Tag Archives: RICS

Annual Inspection Certificates for HMOs – Am I on the right Track? HMO's & Student Lets, Latest Articles

I have a 6-bed HMO (2 storeys and unlicenced). I was inspected recently by the local authority and all was found to be pretty much in order, however I was unaware that I needed to produce annual inspection certificates for the smoke alarms, emergency lighting as well as an annual PAT cert.

1. Annual PAT Certificate – unlike the legal requirement for a 5 year certificate for the electrics (and annually for the gas), I understand that there is no legal requirement for an annual PAT cert though of course it would be good practice. I check the appliances visually on a monthly basis. I have thought about buying a PAT tester and using it myself, but the authority won’t accept my findings unless I’ve been on a course to make me ‘a competent person’ notwithstanding my degree in engineering. I’m prepared to accept this opinion and produce a cert myself annually after I’ve been on the course. Thoughts?

2. Annual Smoke Alarm Test – I test these monthly myself with the test buttons (logging it). Apparently I need a ‘competent person’ to inspect them and blow some smoke into them once a year to check that they perform. I’d prefer to have a third party do it rather than do this myself considering that the consequences of culpability in the event of failure could be quite serious (though not really wishing to imply that the PAT could give rise to anything less serious!). My electrician has agreed to do this and he’ll confirm his findings in a letter as he has no formal cert (as he has for the PAT). Thoughts?

3. Annual Emergency Lighting Test – once again I check it monthly (logging it) simply by tripping out the mains lighting circuit and checking each light fitting comes on. But apparently I need to have the mains power out for 3 hours once a year and have it certified by a competent person. Again my electrician will do it. He doesn’t have a cert as such to issue, but will confirm it in a letter. Thoughts?

I would be most grateful for feedback from readers

Regards

BruceTrack


Council of Letting Agents call for Scotland’s dangerous electrics to be outlawed Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

The Council of Letting Agents has today called for better electrical safety standards in Scotland’s privately rented properties.

Speaking at their inaugural conference, Council of Letting Agents (CLA) Convenor Kathleen Gell said: “Scotland depends upon the properties that our letting agents manage. People rely on these properties for their homes and they need to be safe. We have national standards and regulation for gas safety, but the same is not in place for electrics and that needs to change.”

“The only way we can guarantee to keep properties and tenants safe is to regulate electrical safety to a national standard and publicise this as well as gas safety.

Research reveals that there are on average 70 deaths a year in the UK from electrical fires and that Scottish homes are at a disproportionately high risk from these. It has also been shown that tenants of private landlords are more likely to be at risk of electric shock than home owners.

The private rented sector is growing – the number of dwellings provided by private landlords has risen from 115,000 in (5% of all homes) in 1999, to 267,000 (11% of all homes) in 2011 and all indications point to that trend continuing.”

Kathleen Gell continued: “There have been great improvements in this sector with compulsory registration for landlords and the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, but we will fall behind on basic safety if we do not act in this area too.”

“We want there to be compulsory checks on wiring and appliances in rental properties. There are standards we could use (Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) ), but we need some teeth to enforce them – we cannot afford any grey areas.”

“Many letting agents already require this level of safety check, but it cannot be enforced: there is no national standard to adhere to and landlords wishing to avoid the cost of a safety check, simply go elsewhere to lease their property.”

“The private rented sector is a major part of the housing landscape in Scotland. We have a duty of care to the people who depend on it for their homes and we need to make sure it is safe.”

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Online advice from building surveyors Advice, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I run a website providing online advice from building surveyors.

The advice is given by experienced RICS qualified chartered building surveyors.

I would welcome feedback.

The website is www.askasurveyor.co.uk

Although there is a cost of £40 per question answered, we do not charge if we cannot answer and invariably we save clients considerably more than the cost of the question. For example, it often pays to persuade tenants to use it, especially if they keep complaining about issues such condensation and do not believe the problem is their lifestyle. Online advice from building surveyors

Please have a look!

Constructive feedback will be much appreciated.

Many thanks

Robert Desbruslais BSc MRICS


Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation Commercial Finance, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As the Scottish Government gets set to embark on the regulation of letting agents – regulation which is badly needed in my view – I fear that my worst nightmare may be about to become true.

Why? Well, let’s look at what’s happened already with Scottish renting legislation.

Landlord Registration has for the most part been startlingly ineffective in raising standards. In fairness, that perhaps was not its prime purpose (having been introduced under anti-social behaviour legislation) but the fact that we now have a national database of private landlords should allow national and/or local government to target those landlords with awareness-raising advice, invite them to seminars and so on. Those unfortunate tenants who suffer at the hands of malicious or, more likely unaware, landlords need that to happen. I’m fairly sure there must still be many landlords who are not yet registered. The fact that Scottish Government hiked the penalty for non-registration up from £2,000 to £50,000 must surely indicate that registration is seen as important. The requirement to quote registration numbers in property advertisements seemed a pretty good way of bringing all landlords into the system. Yet, how many adverts still appear with no registration numbers? How many unregistered landlords have been fined?

No. I see poor practice flourish aplenty and registration requirement ignored. I see responsible landlords pay their dues while the irresponsible carry on regardless. I see local authority Landlord Registration teams funded by those responsible landlords and, it seems, doing not a great deal to bring all within the net.

Why not simply legislate to make it a requirement that for any individual to rent out a property he or she must either use a regulated agent (when that’s in place) or achieve accredited landlord status (or commit to a time-limited accreditation path)? Overnight, poorly performing landlords would be outlawed.

Look at Tenant Information Packs. Of course it’s good practice to pass incoming tenants information and advice relative to their tenancy and their new property. Responsible agents and landlords have been doing so for years as a matter of course. So surely it’s good that all now have to do so?

In theory, yes, but from our perspective as a letting agency we now find ourselves managing a parallel process issuing the mandatory Tenant Information Pack (TIP) alongside our own one, as the mandatory one is so stodgy as to be a turn-off to most tenants, contains errors, and imparts nothing of substance about the property. The effect of this has been to sap resources, particularly time – our scarcest resource – and so impact negatively on our finances. So a highly responsible agency, regulated by RICS and licenced by ARLA is being forced to go through an ineffective process which hampers business efficiency while less regulated or less responsible agents who decline to do so, or are even unaware perhaps that they need to, sail on in the same old way. How many letting agents have been taken to task for failing to issue a TIP? How many who fail to do so, use a low-fee basis as a means of attracting clients? The answers to those questions are unknown, but I’m pretty certain the first is zero or we’d have heard about it.

Simply Let pays about £2000 per year in professional membership subscriptions and regulation levies. We do that because we believe in high standards, and in demonstrating that we hold that belief. We undertake continuing professional development. We do so because we need to be fully informed in order to serve our clients well. We cannot give our landlord clients and their tenants the service they deserve on a low fee basis.

If a landlord’s agent fails to fulfil one of his client’s statutory obligations, it will be the landlord who is held responsible. Are all landlords aware of this? How many agents are playing fast and loose with their obligations to their clients? Again I don’t have an answer to that. If an agent lands a landlord in trouble as a result of negligence or incompetence does that landlord have recourse to a complaints redress mechanism? If that agent goes bust or even runs off with the cash is the landlord’s money safe? Does the agent have client money protection? Unlike estate agents selling houses, a fairly straightforward one-off task, letting agents have on-going management responsibilities which require detailed knowledge of complex housing law. Currently anyone can set up as a letting agent without any qualifications or training whatsoever and without any insurance or external monitoring and take on responsibility for managing clients’ major financial assets and ensuring tenants’ safety in the home.

You can see then why we favour regulation of letting agents. With a level playing field, landlords and tenants could go about selecting an agent knowing that all agents had the basics in place. Why then do I fear, as I said at the beginning of this blog, that my nightmare is about to be realised?

In my nightmare, responsible and already regulated agents found themselves obliged to register and of course to pay a recurring fee for doing so. In my nightmare less responsible agents continued to operate without appearing on the register. The third strand of my nightmare is that nothing much else happened.

It’s turned out like that with Landlord Registration so it’s perfectly possible that Letting Agent Regulation will go the same way.

Why not simply make it a requirement that in order for any letting agent to practice he or she must have in place:

  • A minimum level of relevant knowledge
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Client money protection
  • A complaints redress mechanism
  • Evidence of continuing professional development?

All are currently available to any responsible agent.

The private rented sector involves the very basics of life: a tenant’s home and a landlord’s financial investment (and possibly pension plan). It is critical therefore that all who manage any part of that process, landlord or agent, have the knowledge and capability to undertake their role to a high standard and fulfil it in a professional manner. It is critical too that those who entrust their lot to an agent have the benefit of certain basic protections. So my plea to the Scottish Government, when it develops letting agent regulation, is to make it impossible for any agent who can’t deliver those five elements above to continue in practice. The country and its tenants deserve nothing less. Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation

John Gell MRICS


Our flat could have caught fire Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

My housemate and I attend Greenwich University in London. We live in a two bedroom flat in Charlton, SE7.

During our winter, Easter & Summer breaks we tend to venture back home for some free food and heating, and thus the flat is left empty for a few weeks at a time.

Just before the end of our summer term (2013) we decided to let our Letting Agent know that the cooker had been turning itself off on numerous occasions (more than 5). The cooker would then not work again (heat up) for another hour or so. After a few pestering calls to ask to get it fixed they finally agreed to get a ‘trusted’ handy man in to see what was the problem. We were living back home for the summer on the date they chose to come and fix the problem and so they said they would give their spare set of keys to this trusted handyman, so he could let himself in and out of the flat. We were OK with this as they assured us he was trusted, and most of our possessions had been taken home for the summer anyway; apart from a TV, saucepans and trays, cutlery and crockery and a few tins of beans.

A few weeks past, and my boyfriend and I were due to stay at the flat for one night before our holiday flight at Heathrow the next day. When we got to the flat all looked OK, apart from a pile up of junk mail and a few interesting looking mud marks on the carpet in the hallway (Just to add; myself and my housemate cleaned the flat thoroughly before we left for the summer, so we could come back to a nice clean flat).

As we set about making cups of tea and seeing what was on TV for the night we noticed how hot the flat was. The kitchen was hotter than it would have been with the heating on full blast in the summer! It was then we realised that the cooker had in actual fact been left ON!

Two of the four rings were on as well as the bottom oven and the grill. I opened up the cooker and there were three trays in the cooker which were disintegrating as we stood there. I immediately turned the whole oven off at the switch on the wall next to the cooker (a simple on/off switch to turn the electrics to the oven off or on). Opening all windows and moving the trays out of the oven we also noticed that the rubber which surrounds the oven doors was melting. The sink was also full of ‘dirt’ and dirty plates and a few mugs surrounded the sink. A panel next to the cooker (part of the kitchen units) had also been taken out but not replaced. There was mud all over the kitchen floor walked in from someone’s shoes.

I immediately got on the phone to our lettings agents ‘emergency number’, I called many times that evening – but had no answer. We tried again in the morning before our flight, but no answer either.

When we returned from holiday (having emailed from holiday-but to have no answer) we called again; no answer.

If that cooker was to cause a fire, who would have got the blame?

When we leave the flat for more than a night we photograph that the cooker is switched ‘off’, so we have physical proof on our side if it were to happen again.

How can we get our letting agent to acknowledge what happened/went wrong/what needs to be done to correct this problem? The cooker occasionally switches off still – and we don’t want this mess to come out of our deposit next summer! Furthermore, we had a big electricity bill and we were not even using the flat. We have paid the bill but we feel this is wrong – can we claim compensation and if so how difficult would it be to prove that the bill was as a direct result of this issue? Flat could have caught fire

Thanks for your advice

Hannah


Rics want a 5% annual price rise cap House Prices, Latest Articles

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) want a 5% annual price rise cap for houses that triggers restrictions on mortgage  income multipliers or maximum Loan to Value.

Although Rics did say that sellers  under their plans would not face a limit on how much they could sell their homes for.

Joshua Miller, senior economist at Rics, wants to halt a debt-fuelled house price advance and said “the Bank of England now has the ability to take the froth out of future housing market booms, without having to resort to interest rate increases. Capping price growth at, say, 5% is one way of doing this.”

“This cap would send a clear and simple statement to the public and the banking sector, managing expectations as to how much future house prices are going to rise. We believe firmly anchored house price expectations would limit excessive risk taking and, as a result, limit an unsustainable rise in debt.”

Sir Howard Davies,  a former deputy governor of the Bank, does not think this kind of cap would work and said “The problem is that we are not building enough homes.”

This is a good point as it is clearly the lack of supply that is pushing up house prices especially in the capital rather than increased demand because we are all better off now than before the recession started.

Then there is the question of regional differences. Do you smother any potential housing market recovery in areas outside London that have not seen the same rises and if not how do you tell an National high street bank to have different criteria and systems in different parts of the country.

This would be clearly unrealistic, unworkable and unpalatable for lenders.

The Housing Market is very mature and almost free to work on the pure economic principles of prices being dictated by supply and demand. It is therefore very difficult to control directly without looking at all the factors that influence it.

Rics may be naive in thinking simplistic one sided controls like this are the answer to the problems of a very complex housing market and its demographic and social issues.Rics


Old leases since 1945 Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I am a landlord of an old lease from the 1960s for a Victorian detached property in Surrey – My tenant who was long term since the 60s recently died. His daughter who cared for him took on the lease – The problem is for such a little rent – they have not complied with the lease and its clauses – which are different from the leases we now have –

I am responsible in the lease for external repairs, they are responsible for the plumbing electrics, internal redecoration condition – surveyors fees –

The trouble is they have not done anything in the last 50 years! the windows do not open due to moss (sash windows), the walls ceilings and carpets are still the same and decor is from the 60s- On the subject of paint although they have said they did paint it- they provided me with nothing when I asked for receipts! – I have thought about sampling and testing the paint to establish the age! I recently had surveyors in who assessed the condition – they have advised me to see a specialist solicitor to advise me on the terms of the lease which are unusual (remember it is from the 60’s) I am really stuck on how I can bring the property back into compliance of this lease? how should I move forward ? the tenants are not helping at all!

Also please shed some light on how leases changed since 1945? Old leases since 1945

Best regards

Tony Bains


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


Planning and building control office discover unused basement room Latest Articles

I have a HMO which I bought way back, it is officially licensed etc and above board.

They recently discovered that there was a basement in the building which had been converted in to a room with en-suite facilities illegally. The work was done before we bought the building and has never been let out and won’t be because it is not up to scratch from a legislation point of view etc.

I had a meeting with building control, private sector housing and planning. They are now saying that as it has come to their attention that this is there, that they want me to put it beyond use. Which would basically mean, taking out the en-suite and cutting off the water supply to the area. Removing and cutting off the sockets and electrics to the area and get a new periodic inspection report.

To me is seems completely over the top as  have not asked for it to be licensed, and don’t rent the room out, so why do I have to go to all this expense of making it unusable.

My question is, can they make me do this or can I lawfully argue that the room is not being used, it won’t be used so let’s leave it as that.

Thanks for your help.

Zahirbasement


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


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