How PlanetRent takes the pain out of rental deposits

Want to offer deposit-free renting to your tenants? PlanetRent can help.

Are you charging the right deposit? With the Tenant Fees Act now in place for all tenancies, security deposits have been capped. This means landlords can only charge the equivalent of five-weeks’ rent for assured-shorthold tenancies with an annual rent of up to £50,000, or six-weeks’ rent for tenancies with an annual rent of £50,000 or more.

To avoid any mistakes, why not go ‘deposit free’? Our new cloud-based lettings platform PlentRent is connected to Reposit, whose FCA-regulated product provides up to eight weeks rent/damages cover for the cost of one week’s rent. This cost also includes referencing. By using PlanetRent to manage your lettings, you can offer tenants the choice of a Reposit or a traditional deposit if they prefer.

Another key feature – and one which landlords really do find appealing, is that PlanetRent ensures the deposit repayment process is non-adversarial. Both landlords and tenants can see proposed deductions and supporting invoices on their portals and each can accept or dispute deductions line by line to narrow down any issues arising.

PlanetRent also automatically sends out a How to get your deposit back guide to renters, so they know exactly what they have to do and when. PlanetRent really does make renting easier and more efficient for you and your tenants. There’s no subscription and you can simply pay-as-you-go. so why not check out PlanetRent and take the pain out of rental deposits today.

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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?

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How PlanetRent makes rent collection easier

Help your tenants pay their rent on time with PlanetRent

The evictions ban was extended earlier this month until 23 August. Great news for renters facing financial hardship but, as we blogged last week, not so good for landlords with no other income to fall back on.

The National Residential Landlords Association is rightly highlighting the problems being faced by landlords whose tenants were already in significant rent arrears before the Coronavirus lockdown. They now have two more months without rent, plus the time it will take to repossess their properties once the ban is lifted. This could be financially devastating for landlords whose rental homes provide the entirety of their income and who have no savings to fall back on. Given that a third of Brits have less than £600 in savings, the outlook for many landlords following the extension of the ban is pretty bleak.

In response the NRLA is calling for:

  • a clear statement from the Government urging tenants who can pay their rent to do so;
  • support for tenants in the form of a boost to the Local Housing Allowance, developing interest-free hardship loans for tenants;
  • providing compensation to landlords who have existing possession orders from the courts but can’t evict tenants until the ban is lifted;
  • ensuring the courts process legitimate possession claims quickly once they open again; and
  • giving priority to possession cases that that began before the lockdown, to those related to pre-pandemic rent arrears, and cases of tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

Our new automated lettings platform PlanetRent is designed to help landlords reduce the likelihood of rent arrears. Here’s how it works. PlanetRent collects rent from joint tenants individually – which improves the collection rate – and then jointly from other tenants if one should default.

Landlords can turn on Collect my rent by direct debit, allowing PlanetRent to sort out the paperwork and send tenants a direct debit mandate when they e-sign their tenancy agreement. Not only do direct debit payments mean that landlords can collect the rent straight from the tenant’s bank account but they have the advantage of apportioning payments to a regular date. Some tenants may worry that their landlord can take money out of their account whenever they want. But in fact, customers who pay by direct debit are fully protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee.

PlanetRent automates and simplifies rent collection, There’s no subscription and we have a great pricing model. Our new platform is pay-as-you-go, so why not check it out today and help your tenants pay their rent quickly, easily – and on time!

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How PlanetRent supports pet-friendly rentals

Are you a pet-freindly landlord? PlanetRent can help generate the right tenancy agreement – fast.

Are you a pet-friendly landlord? If not, maybe it’s something you should consider because at least 44% of us own a pet. During the pandemic there have even been reports of a puppy shortage as more and more of us decide to share our home with an animal.

For the rental sector, that’s a big potential pool of tenants and one that the Government is actively encouraging landlords to dip into. In January, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the overhaul of model tenancy contracts to remove restrictions on well-behaved pets to ensure more landlords cater to pet owners wherever possible.

But despite being a national of animal lovers, there is a widespread attitude in the buy-to-let sector that pets are a problem. At the last count only an estimated 7% of buy-to-let landlords were advertising their property as suitable for pets, making it hard for animal lovers to find the right home.  Institutional landlords in the build-to-rent sector have a completely different attitude. All the operators we deal with at Ringley actively encourage pets. They think being pet-friendly encourages tenants to stay longer and promotes community engagement.

With this in mind, we’ve made it really easy for landlords to generate a pet-friendly tenancy agreement via our new automated lettings platform PlanetRent. Landlords can use the platform to generate tenancy agreements in a matter of minutes, making them fast, accessible and easy to use.

Of course, we understand that by being pet-friendly, landlords may be opening themselves up to bigger bills for repairs and refurbishment at the end of a tenancy. Pets, like people, can behave badly, so reference checking is vital and PlanetRent can make this quick and easy too. So why not try it today and consider taking a more pet-friendly approach to potential tenants. It could make your home easier to let and give you a much bigger pool of potential tenants to pick from.

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How PlanetRent is future-proofing buy-to-let

planetrent logo

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.

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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?

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Rental sector can’t meet demand for homes to let

As lockdown is eased, demand is currently outpacing supply, but London is seeing rents fall.

The rental sector is taking off again as lockdown restrictions are eased. But for renters, it’s very much a game of two halves. As we blogged yesterday, around 2.6 million renters are estimated to be in rent debt or likely to find themselves in arrears as a result of the pandemic. And landlords are feeling the financial fallout too. So unless they are able to come to suitable payment arrangements with their tenants, there could be a flood of evictions when the government lifts the repossession ban – currently scheduled for 25 June unless steps are taken to extend the embargo.

Clearly, this is bad news for tenants in financial hardship. But it may benefit those whose jobs have been unaffected by the pandemic and who now want to move, giving them more choice as those properties come back onto the market later in the year.

In London, property agent Chestertons explains that the outlook for landlords is being impacted by the fact that fewer people are willing or able to move to the capital due to the pandemic. The agency told Letting Agent Today that rents in London have dropped by between 10% and 15% as a result. Fewer students, fewer corporate rentals and tenants worried about their income are all making the situation worse, as is the trend for renters to try and negotiate lower rents with landlords, says Chestertons.

In the rest of the country, the story is a more positive one. According to Rightmove, demand for lettings is up by 22% compared to last year, with the online property specialist telling the BBC that the easing of lockdown has released “two months of pent-up tension”.

Lockdown break-ups, forced moves and the wish to relocate away from cities is driving the market, and the pandemic has left many people with “an immediate housing need” according to Rightmove. At the same time, buy-to-let landlords are exiting the market due to worries about finding financially sound tenants, while those that continue to let property are likely to be hand-picking the tenants with the best references and credit records. All this adds up to high demand for fewer rental homes. So we can expect to see rents rising and more people struggling to find an affordable home – unless we see that potential spate of evictions bringing many more rental properties onto the market.

The market is in an interesting place and, with coronavirus likely to be with us for some time to come, it’s hard to predict what the rest of the year will bring for landlords and tenants. What do you think?

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Will there be a post-pandemic rental crisis?

With an estimated 2.6 milion tenants at risk of arrears, is there a rent crisis looming?

There is a “looming crisis in the rental sector” due to the financial hardships being faced by both landlords and tenants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This was the verdict of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, which published the interim report in May from its call for evidence to examine the effect of the pandemic and Government support for tenants. Committee chair, Labour MP Clive Betts, told the BBC last week that the UK is currently in “the lull before the storm.”

Key points from the committee’s report are:

  • A recommendation to bring forward legislation to amend the 1985 and 1988 Housing Acts to allow judges to use discretion where a tenant is in rent arrears due to the coronavirus crisis for the next 12 months at a minimum. Discretion could include consideration of whether a pre-action protocol has been complied with.
  • The Government must accelerate its plans to introduce the proposed Renters’ Reform Bill to Parliament and abolish ‘no-fault evictions’ under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 within the next 12 months. By amending the Act to allow judges to exercise discretion, the Government will have time to deliver a Bill that provides greater security for tenants.
  • The Government must ensure that the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate is set at a level that reflects real market rents and ensures those in need are able to afford properties in their areas.

The committee believes that unless the Government amends existing housing legislation, its plans to introduce a pre-action protocol to the private rented sector will be toothless. This poses the danger of a cliff edge of evictions once the moratorium on possession cases ends.  

Research from the Resolution Foundation published last weekend reveals that one in eight private sector tenants have fallen into rent arrears to-date. And as the impact of the pandemic on the UK economy really starts to bite, Citizens Advice calculates that around 2.6 million tenants could find themselves in rent arrears.

The National Residential Landlords Association told Landlord Today that more than half of its members have already experienced some combination of rent payment problems or unanticipated void periods. Some landlords who already had possession cases for rent arrears going through the courts prior to the ban, could find themselves trying to cover more than a year’s worth of rent if the courts are unable to resume existing cases from the planned date of 25 June. So it is calling for a “careful re-opening of evictions needs”. 

Of course, landlords who do find themselves in financial difficulty can ask their lender for a mortgage holiday, but the reality is that this only pushes payments further down the line – and may ultimately impact their credit rating.

In London, more than 2,500 households have agreed not to pay their rent thanks to a campaign by the London Renters Union. The LRU is calling on tenants to withhold their payments to landlords if they find themselves in financial hardship One activist told Landlord Today that the government is prioritising landlords’ profits over renters’ survival. “Right now, it must suspend rent, cancel rent debt and make the eviction ban permanent, she said. “Otherwise we’re headed for a chaotic rent debt and eviction crisis.”

However, the official guidance from the MHCLG remains clear.  Landlords and tenants should work together to address any concerns and find solutions to overcome rent arrears, such as an affordable repayment programme. This is very much our view too.

But will this approach be enough to prevent the pandemic causing widespread problems for landlords and their tenants? What do you think?

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.

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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.

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