Tag Archives: Leak

Barry’s story – it could have been you! Financial Advice, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

Barry’s story was written by the Mark Alexander back in December 2010. It has since been updated and re-published several times. The dates, times and people are fictional but the story is based on real life events.

It’s a modern update of the classic “A Widow’s story”, this time written as a cautionary tale for landlords and their families.

Barry is 53 years old and married to Sharon. They have three teenage children; twin girls aged 15 and a 13 year old son. Barry worked as a self employed salesman in the plant hire business. Sharon had a part time secretarial job in a local school.

Barry and Sharon purchased their first investment property in 1996.

As property values have risen they have continuously remortgaged and used a proportion of the equity released as deposits to purchase additional rental properties. They also saved a proportion of the equity released for a rainy day. To accelerate the growth of their portfolio Barry and Sharon raised extra cash for deposits by remortgaging their home. The profits from Barry’s plant hire business covered the family’s commitments comfortably.

They had accumulated a portfolio of 23 properties with a combined valuation of £1,650,000, against which they had mortgages of £1,400,000.  The portfolio produces rental income of £87,000 per annum. Their rainy day fund amounted to just over £64,000. By having all of the above in place you might be forgiven for thinking that they had set themselves up with a very safe future.

On Sunday 21st December Barry had a bad day. He was on the way home that evening having just been out to fix a tenants leaking shower tray when the traffic on the M6 came to a grinding halt. Barry managed to stop his car, avoiding the lorry in front of him, but the car behind him ploughed into the back of him, wedging his car under the back of the lorry.

The emergency services managed to free Barry from the wreck and his only damage was shock, whiplash and major bruising to his legs. However, two days later Barry collapsed whilst out shopping for last minute Christmas presents. He was rushed to hospital where it was discovered that a blood clot in Barry’s leg had passed to his brain. Barry had suffered a major stroke.

He lost his speech and most of the use of one side of his body. The family were in tatters. Sharon had to give up work to care for him.

Up until having a stroke Barry had managed the property portfolio and taken care of most of the maintenance himself. Could Sharon care for her husband, her family and the management and maintenance of the property portfolio too?

They considered putting the properties on the market but soon realised that after deducting selling costs and CGT there wouldn’t be much money left over. They would also lose their income and they would be leaving their tenants in a difficult predicament too. Sharon has had to employ a lettings agent to manage the portfolio. Since then it has cost the family an average circa £3,000 a month to pay for ongoing maintenance and management.

Fortunately there has been some good news, at least financially. First, low interest rates have meant that Barry and Sharon’s mortgages have got much cheaper than when they started their property rental business. Many of their mortgages have reverted to tracker products due to their fixed rates coming to an end. They are focussing on Barry’s recovery. What will happen when interest rates go back up again though? How will the restrictions on finance cost relief for individual landlords affect them?

The real saviour for the family has been insurance. Fortunately, Barry and Sharon were astute enough to insure against these eventualities. They took out life assurance policies that pay out a regular monthly income right up to Barry’s 65th birthday. These policies were written on the basis that they also pay out in the event of a critical illness. The family are therefore confident that these provisions will see them through these troubled times and out the other side. They will then revert to plan A, which was to live off surplus rental income over and above the mortgage payments on their portfolio or to sell the properties and live off their gains.

What insurance provisions have you made for your family?

How are you investing the windfall of increased cashflow that record low interest rates have produced for your family?

Have you made similar provisions to Barry and Sharon?  If you haven’t it may not be too late, we want to help.  If you have already taken advice and put insurances into place we would like to introduce you to one of our recommended advisers to review your policies and ensure they are competitive. Most important of all, to ensure that the right person gets the right money at the right time.


Damage caused by leak from neighbouring flat Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

My tenants reported a very serious leak from the water cylinder to my letting agents, who called in my plumber, who could find no trace of a leak from the water cylinder.

When my tenants got home from work they found the next door neighbours pulling up carpets following a bad leak from their boiler (I had my tenant’s leaking boiler replaced not long ago). The neighbours’ letting agents are sending them a contractor to suck up all the moisture. Damage caused by leak from neighbouring flat

My agents say we can then assess if there is any lasting damage and make a claim on the buildings insurance.

I don’t think this can be right, as the building insurance is with the maintenance company and covers external, not internal problems.

Am I right in thinking that any claim I need to make should be against the neighbouring landlord’s policy?

Thoughts and advice appreciated.

Thanks

Christine


Who is responsible for my tenants £400 water bill? Landlords Stories, Latest Articles

I recently visited my tenant with a congratulations card as they had recently had a new baby.

While I was there my tenant mentioned that the water pressure was very low from the bath tap and would my husband come round to have a look some time and that there was no rush (we manage our own properties). My husband went round 5 days later and the tenant is now saying there must be a leak somewhere as he has a water bill for £400.

My husband checked in the bathroom and there was water trickling into the toilet from the overflow system in the cistern. My husband asked the tenant if he had not heard this trickling and he said he had heard it in the night, but thought it was his son going to spend a penny!

The water has obviously been trickling like this for weeks or possibly months and this has resulted in the hefty water bill.

Who is responsible for paying the bill?

Any comments please.

Ashleytoilet


End of Tenancy Deposit Issues – Tenant Requests Advice From Landlords Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Hi All,

I realise this is primarily a landlords site, however nothing like hearing it from you on what will hopefully be an impartial landlord view. I like to believe I am a reasonable and honest tenant.

Background:

My landlady owns a number of properties in London (via a company). I moved in and a new AST was signed (3 bed place), as one of the previous tenants was staying it was agreed (among the tenants) the originals tenants would give £100 each (2 left, 2 came in, I was 1 of the new tenants) towards any damages that they have caused. So there was no official “check-out” for them (they were paid their deposit back in full by the landlady).
During this period the landlady placed our deposits in “insured” schemes which are OK but not great and she never dated them properly.

During the next 2 years both other tenants left any new ones came in (they swapped at different periods). New AST were created. In the interim Landlady goes into administration and the receivers stepped in. They placed our deposit into a custodial scheme.

She got out of it by selling a couple of properties and managing to refinance the remaining properties.
After she gained repossession of the property we did another tenant swap and this meant new AST and supposedly a new deposit protection scheme which we never saw (ie. she never applied for one).

Note 1: We have never missed any payments and always paid on time (for the 2.5 years I lived there).
Note 2: Landlady is still owing deposits to 2 other tenants that left almost 1 year ago (to be fair they should have applied A LOT MORE pressure but she keeps discussing different items that she wants to charge them for and delaying the process). She also seems to be dealing with them at individual level (almost as if she rent rooms out and charging for things that were never done like window cleaning).
Note 3: I took 3 days off work to make sure the property was left in excellent condition as I knew this was about to get messy (this inc professional carpet cleaners @ £115, professional cleaners suggested by her @ £135, I bought paint and brushes to make sure my room and common areas were not marked and left in pristine conditions), and paid a checkout report (although I never saw a check-in report).
Note 4: I am still liable to dispute the DPS custodial one as it was dated to finish in August (our tenancy finished in early September), however some of the names of tenants on that Deposit ID are different to the latest tenancy.

Our tenancy ended 6th Sep and the checkout report was issued 16th Sep (as inventory services agency took ages to produce the report).

Now she is doing the same to us, finding things that she maybe able to charge (including broken tile, leaking pipe, cleaning not up to standard [even though she recommended the professional cleaning company], stained sofa), given more time they will keep increasing.

Googling her name reveals some previous court cases and the cleaning company, check-out report company etc from what they told me sound as if she is the same with all her tenants in her other properties.

It obvious she does not play by the book and I have tried to be very patient and rational about all this. But to be fair to her she was patient with signing new ASTs and swapping tenants in contracts (but surely that is a saving on both sides as she does not have to market the property or have any downtime).

Questions:

  • How does she have to officially respond to checkout report and how long until we can start kicking and screaming for our deposit?
  • Given that the deposit is not in a “valid” protection scheme for the latest tenancy is there any mechanism to apply pressure? (I know landlords must place the deposits in these schemes but if they don’t they could have to pay multiples of the deposit… where can I go to talk discuss this option, I don’t want to get to this but will surely use this to keep her in line)
  • Should I dispute the deposit under the custodial scheme which has my name and 2 previous (not latest) tenants [who also have not yet seen their deposit back yet]?
  • How can I fight the several claims for several things which she wants money for?
  • Who do I go to for help on this? for example to take her to court or to dispute this end of tenancy given that it is not to my knowledge on any deposit protection scheme.

Please help, we (3 young professionals) all have 6 weeks rent tied here (not to mention 2 others who have also not yet seen their deposit back).

I appreciate all the feedback I can get. End of Tenancy Deposit Issues - Tenant Requests Advice From Landlords

I have rented different places in the UK over the last 10 years (Surrey and London), I have seen a couple of decent landlords but I have seen mostly awful ones. I do support the requirement for standards (licensing or accreditation), it is getting harder and harder to get on the property ladder and more young people will be renting for longer in the future, it is possible for landlords to keep their investments profitable and not have to play with people lives.

Many thanks

Andre


61 percent of tenants could have out of date gas safety certificates Landlord News, Latest Articles

There has been a rise in Landlords failing to get up to date gas safety certificates and 61% of tenants could be at risk from faulty gas fittings according to a survey conducted by SpareRoom.co.uk. gas safety certificates

The latest survey of UK tenants revealed that potentially 37% are now renting properties that have out-of-date gas safety certificates, which is up from 34% two years ago. More than a quarter (26%) of renters had never seen a gas safety check carried out while they had been renting the property – up from 22% in 2011 – while one in 10 (11%) said the last gas safety check, which must be completed annually, was carried out more than 12 months ago.

An additional 24% of tenants surveyed were not aware that a gas safety check had been carried out in the last 12 months but could not be certain either way, which means as many as 61% of renters could be at risk from unsafe fittings and appliances across the UK. That’s up from 56% in 2011. The table below compares the results of surveys on gas safety carried out by SpareRoom in 2011 and 2013:

Renters were asked: ‘If you’ve been in your property over a year, when was your last gas safety check carried out?’

2011

2013

Within the last 12 months

44%

39%

More than 12 months ago

12%

11%

Never

22%

26%

Don’t know

22%

24%

Landlords are legally required to perform annual gas safety checks on their properties to ensure all gas fittings and appliances are operating safely and efficiently. It’s a landlord’s responsibility to arrange for a registered Gas Safe engineer to carry out this check, and to provide tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate to prove that a gas safety check has been carried out.

The survey highlights that more and more landlords are failing to adhere to this basic legal requirement, leaving tenants at risk of injury and landlords at risk of prosecution if a tenant was to suffer a gas-related injury or died as a result of a gas leak or explosion.

According to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 4 people died and 333 were seriously injured in the UK last year from fire exposure, explosions, carbon monoxide poisoning and other forms of gas-related exposure.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom comments: “Landlords have legal obligations to carry out annual gas safety checks but it seems awareness is slipping.”

“The current boom in buy-to-let has exacerbated the problem. While most professional landlords know the rules and are diligent in getting checks carried out, many amateur landlords may not even realise they need a certificate. It’s crucial that those thinking of letting properties or rooms get to grips with their responsibilities as landlords, and keep up to speed with any regulatory changes. Too many landlords are clearly forgetting their responsibilities once tenants are in place.”


Roof or Condensation Problem? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Over a year ago, tenant was complaining of leak in bedroom, so had a roofer repair 5 rows of tiles/felt where it could have been.

Then about a year ago there was a lot of mould in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom of the let property. I bought the mould cleaner and painted it over with the special paint from B&Q to prevent further mould appearing.

Few months later new insulation was put in and cavity wall insulation. The property does have double glazing. Now it appears that the mould has come back and worse in the whole of the upstiars.

Not sure if this is a roof problem since all the felt is rotten and therefore whole roof needs re-doing, or do I call a condensation speacialist and fit in the extractor fans in the rooms upstairs.

Confused since each tradesman wants to sell his service, so not sure what to do.

Appreciate any advice. Roof or Condensation Problem?

Bushra Mohammed


Leaseholder or Freeholder who is responsible? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

We purchased an off-plan flat in London from a well known developer about 6-7 years ago. A couple of months ago we received notice from the managing agent that the roof had been leaking badly and has caused substantial damage to some of the flats and needs replacing, thereby giving us notice of intention to carry out major work. They said they are trying to recover the costs from NHBC as the building is under 10 years old. Now we have received a demand for £2,200 to be paid by October. The total cost is nearly £152,000 divided between 74 flats. Leaseholder or Freeholder who is responsible?

We called the managing agent to get more details. Apparently, NHBC doesn’t cover the roof and the insurance doesn’t cover the roof either. It covers the damage caused to the flat but not the cost of replacing the roof.

The freeholders have approached the “First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber”. They have, in view of the urgency, dispensed with the consultation period. The work is starting and we are expected to pay.

I would like to know if it is possible for both, NHBC and the insurers to deny liability and avoid paying?

Is it normal for an insurance cover on a big block not to cover the roof?

What good is the insurance policy that doesn’t cover the roof?

A hefty proportion of the service charge is for building insurance cover, taken out by the freeholder.

In cases like this when the policy doesn’t cover the roof replacement, is it the freeholder’s problem or the leaseholders?

Do the leaseholders have a legal remedy?

I asked the managing agent for contact details of other leaseholders to form a consultation forum. As expected, they hide behind Data Protection Act.

What is the best way of forming a Residents Action Group (or Leaseholders’ Action Group, since most flats are let and residents are tenants)?

More generally, can the residents choose the management company and the insurance cover or they have to accept what the freeholder chooses?

What do leaseholders need to do to get collectively the freehold of the block they live in.

I and no doubt many other readers would be grateful for any insights, suggestions or answers to any of these questions.

Many thanks

Sina


Party Wall Damp Ingress Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I own a 1900’s end terraced house that had some damp / water ingress via the defective chimney stack on the gable end, the chimney stack has been removed as the water was travelling down the gable wall and showing as damp on the internal wall and chimney breast (its a solid wall, not cavity), this should fix the problem after some drying out time.Party Wall Damp Ingress

The problem is whilst the roofer was on the roof they noticed the neighbouring chimney stack situated over the party wall was also defective, not dangerous but defective flashings and defective flaunching so water was also leaking in, this is travelling down the party wall and presenting itself as damp on my internal party wall causing bad damp patches, staining and wall paper to peel off.

I have on 5 occasions called round to the neighbouring house and no one has answered although they have been in, lights on and windows open etc, they clearly avoid opening the door, no reason why, ive never met them or spoken to them or had any reason to as I have just bought the house. I checked land registry to get owners name and hand delivered a letter just asking they call me about the chimney, I even offered to pay for the work, quoted £80.00, they have still not contacted me after 2 weeks, I realise the house may be let and tenants may not be bothered.

The roofer refused to fix it on site without permission from the owner.

what can I do next to prevent further water ingress ? I dont want to cause any hassle but its annoying and needs fixing.

Thanks for your anticipated advices……

Oliver


Cannabis Factory – Landlords Case Study Advice, Cautionary Tales, Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

How do you know if your property is being used as a Cannabis factory?

I’m writing this, having been involved recently in a case where a landlord got caught in this conundrum. Leona… we will call her for the sake of confidentiality. I thought I would tell her story for you as it is a classic commonplace tale that illustrates how these things work for landlords and us frontline workers.

Leona’s story.

Leona was renting out a flat she bought as an alternative to a pension, as so many do. She decided she would be best served by using a major high street letting agent.  Go to the professionals, get it done right. OK it will cost a bit more but at least you have some comfort knowing you are using the big names.

The agents took 6 month’s rent up-front. Common practice if the tenant has a bad credit rating and if they don’t have a credible guarantor.

5 months in Leona visited the property to talk to the tenant and see if everything was OK and find out if they wanted to continue the letting. Looking through the letterbox she saw dirt all over the carpets and what looked like several black bin liners full of soil. The bathroom window had been ripped from its hinges and was hanging loose. Through the gap she could see there wasn’t any furniture.

Suspecting that the property was being used as a Cannabis factory she contacted the police, who duly gave her a crime number but didn’t investigate further, probably because the bird had flown. Still not wanting to act in any way that may be deemed inappropriate she contacted her agent and told them about it. They said they would send someone to the property but a couple of weeks later she still hadn’t heard anything back.

When she phoned the agent again she was told that the particular employee didn’t work there anymore so nothing happened beyond a visit. They advised her not to change the locks and that they would serve a section 21 notice and begin the eviction process. At which point she came to me for advice.

The TRO story.

The tenant has another month on the fixed term so I am mindful that if Leona forces entry and changes the locks in error she could be committing an illegal eviction. She is nice and trying very hard to do the right thing so I agree to meet her at the property to see the situation first hand, mindful of the possibility that I might be attending a criminal act.

But I’m also very mindful of the fire hazard presented by the presence of a cannabis factory. In the past fortnight two of them have burnt down in our area, fortunately nobody was hurt but Leona’s flat is on the first floor of a tower block housing 60 families so a fire would be unthinkable. I have to act fast.

I also have contacts in the energy company EDF, specifically Bob and Steve who disconnect cannabis factories with the police, so I called Steve and he also agreed to meet up and see what the coup was.

The EDF story.

Bob and Steve disconnect around 9 or 10 cannabis farms each week in our area alone. They tell me that the main boosters for the equipment used can get up to temperatures around 50 degrees so are constantly on the verge of catching fire.

In our manor Vietnamese gangs are behind most of them, sometimes with willing European accomplices and sometime unwilling ones who are being blackmailed into acting as a front. It may be different gangs in different areas.

Steve runs a check and finds that the property is on an electricity key meter and being charged @ around £70 a week, so whoever the tenant really is he isn’t running a TV and food mixer. Also the tenants underneath reported water leaking down through their ceiling. Steve advises this is usually the automated watering system.

The give-away for EDF is either a huge electricity bill or the complete absence of one. Often they turn up and find the electricity meter removed and the supply hot-wired to the street.

The Police story.

Many cannabis farms can be picked up by helicopters using thermal imaging cameras, at which point they contact EDF for them to run a check on electricity usage and billing names. That’s how some of them come to light but it isn’t fool proof. Farms in basements for instance are difficult to pick up.

As for prosecutions…..well. Cannabis farms are such an endemic problem that further investigation is a waste of time. Once the raid takes place the plants are bagged up and destroyed. No point tracking down fictitious tenants using fake documents

20 cannabis plants growing on a kitchen table will net the farmer £40,000 but in police terms would only be categorised as ‘Personal use’, so not worth prosecuting. A three bedroomed house turned over to serious farming will garner you £500,000, so the odd farm lost here and there gets absorbed into the overall costs, as merely risks of the trade.

I recently worked with the police on a farm where they found a black bin liner containing £50,000. In this case they know the owner but will struggle to connect him to the money or the farm even though we all know him by reputation.

Meanwhile back at Leona’s place

The tenant had changed the locks so she called a friend to climb in through the broken bathroom window and open the door from the inside while Steve and I stood by. Me to deal with any legal issues that may arise from the forced entry, Steve to verify whether or not the place was indeed a cannabis farm.

Once inside there were no signs of occupation, not so much as a stick of furniture or a toothbrush, but piles of soil littered the flat, containing marijuana leaves, discarded dead baby plants and bits of horticultural equipment and 10 black bin liners full of used potting compost.

The tower block in which Leona’s flat sits is part of a row of 3 in the same street. While we were there Steve got a call from the police. It transpired that there were another two farms in the other blocks that needed to be disconnected.

Whether or not they are linked to Leona’s tenants is anybody’s guess but at least they won’t get away with harvesting the other ones.

We left Leona, her sister and their friend to begin the clean-up operation. Put back one of the doors that had been removed, sweep up the piles of dirt on the carpets. She got off lightly to be honest. A good afternoon’s cleaning will get it back to normal.

So what can you do to guard yourself?

Well the 6 month rent up-front ploy is a good indicator. They do this so they won’t be disturbed. It may be that rent in advance is simply because they don’t have a good credit rating or a guarantor but bear in mind it is also a classic sign of skulduggery. You have to ask the question; if their credit rating is so bad, how come they have £5,000 or £6,000 to bang down on the counter?

In such cases you could announce a visit after the first month to make sure they are all settling in and happy.

If you think there is something fishy going on call EDF and mention your concerns, they will look into it from their end. They may not tell you the exact state of play on the person’s account, they have to be mindful of the Data Protection Act but they do know the signs and have more powers if something really is amiss.

Talk to neighbours to see if they have noticed strange comings and goings such as late night visits with a van loading and unloading. The equipment is quite bulky and difficult to install on the QT. In Leona’s case they cut the pigeon netting on the balcony and hauled it all up on ropes to avoid being caught by the tower block’s CCTV in the entry area.

If you have strong suspicions call the police in. remember cannabis farms are a major fire hazard and you could end up losing the property entirely, not to mention endangering the lives of the neighbours.

If the police visit and it turns out that it’s all in error, well it’s only a little bit embarrassing, easily set right with an apology and a bottle of wine.

Finally, if as Leona’s agents did, they tell you that they will serve a section 21 forget it. You don’t have the time for that, each day that goes by makes it more dangerous. Call your council, call EDF, call the police, make waves but remember these things are run by criminal gangs, don’t tackle it yourself.Cannabis Factory Landlords Case Study


Fair wear and tear? Landlord needs advice on dispute with Housing Association Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I entered a contract with Sheppards Bush Housing Association “SBHA” for three years at agreed rent of £310 per week.

They knew I was going aboard.

I checked with Ealing Council and they confirmed that the rent for my property would be £310.

I borrowed money to do a lot of work that they required on the property. They promised monthly visits and given I used to work in Homeless Person Unit “HPU” for Ealing Council I knew this to be important.

In October 2009 I signed the contract and returned it to SBHA. I received a confirmation offer letter in October 2009.

I handed the property over in early November 2009 and left the country on the 19th November.

In December SBHA wrote to me saying that they had to reduce the rent as Ealing Council would not pay £310 per week. I checked with the council and they told me if I went with them they would pay £310 but I was in a remote part of India and I needed my loans and mortgage covered, so I agreed under pressure to accept the new rent of £250 per week.

There were no monthly visits and two years into the contract the tenant complained of excess mould in the flat. I sent in a surveyor to have a look and he found a leak under the bath that had been going on for some time, he said about six months. It caused extensive damage. Repairs cost me over £1,500 and I am not sure of the long term damage.

My insurance did not cover me as I could not prove when the leak started. The tenant said the floor in the bathroom did turn black but she thought nothing of it. Monthly checks would have found this.

When the tenant left the property I was presented with a flat needing over £5,000 worth of repairs.

The tenant had not cleaned the flat and there was excessive scale on the tiles in the bathroom. The wooden floor in the kitchen had come up in places around the fridge. The tenant did not report this as a repair and threw away the wooden blocks so that it could not be repaired. The bathroom panel was rotten due to water flowing over it from the shower and so on. The tenant had removed the carpets in the living room. She had replaced the vinyl in the bathroom but not sealed it in etc. etc. etc.

The basis of the agreement with SBHA was that any tenant damage would be paid for, that was their reason for not offering a deposit. However, repairs are my responsibility.

Because of the reduction in rent I did not have the money to pay for the repairs and they threatened me with a rent stop. If they stopped the rent I would have defaulted on my mortgage and loans. Rather then having money saved up which I would have had under the original agreement I struggled. I had to fly back from China and do the works myself. After many letters they have now decided that they will look at my case again.

Were does one stand in a case like this were one side says damage and the other says fair wear and tear?

Your comments will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

David Evans

 

Fair wear and tear?


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