Our tips for virtual viewings to let your flat fast!

Why not use our automated lettings platform to upload virtual viewings of your rental home

Earlier this week, Letting Agent Today revealed that in a survey about online viewings, more than half of prospective tenants were put off by the unkempt state of the property they were looking at.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, video viewings have really come into their own. But a staggering 56% said the pictures shown of the interior had put them off. And some even went so far as to call the rental homes they had seen online “disgusting”. 

Damning indeed – and certainly not what anyone with a home to let wants to hear. With more and more landlords and agents turning to technology to allow them to safely show tenants around their rental homes, a video viewing could be the only chance you get to showcase your home. So it’s really important to get it right.

The team at our Manchester-based lettings division LifebyRingley had been offering virtual viewings for some time before the country went into lockdown in March. MD Sam Hay has plenty of experience and knows more than most what works and what doesn’t. So here are her top tips for making your property look appealing online.

  • The best time to take videos/photos is when your rental property is empty and fresh before letting.
  • If possible try to keep all colours neutral and give the property a fresh coat of paint after each tenancy.
  • Keep furniture matching and neutral.
  • Always give the current tenants plenty of notice so they can ensure that properties are not cluttered with their personal possessions.

Sam advises always conducting virtual viewings initially to eliminate timewasters and prevent unnecessary in-person viewings.

Almost a third of the people polled said they would be happy to judge a property based on a video viewing provided they were convinced it gave a realistic impression of what the property is like. However, there will be plenty of people who still want to walk round the property and check it out in person.

This is a reason (if one is needed!) to keep a good relationship with the tenants throughout the tenancy so that they are happy to facilitate viewings. And where in-person viewings are needed, try to arrange block bookings so that you aren’t disturbing the tenants too frequently. This could make them less cooperative.

Our automated lettings platform PlanetRent has a facility for uploading photos and virtual tours, so why not check it out today. It’s pay-as-you-go so there’s no obligation and no subscription. You could be just a few clicks away from letting your property with PlanetRent.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

Don’t fall foul of discrimination laws

A landmark case has outlawed ‘no DSS’ policies

Following a judgement in the County Court on 1 July, refusing to rent your home to a tenant because they are on housing benefit has now been ruled unlawful. The case revolved around a disabled single mother who challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application to rent a home on the basis that she was receiving benefits.

Prior to this landmark ruling, previous cases where renters have challenged what has become known as ‘no DSS’ policies (despite the Department of Social Security being dissolved in 2001!) have been settled out of court.  This time, supported by Shelter, the case was determined in court and the letting agent was found to be in breach of the Equality Act. As a result, the agent was ordered to pay the claimant £3,500 plus costs.

In 2018, Shelter carried out research into online advertising in the private rented sector and found at least one in 10 adverts stated they would not accept tenants on housing benefit. Now, that will have to stop. Instead, landlords will have to consider every applicant on an individual basis, carrying out careful referencing instead of simply using ‘no DSS’ as a blanket ban on people they regard as potentially a higher financial risk.

In April, we looked at the subject of renting to tenants on Universal Credit and offered some helpful tips for making sure the landlord-tenant relationship works. The blog includes a link to a helpful guide explaining ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements’. This is where the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to the landlord, giving both parties the certainty that rent payments will be made on time.  And if a tenant is already in arrears, the landlord can also apply for ‘Third-party Deductions’ whereby an additional amount is taken monthly from the claimant’s personal allowance to reduce the debt over time.

Many people on benefits have never been in arrears or caused problems for their previous landlord. Simply making assumptions about potential tenants on the basis of their personal circumstances is no longer an option – so make sure you do your homework when you’re looking for a new tenant. Don’t fall foul of the law and risk the chance of getting involved in a costly court case.

As we blogged yesterday, our cloud-based lettings platform PlanetRent automates rent payments, which also makes it easy for tenants to budget and to keep up-to-date – and it makes referencing really quick and easy for landlords. PlanetRent takes care of your marketing too. So why not download it today – it’s pay-as-you-go and works across all your devices.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

Online marketing made simple with PlanetRent

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PlanetRent helps you market your home quickly and cheaply

 Private landlords can now market their properties directly on Zoopla and Rightmove thanks to PlanetRent. Our new automated lettings platform means you can promote your rental home on the UK’s two most popular portals on a pay-as-you-go basis.  

Landlords can find it costly to advertise their properties on Zoopla and Rightmove but by using PlanetRent, marketing your home with these portals is set up for you. Our new platform also allows you to easily create your own personalised website to showcase your properties.  Real-time reporting and updates on offers made are included in the software.

And for landlords who prefer to use letting agents, PlanetRent works on the premise that you own your properties and so should be in control of your own data. You can then invite the letting agents or contractors you use, and make PlanetRent central to your marketing.  

PlanetRent also helps cut down costly void periods by making it really quick and easy to remarket a property before it becomes vacant. Tenants are automatically prompted towards the end of the tenancy and are encouraged to renew. To make life easier for landlords and renters, PlanetRent has cut down the renewal process to just three clicks and allows all parties to transact remotely – a big advantage in our new socially distanced world.

If a tenant does choose to move out, they are automatically sent the necessary end-of-tenancy process and given advice on how to get their deposit back, plus the requirements for them to assist in viewings, repairs, and the remarketing process.  The marketing process is automatically triggered too.

 All landlords who use PlanetRent have access to free property listings directly on the PlanetRent platform as well as social media feeds to their social media account. 

While the for-sale market has been hit by the expectation of falling prices and mortgage lenders tightening their lending requirements, the rental market has proved resilient. So with Rightmove reporting 23,000 new rental listings coming to the market since the first day of reopening in May, make sure you don’t miss out. By using PlanetRent, marketing your property on the UK’s most popular portals is just a few clicks away.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

New code of practice for agents is on its way

Soon agents will need to abide by a new code for the property industry

In future, anyone using a letting or estate agent or a property manager will be able to judge their performance against a new code of practice and a new and improved system for dealing with complaints. This is because a new code for property agents is being drawn up by a high-level industry group being led by Labour Peer Baroness Hayter.

The expert group includes ARLA and NAEA Propertymark, Trading Standards and sales and lettings industry trade bodies, as well as professional bodies such as the RICS and IRPM plus the courts and the Property Ombudsman. 

The new code was one of the recommendations of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) working group that issued its report last July. As well as a new code of practice, the report called for:

  • an independent regulator,
  • licensing for all agents,
  • mandatory qualifications, and
  • a powerful new form of redress for consumers.

According to Estate Agent Today, “the new Code of Practice is likely to be a single, high-level set of principles to be applied to all residential property agents; there will also be a number of other more detailed sections developed that are specific to various aspects of the residential property agent sector, such as sales, lettings and management. “ 

The aim is to produce a draft code to go out for consultation later this month. Once finalised – hopefully by the end of the year – it will be handed over to the new industry regulator, once that role has been established.

At Ringley we welcome the prospect of a proper code of conduct for property agents – something our industry has been lacking for many years. Property professionals will benefit from clear guidelines and consumers will be clear what standards they can expect from agents. Rogue operators should have less chance to thrive and the new system for consumer redress, once established, will also give our customers the confidence that property agents will be held to account if they don’t meet the standards expected of them.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

References and contracts sorted with PlanetRent

PlanetRent offers a quick and easy way to reference-check your tenants

Landlords who want to repossess a rented home could have up to 12 months to wait before they can get their property back, according to property dispute lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, talking to Letting Agent Today earlier this week.

The law firm says it’s noticed a big increase in inquiries recently from landlords who now want to recover possession of a property that’s only been let since March. Anecdotal evidence suggests that problems with tenants are now being seen due to pre-pandemic ‘panic-letting’ because landlords were keen to let their properties quickly. In some cases, this meant that the usual reference checks weren’t carried out.

Unfortunately, if a tenant is now causing problems due to rent arrears or anti-social behaviour,  possession claims will now join the queue for cases to be dealt with. By 23 August when the evictions ban is lifted there will already be a five-month backlog.

Our advice is that before starting repossession proceedings,  landlords and agents should engage with tenants to try and find a mutually acceptable solution, rather than going through the lengthy and potentially costly legal process.  

We’ve got another solution too. Our new cloud-based lettings platform PlanetRent, automates tenant referencing making it quick and easy and taking all the hassle out of the process for landlords and agents.

The other way to ensure that tenants stick to the rules is by making sure you have a watertight contract with no room for misunderstandings. As well as taking care of references, PlanetRent also prevents numerous potential errors in your contracts:  it is all too easy to forget to change a name or the rent amount, omit prescribed notices, or spot that the words don’t match the numbers. Rogue tenants may be able to take advantage of mistakes like these and PlanetRent takes care of all that for you.  Better still, you don’t need to chase people to sign their contract as our e-signer will do that for you too.

We’re confident that PlanetRent offers a great way for you to improve your entire lease-up journey including the contract. It even has clauses you can add in for pet rent and break clauses – and includes lockout periods.  These are the best way to minimise voids and ensure you don’t have contracts ending in December, January and August – the months when demand is lower.  Enabling the lock-out clause module means that if a tenancy would naturally end in the months you want to avoid, at the offer stage you can tell the prospective tenants that to rent the property they will need a 13-month tenancy, not a 12 month one.

References taken care of and a watertight contract you can rely on. With PlanetRent it’s that easy. So download it today and take advantage of our killer PAYG pricing model.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

All evictions are equal – or are they?

Which type of evictions should be dealt with first when the ban is lifted?

Evictions for anti-social behaviour and domestic violence should be given top priority when the evictions ban is lifted. This is what the National Residential Landlords Association said earlier this week and the NRLA is calling on the courts to push these cases to the top of the list, alongside evictions for rent arrears, when the ban is lifted at the end of August.

This has become a serious issue because cases of domestic abuse and problems with anti-social behaviour have rocketed during the lockdown. Research from the University of Bristol reveals that more than a third of victims of domestic abuse live in private rented housing. And Landlord Today reports that there has been a 66% increase in calls to the Domestic Violence Helpline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In normal circumstances, where domestic violence is found to be happening in a rented property, landlords will often end the tenancy agreement and offer a new one to the victim independent of the abuser.  At the moment, due to the ban, this isn’t happening and this lends even more weight to the NRLA’s call for the courts to deal urgently with these evictions when repossession cases can be heard again at the end of the summer. 

At Ringley, in our opinion, the problem will be made far worse by the Government’s proposal to axe Section 21 – which is what we have always considered as the polite method for landlords to use to evict difficult tenants.

Section 21 made it easy to evict a tenant at the end of their tenancy agreement with no questions asked.  We have always supported this simple, non-confrontational way to end a tenancy and we see no signs that any of the proposed alternatives will be as straightforward or as effective. What do you think?

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

How PlanetRent is future-proofing buy-to-let

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It has been a tough few years for buy-to-let investors First they were hit with reduced mortgage relief and then extra stamp duty, while at the same time taking the blame for pushing up house prices and keeping first-time buyers off the property ladder. The financial penalties have been accompanied by increased regulation, so it is no surprise that the number of buy-to-let landlords hit a seven-year low in 2019 according to Hamptons International.

However, government interference isn’t the only challenge facing buy-to-let investors. Responding to the UK’s demand-supply imbalance of rental housing, institutional investors have poured billions into creating purpose-built rental housing to secure steady long-term income streams. While build-to-rent makes up only a tiny fraction of the overall UK rental market at present, with the latest British Property Federation and Savills data revealing there are 150,000 BTR homes complete or in the pipeline, this number will only grow.

Yet rather than fearing the competition from this new breed of corporate landlord, buy-to-let investors – and their agents – should look to learn from the emerging build-to-rent sector, particularly when it comes to treating tenants as customers. Just as important is to look to the tools many of these investors are using and embrace the technology that makes their lives and those of their tenants easier.

People often joke property has been a late adopter of tech. But online portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove are up there as household names with Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Yet while these platforms have made finding a property easier, the lettings process is still too often time-consuming and overly reliant on physical paperwork.

That’s why BTR landlords such as Grainger plc and Moda Living had already adopted a digital-first approach to leasing before the coronavirus outbreak. Many BTR operators also have customer-facing apps for their residents that allow residents to do everything from pay rent and bills to report repairs and organise community events.

No doubt, post-crisis others in the BTR sector will follow in taking a digitally-led approach to leasing and operations, as concerns linger around social distancing and consumers become more accepting of virtual ways of working.

That’s why at Ringley we’ve brought forward the launch of PlanetRent, our cloud-based platform that connects landlords, agents, tenants, site staff, accountants and contractors. Crucially, PlanetRent fully supports remote working by giving each party their own easy-to-use portal in which they can access everything they need from their own home.

For landlords, this means protection against hefty fines for not serving legally required documents, such as the How to Rent guide, EPC and gas safety certificate, to your tenants.

PlanetRent also helps minimise the risk of lengthy and costly void periods by nudging tenants to renew and sorting a renewal in just three clicks if they choose to stay. Properties are automatically marketed should they want to vacate.

For agents, PlanetRent frees up staff by automating mundane processes and allows deal-flow to be monitored in real-time. The platform also replaces the need for a whole host of different subscriptions, including accountancy packages, saving money.

Tenants benefit too as they can request and monitor repairs and access their relevant documents and files through their own portal and be confident their landlord and agent are fully compliant.

With COVID-19 making digital nomads of us all, landlords would be foolish to stay stuck in the analogue era. Tech has made other aspects of our lives from shopping to ordering takeout or a taxi simpler and more transparent. Letting a property whether as a landlord, agent or tenant should be no different.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

Evictions ban extended until August

Tenants with rent arrears will be relieved that the evictions ban has been extended – but is it fair to landlords?

The evictions ban has been extended to 23 August. The government made the announcement on Friday, as it came under increasing pressure to rollout further emergency measures to help renters beyond the original 29 June deadline.

This is great news for tenants facing financial hardship and we welcome the move to give renters certainty and security. But allowing them more time to repay arrears directly impacts landlords who may themselves be struggling to pay the bills.

Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley and creator of automated lettings platform PlanetRent, comments: “With all the uncertainty going on at the moment, tenants deserve to be protected by the government from evictions if they have not been furloughed or risk losing their job through no fault of their own. However, we believe there must be genuine fairness in the government’s approach and this initiative must be balanced by proving that tenants’ income has gone down.

“One concern is that many landlords are retired. According to the English Private Landlord survey retired people account for 33% of landlords. They may not have a mortgage to claim a repayment holiday on, relying on their property for income – and without rent or furlough monies coming in, they may struggle to make ends meet. So it is vital that tenants do not use the extended eviction ban as an excuse to mistreat the property they live in or to withhold rent if they are not in a genuinely financially difficult situation,” says Mary-Anne.

At Ringley, we continue to press the point to our clients that tenants and landlords should be working together in what is a difficult time for all of us. Recent research by the National Residential Landlords Association points to the fact that this is already largely the case, with the majority of landlords trying to work with their tenants to resolve issues such as rent arrears.

Longer-term, we think the government may need to consider other ways of financially supporting households post-crisis. For example, through higher housing benefit payments. Clearly, the high cost of the furlough scheme means it cannot last indefinitely. Some renters may need extended financial assistance from the government but cancelling rents or getting the government to pay would ultimately be hugely damaging. What do you think?

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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