 Maryanne thinks the Government now has an opportunity to think long term and introduce policies to reflect Britain’s changing housing needs. “Private renters are a fast-growing part of the housing market and need catering to,” she says,  “yet politicians seem intent in squeezing buy to let landlords out of the rental market and the build to rent sector – a positive emergence – simply isn’t big enough yet to absorb all rental demand.

 “If the government cuts stamp duty surcharge for landlords it could help stimulate the market by encouraging BTL investors to snap up homes to then rent out. Many landlords also help support housebuilding through off-plan sales,” she adds

 The housing market as whole will also have to get ready for a digital-first approach to transactions as more tasks and jobs are done remotely.


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Landlords – don’t forget, new electrical safety checks are on their way

Regulations for mandatory electrical safety checks in rented homes come into force for new tenancies on 1 July 2020. For existing tenancies, the new rules will apply from April next year.

Under the new regulations, landlords must ensure all electrical installations in their properties are inspected and tested by a qualified engineer every five years and a report provided to confirm the property meets the right standard.

Local authorities will enforce the new rules. From July, they can hand out fines up to £30,000 if a landlord doesn’t comply. They can also commission any upgrade that’s needed, recovering the costs from the landlord on completion of the works.  Fines will be retained by the local authority to help fund their enforcement role under the new legislation.

The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) estimates that almost a quarter (22%) of the 4.7 million privately rented homes covered by the new regulations, don’t have a valid electrical safety report. So we are urging landlords to ensure their electrical installations will pass muster. Despite the social distancing required due to Covid-19, government guidelines are clear –  landlords must ensure their properties are safe. This is considered essential work and must be carried out to bring homes up to the correct safety standard.

However, we fully appreciate the problems being faced by landlords at the moment –  and the understandable fears of tenants around letting people into their homes – even to do essential work. So here’s a reminder of what the guidelines say about compliance during the Covid-19 outbreak:

“If a landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with their duty under the regulations, they are not in breach of the duty. … A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they have had with their tenants and with electricians as they tried to arrange the work, including any replies they have had. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have that the installation is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works.”

Our advice is to be guided by the rules on social distancing and safe working and by your tenants, particularly if they are self-isolating or in a vulnerable group. However, NAPIT thinks there are plenty of rental properties out there that will need remedial works to ensure the electrical installation within the property is in a satisfactory condition. So if you can find an electrical engineer to safely carry out tests and do any work required, go ahead. If not, and you are not putting tenants at serious risk, follow the guidance outlined above and wait until the lockdown is lifted.

By July, when these regulations kick in, the world could look quite different from the way it does today. So, as the government announces an easing of the lockdown restrictions, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed for better times ahead.

Finally, to ensure your properties are always compliant with all the rules and regulations that landlords need to abide by, why not take a look at our new cloud-based PlanetRent platform. Our lettings software means that when the law changes, so do your processes. It’s pay-as-you go, so check it out today and never get caught out by new legislation again.


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

New regulations for landlords now in force in Wales

New regulations are now in force for landlords in Wales.  The Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Prescribed Limits of Default Payments) (Wales) Regulations 2020 came into force on 28 April and sets the maximum fee that landlords can charge if a tenant defaults on their rental contract.

If a tenant doesn’t pay their rent, the new regulations set a limit on the amount which can be charged.

  • Up to the end of a period of seven days from when the rent is due, zero can be charged.
  • After the end of the period of seven days from due, 3% above the Bank of England base rate may be charged.

The formula for calculating the 3% plus base rate is:

the aggregate of the amounts found by applying, in relation to each day after the due date for which the rent remains unpaid, an annual percentage rate of three per cent above the Bank of England base rate to the amount of rent that remains unpaid at the end of that day.

The Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Act 2019 came into force in Wales on 1 September last year, with the legislation being similar but not identical to the Tenant Fees Act 2019 in England.

In Wales, landlords may now only charge tenants entering into new rental agreements for

  • rent
  • security deposits
  • holding deposits of one weeks rent
  • council tax
  • utilities
  • tv licence payments
  • communication services or
  • payments in default.

Replacement locks and keys

Also with effect from 28 April, if tenants lose their keys and/or need their locks changed, landlords in Wales can only charge them for the actual cost of replacing keys and of changing, adding or removing a lock. They cannot levy an additional service charge for doing so, although they can pass on the charge for a contractor to do the work, as long as evidence of the additional cost is provided in the form of an invoice or receipt.

Landlords who are members of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) can click here for guidance on the differences between the Welsh and English legislation, download a number of fee ban compliant documents, find out what charges can be made under the fee bans and read some practical tips on adapting to the new requirements.


Why not READ our Property Blog too at www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Use PlanetRent on the go – from next week!

planetrent logo

Ringley is excited to announce that next week we will launch our PlanetRent platform, aimed at letting agents, institutions and buy-to-let landlords. Regular readers of this blog will know that for the last few months landlords have been able to sign up to PlanetRent for free via our website. Now we are making it even quicker and easier to use PlanetRent via our lettings automated platform.

PlanetRent gives clients seven key advantages:

  1. Marketing – It’s FREE to list properties to our www.planetrent.co.uk portal.
  2. Real-time Compliance dashboard:   EPCs, Gas safety, HMO Registrations, PAT testing, Passport expiry dates, Deposit certificates, Inventories – know what needs doing when. The PlanetRent platform also features an equipment log, including a white goods asset register, meter MPAN/MRPN/SPID Nos, meter locations & serial numbers & boiler maintenance contracts
  3. 100% transparency: Landlords/operators can invite agents to the portal, licence them to use marketing assets and watch deals and compliance; preferred contractors can be invited to the portal and keep track of repairs; and accountants can be invited to the panel to access instant reporting.
  4. Our DEALS TRACKER: means paperless, admin free deals on-the-go. Our tracker shows available properties by default (or toggle) and listing contract start & end dates. You can make offers on the go at the viewing, and even produce a contract in less than 10 minutes.
  5. End of lease & renewals: process automated.
  6. Tenant docu-store: Tenants, agents, and landlords can photo report repairs, Contractors are invited to a repair and if the job is not picked up within X hours then the agent/landlord is notified so they can assign an alternative contractor. Tenants can rate repairs: 4* & 5* ratings feed to your landlord website and Facebook and all tenant documents are saved on their login.
  7. Repairs managed – Add your favourite contractors, FAST TRACK repairs via automatic repair routing and job alerts to contractors phones. All parties can track the repair via the logs and you can even adopt or adapt our recommended ‘Service targets’.

Extras for agents

PlanetRent gives you a landlord portal so you can see compliance and track deals. API data is fed into your accounting system, or emails a weekly CSV or rent memo to accounts or we can collect rents by direct debit and account them to you.

Portals for all: 

  • Landlord
  • Landlord’s accountant
  • Agent
  • Invited agent – for ½ comm deals
  • Contractor
  • Tenant
  • Self-employed letting agent

PlanetRent is already connected to all the third parties you need

  • Viewber – for viewings
  • Zoopla – for listings
  • Rightmove – for listings
  • Facebook – for repairs ratings and property ads
  • Evolve – for nationwide inventory services

PlanetRent features Open API technology & ready-made APIs for:

  • Zoopla
  • Rightmove
  • Reposit
  • Facebook
  • Viewber
  • Evolve
  • Tenancy Deposit Service
  • Reposit
  • Sage
  • Xero
  • HMO Services
  • Legal for Landlords

Time is just one of the savings delivered – our platform delivers robust processes that protect you from multiple fines which could cost you up to £20K.

We will tell you more once our new platform has been officially launched so don’t forget to come back and check our blog next week.


Why not READ our Property Blog: www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Why landlords should be looking beyond COVID-19

Despite the obvious pressure on the rental market resulting from the current health emergency, longer-term, buy-to-let remains an attractive asset class, says Ringley Group MD Mary-Anne Bowring.

Quoted in today’s issue of Landlord Today online, Mary-Anne says: “A subdued for-sale market will likely see demand for rental homes grow over the course of the year, as buyers put off committing to purchasing a new home and sellers hold off owing to a dip in values and the impracticalities of trying to sell when social distancing measures are in place”. Her comments are in response to the latest figures from Zoopla, showing demand for rental homes up by 30% in the first half of this month.

However, as Landlord Today points out, the increase is coming from a very low base with demand falling dramatically by 57% as the country went into lockdown at the end of March. The improvement is likely to be because more people are staying at home, so anyone who is finding their current property unsuitable may find they have more time on their hands to plan for the future and think about moving once the lockdown is lifted.

Putting the figures into context, Mary-Anne says, “The latest BPF figures show strong growth for build-to-rent in key regional cities which is positive news but completed BTR homes still make up only a tiny fraction of the overall rental market. 

“More worrying is the slowdown in activity in London, where demand and need for high quality rental housing is arguably greatest, with investors put off by potentially hostile policies such as rent controls.”

According to Zoopla, the Coronavirus outbreak may be impacting demand but it is having little effect on supply. The total number of homes available to rent remains broadly unchanged. There has been no large-scale withdrawal of homes listed to let since the start of the lockdown and rental listings are down just 3% compared to figures from 1 March.

In contrast, the rate of new rental listings coming to the market has slowed, after a surge in homes to rent before the lockdown, as landlords in some cities moved short-let homes to the long-let market.

And with annual UK rental growth at 2.4%, up from 1.5% in March 2019, Zoopla expects rental growth for the rest of the year to remain moderately positive for landlords.

Read yesterday’s blog for more on the Build to Rent market.


Why not READ our Property Blog: www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk

Why the future is still bright for build-to-rent

Build to rent remains an attractive long-term investment

The build to rent sector is doing well. According to the latest figures from the British Property Federation, there’s been a 12% increase in the number of BTR homes either planned, under construction, or completed in the last 12 months and that will translate into more than 150,000 additional flats coming onto the market. Outside London, the picture is even rosier with a 58% hike in units since this time last year.

It is too early for the BPF figures to reflect the impact of coronavirus on the build-to-rent sector’s housing pipeline but the BPF’s head of policy, Ian Fletcher, sounded an optimistic note this week,  saying the sector remains attractive to investors. Anecdotal evidence from operators and developers supports their view, so we spoke to Sam Hay, MD of Ringley’s Manchester-based lettings division Life by Ringley, to get her insights into how the sector is faring.

Perhaps surprisingly, with so many people furloughed, rent arrears have not been a major issue to-date. “We have attempted to eradicate rent arrears by staying in contact with residents from day one and keeping them informed of what help is available if needed,” says Sam. “We are also being clear about the information we would require if tenants do feel they need a rent reduction or rent arrears arrangement. It’s important to ensure they understand that there is no rent free period and it will only be a deferral, so it’s better they remain up to date”.

The other potential problem for agents, is how to safely maintain social distance in build to rent blocks, but this is being carefully managed, with communal areas such as gyms, roof gardens and swimming pools currently closed to residents. Visiting contractors also pose a challenge but Sam says those she deals with are still attending blocks weekly to sanitise the communal areas and to attend emergencies – such as a recent sewage leak –  that can’t wait. “We ensure that contractors are not ill and show no symptoms and always communicate with residents in advance so they know a contractor is coming,” says Sam. Life by Ringley is also offering initial virtual viewings for potential tenants and is sending residents a weekly email of suggestions for things to do while in lockdown plus online community chats and quizzes.

Jacqui Daly from Savills residential research, which produces the build to rent figures for the BPF, told Show House magazine this week that once the country is out of lockdown, build-to-rent developers should be confident to progress stalled developments.  “We’d expect high levels of uncertainty to increase demand for rented accommodation as people look to avoid longer term commitments such as mortgages, or if borrowing remains more constrained.  At the same time, we expect to see the leveraged buy-to-let sector remain under pressure, driving demand into build-to-rent”. She said.


Why not READ our Property Blog: www.ringleypropertyblog.co.uk