Voucher scheme to make rental homes cheaper to run

The new Green Homes Grant aims to make rental homes more energy efficient

Alongside stamp duty cuts to boost the housing market recovery, yesterday Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new £2bn Green Homes Grant. This means that from September, both homeowners and buy-to-let landlords will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy-efficient. The grants will cover at least two-thirds of the cost, up to £5,000 per household. And for low-income households, vouchers will cover the full cost of any upgrade needed – up to £10,000.

The aim is to  

  • make over 650,000 homes more energy efficient
  • save households up to £300 a year on their bills
  • cut carbon by more than half a mega tonne per year, equivalent to taking 270,000 cars off the road
  • create an estimated 140,000 jobs

A £50m fund to pilot new ways to decarbonise social housing is also part of the package.

With people stuck at home for weeks on end during lockdown, our property managers have reported residents, understandably, becoming more aware of the condition of their property. For both leaseholders and renters, property niggles have been pushed to the top of the list of issues they want to talk to their block managers about. So these initiatives are timely and, we hope, will help boost the economy too post-lockdown.

Ringley Group MD Mary-Anne Bowring welcomed the news yesterday, saying “The UK’s housing stock is some of the oldest in Europe and this is not just bad for the environment but bad for our health too, with too many properties suffering from problems with damp and cold. And it’s great that the government’s voucher scheme covers renters, especially as homes in the private rented sector tend to be older.”

“Additional financial support to retrofit outdated homes, stamp duty cuts across the board – including landlords – and the government pledge to remove all dangerous cladding no matter what the cost will create hundreds if not thousands of jobs, kickstart the housing market and raise the quality of our homes.”

But it’s not just existing homes that need the government’s attention. Buildings and construction account for almost 40% of all carbon emissions. Many developers are now taking their environmental responsibilities more seriously. But we’re not there yet. So at the same time as promoting better energy efficiency in existing homes – and helping fund it – developers should be actively encouraged to build greener, to use innovative energy-generating products and to really buy into offsite modular construction to boost the sustainability of the whole property sector.

What do you think about the Government’s new voucher scheme? Will you benefit from it? Let us have your comments.


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

Landlords need a stamp duty holiday too!

Eliminating additional stamp duty for buy-to-let investors would have helped stimulate the supply of rental homes

The news delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak at lunchtime today, that homebuyers are to get a stamp duty holiday has been welcomed by the housing market. Anyone buying a home worth up to £500,000 will have no stamp duty to pay, in a move designed to boost the housing market post-lockdown.

For most homebuyers, the Chancellor claims his tax cut will mean a saving of up to £4,500. Good news for anyone thinking of moving in the months to come. But buy-to-let landlords contemplating a new investment property must still pay additional stamp duty on any new property they buy.

Fears have been raised in recent days that the Chancellor’s house-buying bonus wouldn’t kick-in until the autumn, effectively damping down transactions until then. But these proved unfounded and the stamp duty holiday will kick-in immediately and last until the end of March next year.

At Ringley, the news went down well but there was a caveat from group MD Mary-Anne Bowring, who is also the creator of our automated lettings platform, PlanetRent.

Mary-Anne welcomed the Chancellors announcement, saying “A stamp duty holiday will no doubt cause a rush of transactions and help breathe life into a housing market that has been put into deep freeze in an effort to battle coronavirus.” However, she believes the Government should be looking at long-term solutions rather than just “short-term sticking plasters” when it comes to fixing the UK housing market – and that should mean giving a helping hand to the rental sector too.

“The disruption caused by coronavirus will likely see rental demand grow, as banks squeeze potential buyers with tighter lending restrictions and people put off buying or selling a home as it becomes clearer COVID-19 has caused continued uncertainty and disruption in the medium term,” says Mary-Anne.

“Eliminating additional stamp duty for buy-to-let investors would have helped stimulate the supply of rental homes while also driving wider activity in the housing market. Landlords are a crucial source of development finance through off-plan sales and will help support getting Britain building again,” she says.


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.


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.


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

Why we say NO to cancelling rents!

Cancelling rents would be disastrous for landlords and investors says Ringley

Cancelling rents for private tenants without reimbursing landlords would be “stealing from people’s pension pots” says Ringley Group MD Mary-Anne Bowring in response to demands for more radical policies to help renters.

More than 4,000 Labour party members recently signed an open letter backing cancelling rent as a policy. The letter argued Labour’s five-point plan to help renters, which included extending the evictions ban by at least six months and giving tenants two years to pay back rent arrears, did not go far enough. Meanwhile, the London Renters’ Union and others are calling for rent strikes, claiming renters are having to choose between food and paying rent.

The government’s ban on evictions has been extended until August 23rd, which has calmed fears that thousands of tenants could lose their homes if the ban wasn’t extended.

However, Mary-Anne firmly believes that cancelling rents in the private sector would punish hundreds of thousands of pensioners, as well as risk halting the current appetite from UK pension funds who are investing billions into creating new high-quality homes for rent. The most recent English Private Landlord Survey estimates there are at least 1.5m landlords in England alone. Of those, nearly half said they invested in rental property to supplement their pension and approximately one-third are retired.

This means if a rent cancellation was to be introduced, at least 500,000 retired landlords would see their rental income wiped out entirely. This would also dramatically reduce rent revenues for pension funds, many of which have suffered losses from retail and office investments and rely on income from property to match their liabilities.

No one can doubt or deny that millions of renters are facing major financial difficulties or anxieties but cancelling rents is not the answer. Some renters may need more financial assistance from the government but cancelling rents or getting the government to pay would be hugely damaging,” warns Mary-Anne.

 Both private and institutional landlords would lose rental income unless the government stepped in to pay private residential rents, which could cost the taxpayer billions and is completely unacceptable.

That’s our take on Labour’s proposals. What do you think?


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

Four tips to help landlords avoid common mistakes

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PlanetRent makes the rental process quick and easy

Many self-managing landlords in the buy-to-let sector are not property professionals and its hard to get it absolutely right every time. So here are our tips for avoiding the four most common mistakes that we see people making.

Don’t skip the referencing process

Yesterday in this blog, we flagged up the importance of referencing. As a landlord, you should never be so focused on getting in the rental income that you don’t bother to do proper referencing checks. This is one of the four most common mistakes landlords make and it can lead to all kinds of problems further down the line.

It’s vital that you know:

  • If the tenant had previous rent arrears
  • Can they afford the rent?
  • Did they leave their last rental property in an acceptable condition?

We recommend keeping an application checklist, showing the information you need every time you process a potential new tenant. You need to know their current address, their current or most recent landlord address, their place of work and what their current salary is.

And don’t forget identity checks.  You must always ensure that the tenant is who they say they are and that they have the right to rent in the UK. Also, we would always advise that landlords ask for details of a close relative for emergencies. This can help if a tenant leaves the property owing you rent or money for repairs, or if you need to forward post.

Our cloud-based automated lettings platform PlanetRent takes care of referencing along with all the other aspects of your tenants’ rental journey. It’s easy to use and it’s pay-as-you-go. Check it out today and ensure you are never tempted to skip the referencing process.

Check your mortgage

Another common mistake that landlords make is to forget that before renting a property, it is vital to check that the terms of your mortgage allow you to do so. Renting out your property without the consent of your mortgage company could put you in breach of their terms and conditions. This could mean the lender charging you a higher interest rate or even seeking to repossess your property.

Engage with your tenants

Neglecting your tenants can cause problems further down the line. For example, if you’re not using a managing agent you need to be available 24/7 in case an emergency arises. Not responding to maintenance issues can also prevent you using the Section 21 eviction process if you want to regain possession of the property. So keep the lines of communication open and ensure that your tenants feel comfortable contacting you. Never turn up unannounced but we do recommend that inspections are carried out every quarter and that you keep a record and photographs of the current state of the property and its contents. This is key to avoiding disputes over the deposit and any deductions at the end of the tenancy.

Don’t overprice your property

In a price-sensitive market, seeking inflated rent could mean your property stays unlet. Don’t be tempted to overprice your property to ‘test the market’. This can be a big mistake! If you are using portals such as Zoopla & Rightmove, they show a full history of rent changes. So, if the property has been initially overpriced and then reduced, these platforms must inform consumers. Potential tenants may think that there is something wrong with the property and you may end up having to take a lower offer.

All this information and more is included in our E-book on this topic. Click here to download and to take a look at our other resources, all designed to help you get the most out of your rental property.


Why not READ our Property Blog too: 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.


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

Gas safety during the Coronavirus outbreak

Make sure your properties are fully compliant by reading the Gas Safe guidelines

Last week we blogged about an important legal case, which centred on gas safety certificates. In Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield the Court of Appeal found that not providing a gas safety certificate before a tenant moves in does not prevent a landlord from serving a Section 21 notice as long as the certificate has been given at some point during the period of occupation. 

Good news for landlords and clarification of a legal point that wasn’t particularly clear. Compliance with the gas safety regulations is a legal obligation for landlords, and to make this absolutely clear, the HSE has a handy guide to gas safety on its website, which focuses on the special circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak. The advice is really helpful so we thought we would share it with you.

Landlords should all be up to speed with their legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances, do annual gas safety checks and keep a record of each safety check. But the HSE recognises that it may be difficult to carry out these checks at the moment because, despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, some tenants are still shielding or self-isolating. So landlords must use their common sense and weigh up the risk to the safety of the household and the public presented by a potentially faulty gas system, versus the risk to tenants’ health from possible infection.

The Gas Safety Register has drawn up guidelines for landlords that include a set of scenarios to help you decide how best to tackle your compliance obligations. The law is flexible and where it’s not possible to carry out a gas check, it should be acceptable to document that you took reasonable steps to do so. However, the advice also clearly states that landlords should not simply suspend all gas safety checks for the duration of the pandemic. We could find ourselves living with Covid-19 for many months and ignoring health & safety issues risks endangering tenants unnecessarily.

So if you’re worried about making sure your gas safety certificates are up-to-date, read the guidance – it’s very comprehensive and well worth five minutes of your time. And as we said last week, to make compliance even easier why not use our cloud-based platform PlanetRent to ensure all your rental properties are fully up-to-date with current legislation. It’s very user-friendly and you can access it via a mobile phone or tablet, as well as your laptop. It’s pay-as-you-go and there’s no subscription to pay, so download it today and make renting easier for you and your tenants.


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

Ringley welcomes new smart meter roll-out

Smart meters are coming your way

With the lockdown easing, the roll-out of smart meters in homes across the country is back on the cards. The Government has set out new plans for the installation of the meters to help homeowners cut their energy bills and carbon emissions.

 The hope is that by installing smart meters in every home – which show energy consumption for gas and electricity and track expenditure – savvy consumers could save up to £250 a year on their bills. The meters show exactly how much gas and electricity is being used and track expenditure, helping consumers reduce their consumption. According to the Government, this could slash countrywide carbon emissions by as much as 45 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road for a year.

Until early March, around 19,000 smart meter installations were taking place each day until the  pandemic put a stop to the roll-out. Now energy suppliers are being given an extra six months to ensure they have taken all reasonable measures to install smart meters in households and small businesses – making up for the reduced contact they have had with customers. New secondary legislation put to Parliament last week, will see a consultation with industry set strict future annual targets that could result in fines if missed.

As a managing agent, we welcome this news. Unless a block has a concierge service or on-site staff, it can be extremely difficult to arrange attendance to carry out meter readings, so smart meters, which automatically send readings to utility providers are a huge improvement.

New build developments are a particular problem because utilities start off on commercial rates – at 20% VAT – with very high usage during construction. When utilities are then transferred post-occupation to block management, it is no easy feat to get the utility companies to stop charging for energy on estimates based on the construction stage despite usage falling significantly.

Cashflow is a careful balancing act in the early days of new-build properties and the faster smart meters come in the better, to protect residents’ hard-earned cash.


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

How PlanetRent takes care of compliance

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Yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling in Trecarrell v Rouncefield is an important one for landlords. In this case, a tenant appealed against a Section 21 repossession order on the grounds that a gas safety certificate hadn’t been provided before they moved into the property. However, the Court of Appeal ruled in the landlord’s favour, determining that a gas safety certificate can be provided at any time before a section 21 notice is served.

This is an important case because if landlords can’t serve a Section 21 notice at any time during the tenancy, their right to repossession will be limited. While Section 21 is still available to landlords, this case means it can still be used in the way it was intended.

Of course in an ideal world landlords wouldn’t get themselves into a situation where a tenant has reason to take them to court. But we all make mistakes – and compliance is time-consuming. Not serving a gas certificate could be the result of something as silly as misfiling or forgetting to send an email.

To give landlords peace of mind that they need never fall foul of the rental regulations again, we’ve developed a great new cloud-based lettings platform that takes all the hassle out of compliance.  PlanetRent has a simple dashboard to help you manage compliance for one property or a whole portfolio.

Not only does it tell you what needs to be renewed but you can throw away the filing cabinet! PlanetRent will organise what is required for each property, flagging up what is safe and what is missing or expiring soon. Even better, delivering what needs to be sent to tenants is automated both as part of the lease-up and move-in tenant journeys and mid-tenancy. Documents are renewed and are clearly visible to your tenants 24/7 on their own portal that comes FREE with PlanetRent.

PlanetRent is compliance automated. And it also deals with contracts, rent collection, deposits, repairs, even marketing. Our new platform is pay-as-you-go with no monthly subscription to worry about. So why not take a closer look today – we challenge you to tell us what we’ve forgotten!


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