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Tenant Fees Bill

It has been announced that the Tenant Fees Bill is set to come into force on 1st June 2019.

The Bill will ban letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector and cap tenancy deposits in England. The ban will apply to all tenancies signed after 1st June.

The aim of the Bill is to deliver a fairer, good quality and more affordable private rented sector by reducing the costs that tenants pay at the beginning and throughout a tenancy and improving the relationship between tenants and landlords.

The ban will allow tenants to see how much a property will cost them with no hidden costs.

For landlords, this means you will only be allowed to take payment for rent and deposits from tenants. There are just three other ‘default fees’ you will be able to charge a tenant for, and they will also be limited;

Damages
If a tenant causes damage to your property beyond reasonable wear and tear, you may charge them for the cost to repair the damage.

Loss of keys
You may charge the tenant for the cost of replacing them and reasonable costs and evident must be provided in writing (receipts etc). You cannot charge for your time or inconvenience.

Late rent payment
You can charge 3% above the Bank of England base rate in interest.

Landlords can still charge for changes to a tenancy requested by the tenant. £50 would be considered the norm and any charge above this would need to be justified. If tenant wants to leave the contract early, they will be liable to pay the rent up to a maximum of the length of the fixed term of the contract.

Deposits will also be restricted to the equivalent of five weeks rent where annual rent is below £50k.

Failure to comply

Failure to comply with the Tenant Fees Ban could land you in a whole heap of trouble. If you charge a fee that is not permitted, tenants will be able to reclaim the money they have paid, plus interest, via the county court. Trading standards will also have the authority to fine you up to £30k.

You will also be unable to serve a Section 21 notice if you have charged a tenant a fee where you shouldn’t have and kept the money.

How Mistoria Estate Agents can help

At Mistoria Estate Agents, we can manage your buy to let property, including tenant finding and management, on your behalf. This means we can take the burden out of staying compliant with new areas of legislation, including the Tenant Fees Ban. Let us do the hard work of managing your investment whilst you get on with the other areas of your life. Call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk to see how we can help you.

A full guide to the Tenant Fees Ban can be found on the RLA website www.rla.org.uk/feeban.

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Street-wise: knowing the exact street you want to live on…

Last week, new research by Zoopla revealed a third of buyers already know the street they want to live on. In some cases, even the exact house has been identified before a buyer starts their purchasing journey.

As a local estate and letting agent, we are very aware of this trend. We often have potential buyers, and even tenants, looking to purchase or rent property in very specific areas. Often enquiries can be property type specific; a semi-detached, or a certain number of bedrooms or other specific criteria, however we are experiencing more and more of the type of query the Zoopla survey suggests. We are contacted most days via telephone, email and social media asking if we have property available on a particular street or post code.

Online portals like Zoopla, Rightmove and OnTheMarket allow anyone to browse the market, regardless of whether they are actually thinking of moving or not. Window shopping online and creating a wishlist or shortlist of ‘future property purchases’ isn’t uncommon. People are able to glimpse into nearby homes and properties and get a flavour of the interior and exterior of the property that previously would have only been accessible via a physical property viewing.

Fuelled further by the likes of Pinterest and Instagram and other social media platforms, where property or home enthusiasts can save photographs of beautiful homes, interiors, gardens, bedrooms, kitchens etc means people are choosing their ideal home, or future property purchase, long before they actually intend on moving.

As property professionals, with experience and knowledge of the local area, we know the sought after streets and post codes. This means working harder to secure the listings of favourable properties within Bolton, Little Lever and the surrounding areas.

Do you already know the exact house or street you wish to live in? Contact us and see if we can’t find you something that meets the same or similar specification to help get you into your new, dream home faster!

Car photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

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What local amenities are important to you when choosing where to live?

When it comes to choosing somewhere to live, it’s all about location, location, location, right? But just what does this mean to you? What local amenities make a place more desirable?

Is it the shops in the area? The schools, the views, the local pub?

A new study by Good Move suggests a shift in traditional preferences. Living in the catchment area of a good school is slipping in popularity, making way for a new priority; budget supermarkets!

39% of respondents said they would like to live near a budget food retailer like Aldi or Lidl. Just 29% sited a good school as a priority, which had previously been a top preference for many years.

The trend appears to be driven by younger generations, with 54% of Gen Z (those aged 18-24) saying living near a budget supermarket was a top priority. This number steadily dropped with age, with 34% of over 45s placing importance on cheaper stores.

This makes for interesting reading as both Gen Z and Millennials (22-37 year olds) continue to struggle to get on the housing ladder. Despite this, the amenity they place most significance on now ranks second in the overall desirable amenities’ charts.

Across all age demographics, the 10 most desirable amenities are:

1. Scenic views – 44%
2. Budget supermarkets, such as Aldi, Lidl and Iceland – 39%
3. Local restaurants/bars – 37%
4. Traditional pubs – 36%
5. Independent shops – 34%
6. Walking trails – 33%
7. High-end supermarkets, such as Waitrose and Marks and Spencer – 32%
8. A certain school catchment area – 29%
9. Coffee shops – 28%
10. Local library – 25%

Ross Counsell, Director at Good Move, said: “Everyone has their own priorities when moving house, but it’s interesting to see how the overall patterns are changing.”

“Budget supermarkets are definitely growing in popularity, especially among the younger generations, and their presence in a region is now making a place more desirable to live.”

Let the team at Mistoria Estate Agents Bolton help you with your next property move. Be it a purchase or a rental, we can help find you the perfect place based on your requirements and needs. Our team know the local area and property market well so you can trust us to find a home that is just right for you.

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How to avoid pest infestation problems

A recent study carried out by a manufacturer and retailer of blinds, shutters, carpets and curtains showed that 64% of Brits who have experienced a pest infestation in their property were renting at the time. Of the 2,000-people surveyed, 57% responded that they had encountered problems related to pest at some point within their home.

Most of us have once encountered some creepy crawlies in our homes. However, dealing with a recurring infestation is a totally different situation, which may become expensive and stressful at the same time. There are many reasons why a pest infestation may occur. It is worth establishing what exactly led to such a situation, in order to prevent it from occurring in the future. If disrepair of property is the reason for creatures making their way inside and there is a noticeable presence of pest and vermin, it can be a health and safety hazard for who is currently living in the property.

One reason rental properties may be more prone to infestations could be a lack of (understanding of) responsibility. Just who’s job is it to prevent and deal with pests? Is it the tenant or the landlord? With each side (perhaps) presuming the other is on top of upkeep in the home, those pesky pests can make their way in and quickly cause havoc.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we want to remind our tenants of their responsibilities when it comes to preventing pest infestations. At the same time, we want to highlight to other landlords their responsibility when it comes to maintaining their properties to avoid pest problems, and how using a full service letting agent like Mistoria Estate Agents can means we take on that responsibility for you.

Tips to avoid pest infestations

These tips apply to landlords and tenants alike.

In short, if there is disrepair in the property concerning holes in the floor, walls or ceiling, it is the responsibility of the landlord to deal with and solve the pest problem before tenants move in to the property and during the tenancy. However, if poor hygiene and upkeep of the property is the issue, it’s the tenants that need to up their game.

The first and best pest control method is to prevent your property from becoming vulnerable to pests in the first place. When the pest infestation does enter the property, it can be costly to get rid of and repair the havoc caused by the pest.

Communication between landlords and tenants is important as most of the time it is the tenant who will first notice the signs of a pest problem. It would suit the landlord to occasionally check upon the tenants, to see if they have noticed anything that needs further attention. Periodic inspections of the inside and outside of the property can help landlords and tenants to catch troubling pest issues at an early stage. It is advised all rental property undergo quarterly checks to ensure there is no damage or concerns.

Keeping the place clean and tidy is as important as checking for damage. Pests will be attracted to anything that could be seen as a food source. Landlord should inform tenants, via the tenancy agreement, that they must keep the property clean and tidy. Keeping surfaces and floors clean, especially of food, storing leftover food in containers and not leaving rubbish bags unsealed and lying around will help to keep pests away.

The outside area surrounding the property also needs attention. Keeping the area clear from any rubbish and old furniture prevents the chance for pests to build nests in them. Keeping food outside for wildlife such as bird seeds can attract pests to the property. To prevent this, it is recommended to elevated food from the ground and away from the house. This can be easily done by investing in a bird table or feeding stations for the wildlife.

Advice when you have a pest infestation

If there are noticeable signs of damage caused by any infestation, you need to get in touch with your local council’s environmental health department. They should provide you with the details of a pest control service near you and can give you information depending on which species is causing the problem. Alternatively, they may advise you on what to do to sort out the problem yourself, if the problem is manageable.

Private pest control companies are always an option when the problem is not self-manageable. If you choose to hire a private company resolve the problem, it’s going to cost you. It could even cost more than the fees charged by the council. It is always worth a quick call around for some quotes to find out prices differences.

Bear in mind that some landlord or property insurances may provide coverage of the costs and help in such situations. Often a standard policy covers costs for nest removal. Having the right insurance coverage in place can be worth it, as it may save you time and money in case of pest infestation removal.

Mistoria tenants and landlords

In the first instant, Mistoria Estate Agent tenants should contact us to report any pest problems and we will be able to advise you on the next steps. We may need to visit the property to assess the situation and determine how we move forward. Remember, it is the tenants responsibility to maintain good hygiene habits to prevent pests, however if the disrepair of the property is at fault, the landlord/letting agent must repair the problem. If you’re a landlord and would like to know more about your responsibilities and how Mistoria Estate Agents can help manage your property, please call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

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Pet-friendly rental property

In the UK, an estimated 12 million households own together around 51 million pets. Recent research carried out by Zoopla discovered that there’s a growing trend in the search for “pet-friendly” rental property. The term ‘pets’ ranked as the third most searched keyword in the latest analysis of the nation’s most sought-after features for rental homes. The ownership of pets is increasing and could represent great opportunities for landlords to invest in line with this growing trend.

The outcome of the research

Zoopla’s discovery of the growing search for pet-friendly rental homes compliments another research on the matter. SpareRoom recently undertook research on the same subject. This research showed that almost 4 out of 5 tenants who own one or more animal have struggled to find pet-friendly accommodation. The study also revealed that 78% of tenants experienced difficulties finding adequate housing due to the majority of landlords not being keen about tenants keeping pets and refuse to allow them. As a matter of fact, 69% will not allow pets in their properties. 21% of tenants surveyed admitted that they currently own a pet without their landlord’s knowledge

As for the reasons landlords refuse pets in their property, 57% cited the smell, 55% are concerned about pets causing potential damage to the property and 37% admitted concern over whether the pet was properly trained. Oddly enough, 88% of pet owners claim they have never experienced any complaints or even caused damage to the property, in contrast to the concerns of landlords.

Benefits of Pet-Friendly Rental Property

Despite landlords’ reservations, there are benefits of allowing pets in rented properties. One of the benefits being the possibility of having a larger potential tenant pool. Having a larger group to choose from allows the landlord to pick the best-suited tenants for their property.  Due to the difficulty in finding other pet-friendly rental housing motivates pet owners to rent for longer in the same location, which can reduce void periods and therefore give landlords a better return on their investment.

The biggest benefit for landlords is money related. The increase in demand gives landlords stronger bargaining power to charge higher rent. Especially when there are few pet-friendly properties around the area. Some surveys have shown pet owners to have a higher income than average , meaning they may be willing to spend more when the property suits their demands.

Pet owners are often mature and take good care of their pet showing their responsibility, a desirable quality for property owners when accepting tenants. Likely these potential tenants will treat the property with care and with respect.

One can argue the social and ethical benefits of allowing pets in properties. Having pets around can have a positive effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of tenants, they can reduce stress and make the owner feel happier. By allowing animals in a property, owners don’t have to sneak in their pets which can result in unwanted conflict between landlord and tenant.

Cons of Pet-Friendly Rental Property

As mentioned before, landlords have multiple reasons why they don’t allow pets, the biggest concern being pet odours. There are ways to decrease or limit odours, including using a professional cleaning firm at the end of a tenancy. However, well trained pets and responsible owners shouldn’t have a problem with pet associated smells.

The potential damage to a property; chewed up carpets and furniture, scratches on the floor and doors and even noise disturbance, are concerns for landlords. Again, properly trained animals with sensible owners are unlikely to display this type of behaviour. Some pets even copy the character of their owner and often won’t miss behave if their owner respects the property.

Some landlords admit concern about the risk of animal liability, particularly biting and other aggressive behaviour when improperly trained. This is a reasonable concern but with good communication and by asking the right questions about a potential owners’ pets, a landlord can gain a better impression of the animal and whether the tenant and their pet(s) are right for the property.

When it comes to HMO properties and house shares, there is always the possibility of losing other tenants when allowing pets into a property. Some tenants may have allergies relating to certain animals or have other personal reasons for not wanting to live with a pet. In order to lower the possibility of losing current tenants, a landlord should make clear to all tenants at the beginning of a tenancy, even those without a pet, if a property is pet-friendly or not.

Pet-friendly Rental Property at Mistoria

Whilst the issue around pet-friendly rental property continues to be one that is hotly debated, at Mistoria we believe in keeping a track of current property market trends and feeding this back to our landlords. Pet-friendly rentals are an area we are often asked about and is something we are advising our landlords on. There will always be landlords that do not wish to allow animals in their property and this is something we fully respect. For those who are more lenient, we hope to work with them to find a happy-medium and a way for us to work together to find and manage suitable tenancies involving pet ownership.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we’re an open-minded, professional team who work hard to build good relationships with both the landlords and tenants we serve. We’re keen to educate both sides on sensible property management and work with all concerned to deliver successful and long-term tenancies.

If you own a rental property and would like help with tenant sourcing and management please get in touch. Similarly, if you’re a tenant searching for a particular type of rental property to meet your needs, please contact us. Call 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

Summer photo created by freepic.diller – www.freepik.com

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‘Right to Rent’ breaches human rights

The High Court has ruled that the current ‘Right to Rent’ checks breach human rights.

The scheme requires landlords and letting agents to check the immigration status of tenants by checking their passport or visas and has been in force across England since 2016. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.

The scheme was introduced under the 2014 Immigration Act which aimed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the UK.

In a review of the process, brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), judges said the policy had “little or no effect” on its aim of controlling immigration.

It said evidence “strongly showed” the scheme was causing landlords to discriminate against potential tenants because of their nationality or ethnicity, something the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) agrees with. The RLA has welcomed the ruling saying the scheme had turned landlords into “untrained and unwilling border police.” RLA research had found that fear of getting things wrong led to private landlords being less likely to rent to those without a British passport or those with limited time to remain in the UK.

This discriminatory attitude of landlords, through fear of possible prosecution under the Right to Rent scheme, has in part, led to the High Court ruling.

On the flip-side, the Home Office said it was “disappointed” by the ruling and said an independent study found no evidence of systematic discrimination in its policy and the scheme was intended to discourage illegal residence in the UK. The government are expected to appeal against the decision.

What does all this mean for landlords?

For the moment, nothing changes. Landlords and letting agents in England are required to continuing checking applications has they have been doing.

If you are a landlord and require assistance managing the tenants, and/or maintenance of your property, Mistoria Estate Agents can help. Let us take the hard work out of being a landlord and ensure you comply with current regulations, including Right to Rent checks. Call us on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

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Further Growth at Mistoria Group with Purchase of “Pick My Pad”

Mistoria Group, owners of Mistoria Estate Agents, North West specialists in residential and student property sales and lettings, have purchased “Pick My Pad”, the Walkden based lettings and estate agency who have approximately 200 properties under management across Greater Manchester.

The acquisition of the business is part of Mistoria’s continuing growth strategy and follows on from the launch of their third estate agency office in Bolton announced earlier this year. All Pick My Pad staff will continue in the new business and will aim to build on their extensive landlord support services. They currently manage properties for more than 150 landlords covering areas from Widnes to Oldham and across the whole of Greater Manchester.

Mish Liyanage, Managing Director of The Mistoria Group comments: “The friendly acquisition of Pick My Pad is in line with my vision in the next three to five years for Mistoria to manage over 1000 properties and over 5000 tenancies and to be the preferred employer in the real estate industry in the North of England. With this acquisition the number of branches will also increase to five.

Pick my Pad, under Oliver Press has been a very successful business over the last 9 years especially in the Walkden and Little Hulton areas so it is an excellent fit with Mistoria geographically, operationally and financially. It was an easy decision for Mistoria to make to acquire this business and take it to the next level with my team.”

Commenting on the sale Oliver Press said: “I have stepped away from the business as I felt I had taken it as far as I could, and it was time for it to grow. I feel with the current set up at Mistoria it is perfectly placed to go from strength to strength.”

For further information about Mistoria’s landlord, lettings and estate agency services please contact our HQ team.

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New Homes Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018

On 20 March 2019, the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’. With this new act, tenants are given the right to sue landlords who fail to adequately maintain their properties. The new act is an update to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985. It extends to England and Wales; however, its practical changes are only for England. Wales maintains its own fitness consultations.

What is the new law about?

We must stress that there are no new obligations for landlords under this Act; the legislation requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety.

The Act is designed to prevent tenants from having to endure unsafe or unsanitary conditions of their rented homes. The Act must make the landlords responsible for the condition of their rented houses and flats and prevent causing serious harm to the tenants.

The Act gives tenants who encounter such situations legal grounds to take their landlords to court if they persist in not maintaining their property in a condition that makes it ‘fit for human habitation’.

If a landlord is found guilty on these grounds he can be sentenced to pay compensation to the tenant or require the landlord to repair the property adequately to be healthy and safe again.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act applies to tenants who live in private or social rented houses and flats. The type of housing, the way of paying rent, housing benefit or universal credit does not affect the application of the act. The Act applies immediately for signed lease contracts on or after 20th March 2019. Tenants who signed the contract before 20th March 2019 will have to wait until 20th March 2020 before being able to claim rights on the Act against their landlords. However, they can turn to the local council to act on their behalf and take action on the matter, but only when the conditions of the home are dangerous or inhuman.

The new Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, outlining what constitutes a property to be unfit for human habitation. Such issues which classify a property as ‘unfit’ and need to be reported are:

•    Damp and mould growth
•    Excess cold
•    Excess heat
•    Asbestos and MMF
•    Biocides
•    Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
•    Lead
•    Radiation
•    Uncombusted fuel gas
•    Volatile organic compounds
•    Crowding and space
•    Entry by intruders
•    Lighting
•    Noise
•    Domestic hygiene, pests, and refuse
•    Food safety (inadequate provisions)
•    Personal hygiene, sanitation, and drainage
•    Water supply
•    Falls (baths, between levels, level surfaces, and stairs)
•    Electrical hazards
•    Fire
•    Flames, hot surfaces etc
•    Collision and entrapment
•    Explosions
•    Position and operability of amenities etc
•    Structural collapse and falling elements

There are several exceptions when it comes to the responsibility of the landlord to fix certain problems such as problems caused by irresponsible or illegal tenant behaviour. Other examples are events completely beyond the landlord’s control (also called “acts of God”), repair possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants which were not included in the inventory at the beginning of the lease.

As with any new regulations, only time will tell exactly how it is interpreted by the courts, and whether there will be unintended consequences.

What landlords should know

For all landlords, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act means they must make sure that the provided property is fit for human habitation. The property needs to be free from any possibility that the state of the property can cause harm to the tenants or anyone in the household. There is a list of issues that can make the property to be classified as unfitted. The Act makes primarily the landlord responsible for the habitation circumstances of the rented property.

Not all unfit properties are being reported to landlords or agents. Sometimes it is the tenants who create an unhealthy environment for themselves without being aware. For example, inadequate ventilation of the property; drying clothes indoors on the radiator with no windows open causes condensation and moisture to build up, causing damped walls. For landlords to be sure tenants are taking good care of the rented property should conduct regular inspections and maintenance routines.

It is important to bare in mind that a thorough inspection needs to be undertaken before the tenancy has begun. It is advised to let the tenant be present during the inspection. Of course, there will be tenants who will refuse access for inspections knowing they are responsible for an unsafe environment. In this case, the landlord cannot be held responsible. To prevent tenants creating an unsafe environments for themselves, landlords should provide tips on a diverse range of maintenance subjects to the tenants. They should also let the tenants sign a declaration stating their responsibility for damage or creating an unhealthy environment. Keeping records regarding tenant inspections and correspondence regarding property problems may come handy when presenting proof of repair and maintenance if the parties end up in court.

Overall most landlords needn’t worry too much about the new act. A well-maintained property shouldn’t be deemed unfit. Only those whose properties suffer from serious disrepair issues should be affected.

At Mistoria Estate Agents we take on property maintenance responsibilities for our landlords. Our service means you don’t have to worry about keeping up to date with the latest legislation changes and how to implement them; our experienced team of letting agents are here to do this for you. We will ensure your property in compliant with this, the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act, and any other rental property regulation. You can trust us to take good care of your property, and your tenants. Contact on 0800 500 3015 or email info@mistoria.co.uk.

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Shared Ownership explained

According to new YouGov data commissioned by Leeds BS, despite being the most likely to benefit from the scheme, 18-24 year olds are the least aware of Shared Ownership as a method of affording a home. The research found that three-quarters of people in the UK have heard of Shared Ownership, however among 18-24 year olds awareness is as low as 40%. Shared Ownership is the opportunity to purchase a share of a property and pay rent on the rest. It does not mean you share the ownership of a property with another person. Buying a house with friends, a spouse, or a partner is known as joint ownership. Once made aware of the correct definition of Shared Ownership, 24% of 18-24s said they would be ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely’ to use the initiative in the future – the highest among the age groups surveyed. Part of the government’s affordable home ownership scheme, Shared Ownership has been available since the 1970s. You get a shared ownership home through a housing association. You buy a share of your home (between 25% and 75%) and pay rent on the rest. Shared Ownership is a realistic way of getting on the property ladder and is aimed at/popular amongst first time buyers as it reduces the need for a significant deposit. However, the recent YouGov data suggests awareness needs to be increased about the benefits of the scheme as it is currently misunderstood and underused by those it was designed to help, chiefly the 18 to 24 age group. If you are looking to buy a property, particularly if you are a first time buyer, and need any help or advice on purchasing options please contact the knowledgeable and friendly team of estate agents and property professionals at Pick My Pad. Designed by Rawpixel.com