Tag Archives: mould

Dehumidifiers may reduce energy costs as well as solve damp issues Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

For landlords with tenants who do all the wrong things and cause condensation and damp problems this can be a nightmare because tenants often argue that de-humidifiers increase their fuel bills, even if landlords offer to provide one. Here is a counter argument which you may care to use if you have this problem this winter.

Not only is wet air more expensive than dry air to heat, but also high humidity makes a house feel colder than it actually is, so people set thermostat levels higher than they need to. A dehumidifier removes this humidity, and so can help cut energy bills. Dehumidifiers may reduce energy costs as well as solve damp issues

It is also worth noting that damp also exacerbates health problems, and this is even more of an issue in winter. As condensation builds in windows due to damp air, the growth of mould is more common.  Mould and damp can worsen asthma, irritate eyes, nose and throat, and cause sinus congestion, headaches, common colds and tonsillitis – all illnesses experienced more around the winter season.

So, as energy companies increase prices this winter, more and more households are turning to dehumidifiers to combat rising energy bills and stay healthy.


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


Key Property (UK) Ltd fined £47k for damp unlicensed HMO Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property Maintenance, Property Market News, Property News

A letting agent who rented out a damp, dangerous and dilapidated property received a hefty fine following a successful council prosecution. Key Property fined £74k for damp and unlicenced HMO

Key Property (UK) Ltd of 47 Bell Road, Hounslow, who trade under the name Key Solutions and Key Lettings, were fined £42,500, on top of costs and compensation worth £5,040, at Feltham Magistrates Court after being found guilty of 15 housing offences.

The offences related to a property on Cromwell Street, Hounslow, which the council investigated following complaints from tenants in July last year.

Officers inspecting the property found seven tenants living at the property, in five separate bedrooms, which included the front and rear living rooms.

They discovered a significant number of defects relating to excess cold, damp and mould, electrical hazards, problems with sanitation and drainage, security, fire safety, structural hazards and hygiene.

A boiler that had been turned off by the manufacturer due to its unsafe installation had been switched back on.

It was also discovered that the property was a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and required a license to be let out to tenants. Having a license would mean the property was being managed well, and was suitable for occupation.

Cllr Steve Curran, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration at the council said:

“The fact the fine for failing to have an HMO license is one of the largest in the country shows the seriousness of the offences.

“I’m pleased magistrates have thrown the book at this criminal letting agent, as the conditions the tenants were living in – no fire alarms, dangerous gas and electrics, and some of the worst damp and mould our officers have ever seen – were, frankly, appalling.

“They took more than £24,000 in rent from these tenants and left them to live in squalor.

“They tried to avoid their legal responsibilities, but thanks to the hard work of our housing team, we were able to successfully prosecute them.”

Key Property were found guilty of 15 housing offences at Feltham Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 4 September.

The offences, fines and costs awarded were:

  • Managing an unlicensed HMO: £15,000 fine
  • Supplying false information: £5,000 fine
  • 3 offences relating to management of the property: £22,500 fine
  • Compensation to tenants: £600
  • Victim surcharge: £120
  • Council’s legal costs: £4,320

The director of Key Property (UK) Ltd is Mrs Adibah Uddin, and the company secretary is Mr Iftikhar Uddin


Black spot mould in cellar Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

This is a new one on me, tenant rang me today, with the floods a few weeks ago, her cellar flooded. Black spot mould in cellar

She says black mould all growing up walls.

I’m going to look next week, but my quick enquiries tell me clean off with bleach and get de-humidifier.

I know a bit about ‘normal’ mould in ‘normal’ ground and first floor in houses, but nothing about cellars.

I’m not keen on the idea of calling in a specialist who will charge me hundreds of pounds at this stage. If anyone has previously successfully tackled this please let me know.

Also if I have to get a de-humidifier, where should I go to get one that don’t cost a fortune?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Mick Roberts


Tenant Referencing Using Common Sense Advice, Latest Articles, Property Investment Strategies, The GOOD Landlords Campaign

Common sense tenant referencing was pretty much the only option available when I first became a landlord and started letting property in the late 1980’s. Tenant Referencing Using Common Sense

In this article I am going to explain what my family do to find the next perfect tenant, right from the day an existing tenant let’s us know that they want to move out. More often than not these days, tenants think they can serve notice with just a phone call, email, facebook or text message – more about that later. Continue reading Tenant Referencing Using Common Sense


Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

We’re a professional couple with a limited company which provides a technology solution to the NHS. It suits our circumstances to rent at this moment in time. Retaliatory eviction

We had a 4-year rental of a lovely apartment until last Summer, when the owner decided to downsize and move back into the property. It was a good relationship, we had treated the property as if it had been our own investment and we parted as friends – with our deposit paid back in full.

After much searching we found a 3-bed town house which appeared to offer us everything we needed. The letting agent was a member of NAEA/ARLA and appeared to be respectable. There were some agreed remedial works to be dealt with and we were given assurances that these would be attended to in due course. We moved into the property in late August 2012.

Sadly, by the beginning of November, it was apparent that the property had some significant problems. There was extensive water penetration upstairs and a rising damp problem to the ground floor. The letting agent was informed immediately, with photographic evidence and a request for urgent assistance. We moved our furniture from the 3rd bedroom.

A ‘trades-person’ appeared in due course, with a notepad and pencil but with no damp meter. A report was promised, but was not forthcoming. The letting agent promised to send another contractor. This one only worked weekends and couldn’t agree a time to call; that visit never took place.

I called the landlords contractor to arrange the remedial work to be completed – missing doors, exposed wires, etc. He visited early November, measured up, made notes, promised to return – but failed.

We spent the most horrendous Christmas and New Year in the house. There was serious damp penetration, black mould which was constantly being removed. Slugs were climbing the walls. The house was very cold and the more that we heated it – the worse the damp became. We telephoned, wrote, sent photographs, yet the letting agent did nothing; there were plenty of replies – unbelievably stating that they were attempting to do everything as quickly as possible. We initially resigned ourselves to getting out of the house at the end of our AST.

In early-February, I wrote the strongest letter to letting agent with photos. A survey was made by Peter Cox, a pretty damning report which agreed with our complaint – serious damp and rain penetration. I wrote again, asking for compensation and a reduction in rent. This was refused. The letting agent had said that the landlord was absent; it transpired this wasn’t the case.

We tracked the landlord down and demanded a meeting. The landlord appeared, agreed with us in full and said that it was the first he knew of the problem. He agreed that we should be compensated and that this was the letting agents responsibility. Our landlord sat in our home, apologising and promised us both that this would be resolved. He remarked how clean we kept the property. The next day he had changed his mind and said that our grievance was with the letting agent. The following day – the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) inspected. That week, the missing doors and exposed electrics were attended to. We sent 2 requests to the letting agent, for the landlords address – these were refused.

A week later we received a section 21 notice to quit. The landlords address was given as c/o a family member in the South – presumably to thwart a legal action by us.

It turned out that the landlord had known of the problems. He’d applied for a grant for roof insulation, in my name – without my knowledge – and prior to our first meeting. It transpired that the letting agents were not members of ARLA or NAEA and we contacted both organisations and Rightmove to get these false affiliations removed. The letting agent claimed an oversight.

We spoke with our MP who has written to the CEO of the local authority, in order to push the EHO. The EHO wrote to the letting agent and the landlord but there was no response. We then began to receive threats from the letting agent to enter the property to inspect and allow viewings; we made a formal complaint to the Police and this is logged with a fast-track number in the event that they continue. We threatened to change the locks and the letting agent replied that this was not necessary.

We defended the section 21 notice on the grounds of incorrect dates and continued to pay the rent. We were not going to be forced out and subjected to costs or inconvenience due to their incompetence. The weather had improved and the house was drying out for the summer and we would tough it out now – having gone through the worst. We have since redecorated all damp affected walls as it is unnecessary to be reminded every day.

Our MP has pushed for resolution; this has mustered a stronger letter from the EHO. There has been no response other than a second section 21 notice. The dates are once again incorrect. The letting agent has put our deposit into a DPS but did not provide the Deposit Protection Certificate or prescribed information until we requested it after five months of tenancy. The prescribed information appears to be incomplete. I doubt that any s21 is valid until deposit is returned and the landlord might be liable for 3x under the Localism Act? Our claim should also be for a reduction in rent back-dated to 11/2012 and should provide compensation for immense stress and upset – particularly to my wife – for the repeated inconvenience, small damage, etc.

We’ve spoken with experts in Landlord/Tenant issues, they’ve seen our file which is very complete and have passed it onto Barristers to evaluate. We have a strong case apparently, but would incur costs of circa £7k to seek compensation/enforcement of duty to repair; we’ve been told that there is little likelihood of being awarded costs – if successful. That’s an expensive ‘point of principle’ for us.

It seems a dreadful situation. We actually like the house and the worst of the problems could be so easily resolved. We must now consider vacating the property before the bad weather sets in again – to remain longer would weaken any case against the landlord and the letting agent. The landlord is inexperienced and his conduct and concern for our welfare has been quite despicable. The promises that he made to my wife and I were instantly forgotten and we would like to do whatever might be done, so that he is taught the lesson.

Please accept our apologies for the long post, is there anything that we could do, other than what the landlord and letting agent expects – that being to vacate and walk away? I feel that someone needs to make a stand here, to create some solid case law if necessary – to protect others faced with similar problems in the future.

Thanks in advance

Roy and Tania


Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have 3 tenants who recently vacated a property. During their rental I only dealt with one of the tenants and we went through the check out procedure thoroughly so that he understood what was expected. On the day of the checkout the property was very unclean and the inventory clerk explained to the tenant that cleaning would have to be done. The clerk was also concerned to note that handles had been broken off the windows. The tenant explained they had not been able to open them, yet had never mentioned this to us. We have since had a repair man in who has told us that the windows have ceased up inside completely and he will have to drill through each window in order to release it, patch it up etc. It will be quite a big job. They have ceased up due to rust. We noticed when they were checked out that the boiler was off, that they used cold water only and we suspect that they did not use the heating (fans were all turned off too). Presumably the resulting condensation (no ventilation as windows were closed!) has rusted the mechanics of the windows. Once the tenants vacated and we were able to pull furniture away from walls, we can see black mould developing there, evidence of lack of ventilation and condensation. Deposit query, delay with obtaining quotes for repair

They vacated early July but the first appointment we could get for the window repair man was 26th July. Now that he has seen the extent of the problem, it may take some time before we know on costs, particularly as windows are included in our service charges, therefore the costs of these may be applied to the service charge and we would then only need to pass on to the tenant the cost of our portion of this charge. That cost though would not be known for over a year, though with a bit of digging around we might be able to know what the charge is in 3 months or so.

We have written to the lead tenant letting him know that we are doing all we can to find out costs for the windows, but meanwhile we await his final bills. We still await those final bills from him, 3 weeks after he has moved out. He also lives just around the corner from the flat and knows my husband is there presently doing some internal work, so could pop round at any time.

My question is- what do I do regarding his deposit. There are other deductions which we will have to make, but they are more straightforward. I would like to return as much of his deposit as possible, but the windows may only cost £100 or it may be £1000 – it really depends on how the management company deal with it. We want to be fair, but on the other hand don’t want to leave ourselves with a bill. At the very minimum all broken handles will need to be fixed. These are clearly shown on the inventory as being OK at the beginning of the tenancy.

I have dug around trying to find out rough costs for these, but have drawn a blank.

Any thoughts?

My question mainly goes out to other hands on landlords who have to deal with this regularly and who have not been able to return the deposit as quickly as 10 days.

I would appreciate your responses, thanks very much.

Yvette


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?


The evolution of the Private Rented Sector – Deed of Assurance Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Legal, Letting, Lettings & Management, Press, Property Investment Strategies, Property Market News, Property News, The GOOD Landlords Campaign

TMW now agree to three year AST's - Stupidly in my opinionWhy on earth would The Mortgage Works “TMW” agree to three year AST’s?

More to the point, why would landlords and tenants?

It has always been legally possible for landlords to offer AST’s for up to 3 years and indeed in theory for any fixed term though a term longer than 3 years, even by one day, means the agreement must be executed as a Deed and witnessed. However, until now, you would almost certainly be in breach of your buy to let mortgage conditions if you agreed to a tenancy of more than 12 months. TMW have broken the mould by agreeing to allow landlords to offer 3 year AST’s. However, in my opinion they are doing nobody any favours including themselves.

I have read Shelters arguments about offering stable rental contracts and to some extent I can see where they are coming from. However, I think the concept of longer term AST’s are potentially dangerous for landlords, tenants and mortgage lenders. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for this belief is that Shortholds first made their appearance courtesy of The Housing Act 1980 in the guise of Protected Shortholds. These tenancies had to be granted for a minimum 5 year term and came with other restrictions on notice being given and rent increases.

Although an improvement on the then Secure tenancy regime The Protected Shorthold was not popular with Landlords and the lesson was surely learned with the improved terms applying to Assured Shortholds as introduced in the Housing Act 1988 and amended since.

The concept behind 3 year AST’s

three year AST conceptPeople with children in schools and also retired people want more security of tenure but not at the risk of being tied to one property if their circumstances change. What these tenants don’t like is the idea of a landlord having the ability to serve notice on them after just six months regardless of whether they have been model tenants and just got settled or not.  I sympathise with that and I’ve met several people who have been in that exact position. Indeed one of my former employees was forced to move twice in less than 18 months through no fault of her own. She was a model tenant but in one case the landlords decided to move back to their former property and in the other case the landlords decided to sell. My employee had a disabled daughter and it was very important to her to keep her daughter settled in the same school. She had done nothing wrong but had to deal with a lot of stress and worry, not to mention the expense of having to move.

The problems with three year AST’s

If a landlord grants a three year AST there is no ability to gain possession on “no fault” grounds under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 unless there is a break clause that can be operated to shorten the originally stated fixed term. This of course defeats the object of a longer term tenancy, certainly from the tenant’s viewpoint. What this means is that there is absolutely no way to legally evict a tenant during the first three years unless the tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement as mandatory possession will not be available to the Landlord.

What’s wrong with that? I hear you say.

Well just consider a few “what if” examples:-

  1. What if the landlord falls ill and needs to sell to raise cash?
  2. What if the landlord dies?
  3. What if the landlord goes bankrupt?
  4. What if interest rates go up and the landlord can’t afford to pay the mortgage and needs to sell?
  5. What if the landlord desperately needs to move into the property due to an unforseen change in circumstances, e.g. a marriage breakdown?
  6. What if the landlord get’s divorced?

The list is a very long one already and I could go on. The killer blow for me from a landlords perspective is that if the tenant doesn’t comply with the tenancy agreement the only way to get possession before the end of the fixed term is by mutual agreement with the tenant, or by serving a section 8 notice for the breach. This can be and often is challenged though the serious arrears Ground 8 is a mandatory ground, whereas a section 21 notice cannot be challenged other than on its legal validity and ability to enforce it. The reality though is that possession cases under section 8 can be challenged and dragged through the Courts for several months. That could mean months of no rent or a tenant who abuses a landlords property or occupants of neighbouring properties.

My advice to all landlords is not to offer more than a 6 months AST in most cases, 12 months for some student type accommodation where re-letting part way through the academic year is more difficult.

Why would a lender agree to three year AST’s?

Why would a lender agree to three year AST's?To do so is crazy in my opinion.

I’ve read David Lawrenson’s points of view and whilst I concur that a lender “could” appoint a receiver of rents until it is possible to serve a section 21 notice I just can’t see why lenders would agree to that. Perhaps they are doing it just for a bit of positive PR from the do-gooders and hoping that landlords aren’t stupid enough to actually offer three year AST’s?

The mind boggles!

The bottom line for a mortgage lender is surely the ability to be able to recover their debt as quickly as possible if they need to isn’t it? Agreeing to a three year AST not only devalues their security but it also massively limits their recovery options for up to six times longer than they need to commit to, i.e. 3 years instead of six months.

Is a three year AST really that attractive to tenants either?

What if their circumstances change? Do they really want to be tied into paying their landlord for the full three years? Do they really want their estate to be charged rent for the entire contract period if they die? Committing to a three year tenancy cuts both ways. Most tenants would prefer the flexibility of a tenancy with a Council or a housing association because they are not tied in for a fixed period but do enjoy greater rights of tenure. However, Housing Associations only provide around 50% of the UK rental stock with the other half being provided by the Private Rented Sector.

Deed of Assurance could be a far better alternative

A Deed of Assurance is a relatively simple legal agreement which sits alongside an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement “AST”. It is a separate agreement between landlord and tenant which does not affect the landlords rights to serve notice or to obtain possession, therefore it does not affect the rights of a mortgage lender either. However, it does offer tenants peace of mind.Deed of Assurance

From a tenants point of view, a Deed of Assurance provides far more flexibility than a long term tenancy because they are only tied in for 6 months and can then move on if they need to. What a Deed of Assurance offers in addition to an AST though is peace of mind.

A Deed of Assurance is a document in which a landlord promises to pay an agreed level of compensation to a tenant if possession is obtained within a given time period. I have never had to pay out compensation and because I’m in the business to provide quality tenants with quality accommodation long term I see absolutely no reason why I would ever need to.

The compensation amount offered by the landlord can be anything but obviously the idea is to agree something which is meaningful to both parties. For example, I offer to pay anything between £1,000 and £5,000 compensation if I obtain possession within the agreed period, providing the tenancy conditions have been observed impeccably by the tenant of course.

Similarly, the agreed period can be as long or short as makes sense too. Typically I offer 3 or 5 year terms but I would happily consider a longer period if the circumstances were right. What this means to the tenant is that if I obtain possession within the agreed period I will pay out compensation. This doesn’t stop me serving notice on a model tenant, it just means that if I obtain possession the tenant is compensated for their inconvenience.

But what if the tenant has not complied with the tenancy? Well that’s covered too. If the tenant does not comply the compensation isn’t payable, that’s very carefully worded into the Deed of Assurance by the solicitors who drafted it. Obviously there could be a dispute over whether the tenant had complied with all of the reasonable conditions in the AST and in that case the tenant would have to make a claim against the landlord for the compensation through the Small Claims Courts.

Deed of Assurance is not for everybody – by offering a Deed of Assurance a landlord is agreeing to pay compensation if they obtain possession of a property within a time scale they commit to with their tenant. It doesn’t always make sense for a landlord to make such a commitment but in some circumstances it can pay dividends. If in doubt, take professional advice.

What do others think?

The simplicity of the Deed of Assurance is its strength. Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith confirmed this by saying “The Deed of Assurance clearly sets out what the tenant can expect from the landlord and vice versa. In a sector where clarity might be lacking, this is a fantastic development”.

What’s the point of offering a Deed of Assurance?

Demand is very high from tenants who want/need greater assurance from their landlord that they are not going to have to move after just six months even if their tenancy has performed impeccably. Whilst a Deed of Assurance doesn’t actually provide tenants with any greater security of tenure, it’s certainly the next best thing. It’s a landlords opportunity to put his money where his mouth is, or perhaps more to the point, it’s a tenants opportunity to ask a landlord to do so when a landlords says words along the lines of “if you comply with your tenancy you can stay here for as long as you want”.

In practice, by providing properties which appeal to the types of tenants who want extra peace of mind in terms of stability they are also prepared to pay for that peace of mind. Many of my properties are typical family homes near to good schools, otherwise they are suburban bungalows which appeal to baby boomers and retired people. When I explain what a Deed of Assurance is to them they love it and often choose my properties over comparable properties for that reason alone. In many cases I’ve had several people bidding against each other to move into one of my properties despite there being plenty of comparable alternatives at lower prices. The reason they are prepared to pay more is for that peace of mind and legally documented assurance.

Conclusion

If you have the right type of properties to attract long term, good quality tenants, don’t stitch yourself or your tenant up with a long term AST or Shelters Stable Rental Contract. Consider the benefits to all concerned of offering a Deed of Assurance instead. Give your tenants the peace of mind they want and an incentive for them to perform to your requirements impeccably. It’s then a true win/win situation. Tenants know that if they perform you will have to pay up if you take possession of your property. On the flip side you may well stand a far better chance of being able to attract the tenants you really want, a premium rent and less voids periods too.

To purchase the Deed of Assurance document template please see below. The price is £97 for unlimited personal use.

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Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp Latest Articles

Complaint about dampHow often have you had a tenant complain about damp patches or mould? You may even have had builders or specialists in to fix the problem, only to find that the come back again.

Unless you have worked out exactly what is causing the dampness and mould  in the first place, than all a builder can really do is mask the problem for a few weeks or months – it will come back. Yet damp problems can often be resolved completely by taking very simple steps, without the need to pay for major works –often just opening a window will suffice, if you’ve been able to trace the problem to condensation.
Continue reading Landlords: how to counter tenants’ complaints about damp


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