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

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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!

www.planetrent.co.uk

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

What is Labour’s five-point plan for renters?

We say two years to pay back arrears is not practical or necessary for most renters

A five-point plan to help renters cope with the economic fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak has been published by the Labour Party. The Bank of England has warned that the UK could be heading for a deep post-lockdown recession, which is likely to heavily impact tenants in the private rented sector.  Last week we blogged about the Government’s response. There are plans for a protocol to help tenants in rent arrears avoid immediate eviction when the lockdown ends.

This week, as the Prime Minister announced plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions, Labour is calling on the government to go further and bring in new measures to protect tenants, proposing the existing three-month evictions ban be extended and renters are given a two-year timeframe to pay back rent arrears.

The Government has already banned evictions for three months and increased the Local Housing Allowance but Labour wants to see temporary legislation provide greater protection for renters. Its five-point plan proposes:

  1. Extending the evictions ban for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes set out below.
  1. Giving renters at least two years to pay back any arrears from the lockdown period.
  1. Giving residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by not allowing them to be made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  1. Bringing forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlawing evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  1. Speeding up and improving the provision of Universal Credit and considering a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent the risk of homelessness.

The Momentum group within the Labour party wants to go further and is calling for a “people’s bailout” which would mean cancelling rent completely rather than giving tenants two years to pay arrears to landlords.

 At Ringley we are happy to back any fair and workable proposals that will help tenants stay in their homes. From the beginning of lockdown, we have actively encouraged the landlords we work with to engage with tenants facing financial hardship so that arrears can be dealt with sympathetically. But to suggest that any rent owed should be simply wiped off the slate is both unfair and unreasonable, particularly now that the Chancellor has announced an extension to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help ensure people are provided for while they cannot work.

Most landlords are not faceless institutions but small business people who are simply trying to make a decent living. The majority treat their tenants well and provide them with a decent, well-maintained home to live in. This is not a free service. And tenants do not expect to be provided with a roof over their heads for nothing. 

The other consideration is that many banks are granting mortgage repayment holidays of both interest and capital as easily as the government suggests they should.  So any measures need to be proportionate to both parties, not one-sided.  Ultimately, if the tenant is receiving furlough money – which assists the self-employed with accounts and those working – then they do have money to pay rent.  Yes, there are a few who fall through the cracks in the schemes quickly put together by the government because they pay themselves dividends or have only just set up their business, but by and large, tenants do have an alternative income. So the benefit of reducing income for landlords who still need to carry out repairs as well as keep on top of their commitments should be called into question.

We hope the Government will give due consideration to Labour’s proposals but two years to repay arrears will not be needed in the majority of cases. And Momentum’s “People’s bailout” should be treated with the contempt it deserves for being unbalanced and one-sided.

Arguably it could lead to tenants taking money from both sides and worsening the burden that all taxpayers will no doubt have to fund for years and years!  After all, not only is the possibility of tenant abuse when they are receiving furloughed monies too great, but the notion that rent arrears are just as easily collectible after two years as for six months is nonsense.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

How long will the eviction ban last?

Some rent is better than none so talking to your tenants about rent arrears makes sense

The eviction ban could be extended beyond lockdown, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. So landlords hoping to replace renters in arrears with new tenants who can pay their rent on time are likely to be disappointed.

Anyone in rent arrears will not be forced out of their home as soon as the eviction ban is lifted. Instead, the Government is to develop what’s known as a “pre-action protocol” that will kick in when the ban is lifted to give renters “added protection”.  The aim is to put a duty on the landlord to act in good faith and try and find other solutions to tackle arrears before starting eviction proceedings.

Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, Robert Jenrick explained that the new arrangements would apply at the end of the ban on evictions, which could be as soon as June but may be later in the year.

Right from the start of the evictions ban, landlords have been encouraged to engage with tenants facing financial problems due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Where possible, it makes sense to try to work out an affordable repayment plan so that renters can remain in their homes and landlords continue to receive at least some rent. This particularly applies where landlords are themselves benefitting from a mortgage payment holiday from their own lender. See our blog here to read what we think about this.

Our advice echoes what the Government is saying. The majority of landlords have good relationships with their tenants. Despite the lockdown, communication is vital. So why not reach out to your tenants, just to check-in on them, and let them know you are willing to discuss any problems they may have around their rental payments. Why go to all the hassle and expense of starting eviction proceedings further down the line, when a fair arrangement to pay back rent arrears could keep tenants in your rented property long-term?  

When the ban was announced in March, it sparked fears that there would be a surge of repossession orders in June once it was lifted. But why get involved in legal action at all? Talking to your tenants may be all that’s needed.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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.

www.planetrent.co.uk

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

Why we say tenants need a payment holiday too

Pay it forward: landlords are taking mortgage holidays but what about tenants who are facing hardship?

A recent survey by Landlord Action found nearly three-quarters of landlords have been contacted by tenants worried about their rent payments. This highlights the severe impact the lockdown is having on household finances.
 
Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, thinks renters should have their rents reduced if they can prove they have been unable to access cash through the government’s income support schemes, and their furlough or government money means a reduction in their normal household income. After all, she says, that income is what the affordability of the letting was granted on. In particular, Mary-Anne thinks this should be the case if the landlord is benefiting from a mortgage holiday.  “Otherwise,” she says, “this is a lose-lose situation for the government and the wider economy – which means all of us”.
 
The government has already banned eviction proceedings from happening and is urging landlords to work with their tenants in situations where they are struggling to pay rent. Tenants who are out of work and living on reduced incomes surely have a right to know if their landlord has secured a mortgage repayment or a repayment-and-interest holiday. How can it be right for the landlord to still expect tenants to pay their full rent if they are being propped up by their mortgage lender?  Of course, the government still needs to help renters either not covered by income support schemes or who have not yet received the additional cash.
 
Mary-Anne adds: “The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot in response to the impact Coronavirus is having but statistic after statistic shows a level of damage not even seen during the worst of the Financial Crisis. The government has moved decisively to help protect tenants and landlords, but it is inevitable some households will fall through the gaps as the various income support schemes get up and running and payments are processed.
 
“Transparency is key, and renters have a right to know if their landlord has benefited from a mortgage holiday and, if they are struggling financially, they should be able to request a reduction in rent. Any rent reduction must be conditional on being able to prove financial hardship to prevent abuse of the system and it is important tenants and landlords work together during this uniquely difficult time.”