Category Archives: UK landlords

Gas Certificates

A survey which was recently carried out by the housing charity Shelter in conjunction with British Gas, has shown that around 1 in 10 landlords and letting agents are not having an annual gas safety check carried out despite it being required by law.

The law requires a gas safety certificate to be issued annually for a rented property. A gas check helps identify gas leaks and faulty boilers which may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and even explosions.

Don’t put your tenants at risk.

House prices set to rise in 2013

Many property pundits and property professional like to make predictions on the future of the UK property market and house prices. There are also a number of banks and economists that are prepared to put their reputations on the line and estimate where the average UK house price will end up. These projections rarely vary greatly but some have proved far more accurate than other particularly after the last property boom. Amongst one of the best respected and accurate is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They do have the advantage of having so many members who have the unenviable task of valuing people’s homes and properties. For the new year of 2013 they are predicting a rise in house prices of around 2 percent which given the economic landscape is a positive and sustainable increase. They are also tipping an increase in transaction volumes with the number of property sales thought to rise by a around the three percent mark edging them tantalisingly closer to the million sales marker. This is still a far cry from the heady days of average number of transactions edging up towards 1.7 million at the height of the property boom in 2006.

Cheap houses at property auctions

Many property investors, property developers or speculators are often looking for cheap or bargain properties most professional developers usually purchase off market. This is usually through property traders or from property auctions. Property auctions have changed dramatically in the last fifteen years with people from all over the country and world having access to online property auction listings. Many novice property developers and investors believe that it is simply a matter of chancing your arm at the auction buying a cheap property and then finding a good builder to get it back up to standard. However it is better to get your builder involved before you buy, they can often spot problems that you may miss and could potentially save you thousands of pounds. One thing to consider is that if you had a property with a serious structural or other defect and you wanted to mask the issue you would probably look to off loading a problem property through the property auctions. So be aware that less honest vendors may pass their problem properties onto you. So before you buy set a realistic budget for all the various trades and work that may be required to your auction property. A quick look at the type and age of the consumer unit (fuse box) can give you an indication of if the property may require a re-wire. There are some items that may seem a luxury but dependant on the area can be a good investment. Things like reinstating original period features or altering load bearing walls to open up smaller reception rooms to suit more modern family living styles. It is also important that you do not miss out items like outside space as this could put off drive by viewers and will affect the look of online details. You will find that many builders have worked on auction properties before and will be able to advise on what has worked well for other property speculators and developers.

Modern loft conversions

Home owners are often looking to add a bedroom or master suite and often with houses or bungalows that have large loft spaces a loft conversion is the answer. Loft conversions vary in cost and complexity dependant on the size, specification, layout and design of the existing construction. With more modern properties the roof structure is often constructed using roof trusses rather than the traditional stick built method of purlins and larger rafters. This means that members of the roof trusses are often in the way of living space and need to be removed to make the loft space useable and ready to be converted into a loft room. However when the roof trusses are altered or sections removed this can affect the structural integrity of the roof and this can be potentially dangerous and costly to repair if not done correctly. So your building contractor or architect will need to employ the services of a structural engineer to make sure that the new design conforms to part A of the UK building regulations and is safe. The alterations can be made if the existing structure is upgraded this is usually done by adding additional timber and steel supports usually in the form of steel beams or RSJ’s as they are more commonly know. These are often used to support the new floor joists and upgrade the roof structure once sections of the roof trusses have been removed. These new steels transfer the weight or loads from the new floor and roof structure down onto existing load bearing walls. It is important to select a building contractor who has experience in working with structural steels and carrying out more complex projects as the positions of these steels is critical to the structural integrity of the roof. This is particularly important if you currently have a trussed roof and you are installing ridge or cranked beams to carry the loads that have been transferred from the trusses that have been altered or removed.

Black mould and condensation

With the temperatures dropping some home owners are having problems with condensation which can lead to black mould growth. This can be an unpleasant issue in the home and can affect your plaster and decoration and can also be a potential hazard to health. The issue of black mould growth appears in houses at cold spots that are called dewing points. This usually happens when the building fabric becomes cold and the condensation condenses on the cold spot and allows the correct level of dampness for the black mould to grow. This can then spread to other areas of the property the places that tend to be worse affected are behind furniture the corner of rooms and ceilings particularly on and adjacent to external walls. Many homeowners suffer this year after year and face the annual spring clean and redecoration but there is a permanent solution. You can fit a unit in the roof void called a P.I.V. this stands for positive input ventilation. These units work excellently as they work to reduce the humidity levels in your home solving the root cause of the problem which is condensation and high humidity levels within the property. Once a unit has been installed and all the historic mould growth has been removed the property will remain free from condensation related mould and you can start to enjoy your home again. Many home owners try various other options first from dehumidifiers through to cutting in additional air bricks. The majority of the time this is not enough to resolve the issue and it is either only partly resolved or the mould and condensation will simply move to a different area of the home.

Dilapidation reports and repairs

Dilapidations is a phrase well know in the world of commercial property but is something that can catch out and be an expensive lesson for commercial tenants. Depending on the wording and conditions of commercial property lease agreements will depend on who is responsible for which and to what degree of property repairs and other associated costs. For instance if you are a commercial tenant and you have occupied a property for many years you may be responsible to return the property to the landlord with the appropriate statutory requirements in place. This does not sound to onerous but if could mean the introduction of various fire safety and other stator requirements. This could mean a new electrical fire detection system, fire doors and frames and some additional fire separation between fire exists. Dependant on the size and condition of the property this could leave the tenant with a bill for tens of thousands of pounds of refurbishment works. It is important to get a contractor on board who understands not only what needs to be done but also who needs to be informed and how to manage your dilapidation and repair budget. Even if the work is carried out by the correct competent person to the correct standard using the right materials you could still fall foul of the regulations and approval of building control. This could then create further issues and costs associated to getting in or out of the lease. There are different types of commercial property leases but retailers are very often only prepared to sign what are called weather leases. This term is used to describe a lease agreement where the landlord remains responsible for keeping the building weather tight and the tenant for the internal elements. So essentially the landlords keeps the roof, walls and external windows and doors in safe and serviceable condition while the commercial tenant looks after the rest.

Do you need property management or property maintenance?

Many landlords dread those Monday morning calls saying they have a bill for boiler repairs or a leaking roof. This is often why landlords chose to use a letting agent or property management company however with many tenants now paying by direct debit the only main advantage is the repairs and maintenance. What if you could find a single point of contact, one company that can look after all your investment property requirements and arrange all the repairs and certification. You could save hundreds of pounds a year in property management fees. We have experience of providing this service to many agents and facility management companies that carry out exactly this service. So you could cut out the agent and come direct for all your repairs and also enjoy the benefit of our various experts and skilled tradesmen. Do you need a company that can advise on roof repairs right down to a blocked drain and also arrange for all the electrical and gas certifications? Our team have been managing and developing properties specifically for the residential rental market since the 90’s. So we know how to look after a maintenance budget to give you the best value and keep your tenants happy. We know that landlords are happy when their tenants are happy with the condition of the property and pay their rent promptly.

What do I need to do before I alter my shop or office?

Many business owners move business premises or open new businesses and are looking to get the most from their new buildings and fit out budgets. There are many things to consider when opening a new business so here are a few of the items that business owners can overlook. First you will need to see the existing asbestos register all commercial buildings are duty bound to have a register that details the presence, type and locations of any materials in the building fabric that contain asbestos. If you do not have one you are not only potentially putting employees and the public at risk you are also breaking the law. The good news is that you can get an asbestos surveyor to carry out a survey relatively quickly and they are a lot less expensive than potential fines or decontamination. The second vital certificate is a fire safety certificate this can be obtained by contacting a fire safety risk assessor and getting a survey underway. You will also need to get the electrical and gas safely checked if these certificates are not available or you are making alterations. If you are making alterations you will probably need the works to be pasted by the local authority building control department or a similar local building control contractor. Check what arrangements or alterations are required for a disabled access again this can require a separate survey. Finally particularly with commercial buildings it is a good idea to get them checked out by a structural engineer if you plan alterations or have concerns about previous alterations or any existing building defects. Your surveyor or a good competent building contractor should be able to advise and recommend the various professionals required to make sure your commercial property redevelopment is completed properly. People are often afraid to undertake structural alterations as they fear the costs however these can often be less than expected and make your building far easier to use or sell from making it a worthwhile investment.

What building work to do before you let your house

When becoming a landlord you have either ended up with an additional property usually by moving from your home or inheriting another house. Or perhaps you have purchased a property in an auction or from an estate agent. It is unlikely that the property is ready to let there is usually some level of building work required. The first consideration is making sure the property has no maintenance issues, have the ridge tiles been pointed is there any slipped slates or tiles? Is there any re-pointing required are the gutters in good condition? Take some time to carry out your own survey or ask for some advice from a building contractor. Next before you let your property you have a duty of care to your tenant so make sure that you have all your electrics and gas checked out and that your building contractors provide suitable certification for their work. The best advice for internal decoration is to opt for white ceilings and gloss work with matt magnolia on internal walls and silk or kitchen and bathroom paint to kitchens and bathrooms. Although kitchen and bathroom paint is more expensive than silk is can prove a little more tenant proof and could save you decorating costs in the future. The next consideration is items like locks it is best to convert your existing doors to have euro barrel locks. This provide a couple of advantages one they are easy to change when tenants leave and also a thumb twist can be provided to the inside of the doors. This means you can still have a 5 lever lock to satisfy your insurance requirements but tenants can get out in the event of a fire or other emergency without searching for the front or back door keys. Then we move onto more permanent fittings like kitchens and bathrooms budgets can vary greatly but in most lets a standard Howdens, Magnet or B&Q kitchen will be cost effective. Avoid patterned or stark colour wall tiles as this could put some tenants off, chose simple and neutral designs. Make sure you fit a shower this can even be achieved in small bathrooms with the use of a ‘P’ shaped bath. Another consideration is the installation of a positive pressure unit this is a clever device that controls condensation. This can often be an issue even when the house has not suffered previously because busy tenants often forget to open windows and allow adequate ventilation for kitchens and bathrooms.

Building refurbishments for houses in multiple occupation

HMO’s or houses in multiple occupations require a licence under legislation from 2004 that was introduced nationwide in 2006. The legislation in managed by the local authority housing standards team and although they have a set of guidelines to work to. The final recommendations are from the inspector attending site, similar to when a building inspector is passing building works. So an inspector will look at the end users requirements when they specify the level of alterations that are required to obtain a licence. The housing officer may be more lenient where student lets are taking place than with more vulnerable individual bedsit lets. The main requirements will be for fire protection, usual in the form of an interlinked mains fire system under BS4839 part 6 grades D LD2. Some HMO’s may require a higher level of system with a mains fire board similar to those used in some retail and commercial buildings. The number of lettable rooms may also require additional toilets and hand basins in to be fitted in the lettable rooms. Another requirement is the correct provision and positioning of electrical sockets. They will also ask for fire doors usually FD30 sometimes FD30S (smoke sealed) these will be one of the main expenses in a conversion and refurbishment. They usually require a minimum of two double sockets per lettable room positioned to minimise trailing of electrical flexes. If you are planning a HMO conversion for student lets or for other HMO requirements it is a good idea to use a building contractor who has experience in the HMO regulations.