Ask Lorraine – My tenants have left owing hundreds in utility bills

Ask Lorraine  – We  had been renting our Tamworth  property out to a couple who really did seem to be respectable and trustworthy.

Tenants owe utility bills
Tenants owe utility bills

Once they had  moved out we found  they had left owing over £600.00 in utility bills.

Apparently the lady had contacted the utility suppliers and said they were only renting a room from us and  we were  responsible for the bills.

This was simply not true, the couple were renting the whole property. For the past 3 months, we have been in talks with the utility suppliers however as the couple have now  disappeared  we are being pressed to settle these bills. We have been burying our heads in the sand. Please help.

Anna

Bills

Lorraine’s answer  – Hi Anna,

Did you take meter readings and inform the utility companies before the tenants moved in?

Did you also inform the water company and council when the tenants moved in?

As the Landlord and owner of the property, you should really take responsibility to advise the relevant companies when  tenants move in and out. Don’t rely on others to do this!

You need to contact the Utility suppliers and explain that the tenants were liable for the bills, send them the Tenancy Agreement confirming this and make sure they change the owing accounts into the tenants names.

This will ensure their contracts are between them and the tenants plus it should prevent them coming to the property to install credit meters to claw back the outstanding debt from you.

For future reference, you can ask to become an additional name on the account (‘Third Party User’) the tenant has to request this but you can make the tenancy agreement conditional upon this. The landlord would not be liable for the bills, it would give the landlord a way to monitor the tenants account and perhaps be aware of any issues unfolding.

Good Luck.

Until next week

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Ask Lorraine – My Tamworth agent has given me 14 days to vacate my house

Ask Lorraine – Hello hun,

I’m after a little advice as I don’t have many options. My agent gave me a Section 21 on 19th January and has told me I’ve got 14 days to leave the property. I’ve been renting my home for nearly 2 years.

I have nowhere to go and 14 days is not long enough to find another property and pack up my stuff.  I will end up sofa surfing, yes I have paid the rent a few days late on the odd month but I’m currently up to date.

How can an agent treat me like this,  surely this can’t be right?

Name was supplied

14 days to leave

Lorraine’s Answer – I am sorry that you find yourself in this unpleasant situation and I hope that you do find somewhere to live.

I don’t know if communication has broken down between you and the agent/landlord or if there are underlying issues as to why the landlord requires the property back.

I will do my best to answer your question assuming that you are now on a periodic tenancy agreement.

Section 21

A landlord has the legal right to retain possession at the end of a tenancy but they must follow the correct legal procedure. This includes serving a valid section 21 notice which is the  easiest way for an agent/landlord to recover a property.

For a S21 to be valid there are a number of pieces of information that you should have been given during your tenancy, If not the notice will not be legal and cannot be enforced.

The notice to leave must be at least two calendar months or the same period for which rent is paid, whichever is longer. The notice should end on the last day of a rental period (the day before rent is due).

I do not have all the facts but would certainly recommend that you take your tenancy agreement, complete with any additional paperwork in your possession, to the Council. If the Council cannot help, Citizens Advice will be able too.

Please do this as soon as possible.

Please see below tenants guide to private renting, this will give you lots of helpful advice.

https://www.gov.uk/private-renting

I hope things turn out well for you.

Until next week.

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50.48% of Tamworth is Built on … Building Plot Dilemma or Not?

Well the fallout from the recent Budget is still continuing.  I was chatting to a couple of movers and shakers from the Tamworth area the other day, when one said, “There isn’t enough land to build all these 300,000 houses Philip Hammond wants to build each year”.

…and if you read the Daily Mail, you would be forgiven for thinking the Country was at bursting point … or is it?

It was 60 years ago the first satellite was launched (Sputnik). All the Superpowers have used them to take high definition pictures of each other for decades, but now satellites and their high-powered cameras are being used for more peaceful purposes. The European Environment Agency (EEA) have been taking high definition pictures of the UK from outer-space to give us a focused picture of what every corner of the Country really looks like … and the findings will come as a surprise.

As my blog readers know, I always like to ask the important questions relating to the Tamworth property market. If you are a Tamworth landlord or Tamworth homeowner, this knowledge will enable you to make a more considered opinion on your direction and future in the Tamworth property market. Like every aspect of all economic life, it’s all about supply and demand, because over the last twenty or so years, there has been an imbalance in the British (and Tamworth) housing market, with demand outstripping supply, meaning the average value of a property in Tamworth has risen by 293.74%, taking an average value from £46,300 in 1995 to £182,300 today.

Using the information from the EEA and data crunched by Sheffield University with their Corine-Land Cover project, I posed them a few questions about the local area, interesting questions I would like to share with you …

  1. What proportion of the whole of Tamworth is built on?

50.48%

That surprised you, didn’t it! In the study, land classified as ‘urban fabric’ defined has land which has between 50% and 100% of the land surface is built on, (meaning up to a half might be gardens or small parks, but the majority is built on).

  1. How much land is intensively built on locally?

Of that amount mentioned above, how much of it is high-density urban fabric? (i.e. where 80% to 100% is built on – still leaving 20% for gardens)  Less than 0.1%  – again I bet that surprised you!

  1. So how is the land used locally?

 

Sports Facilities                    1.88%

Green Urban Areas             4.99%

Industry                                 11.34%

Arable Farmland                  19.98%

…the rest being made up of various other types such as pastures and waterways, etc.

Tamworth and the surrounding areas are greener than you think! In fact, I read that property covers less of the UK than the land revealed when the tide goes out. The assumption that vast bands of our local area have been concreted over doesn’t stand up to inspection. However, the effect of housing undoubtedly spreads beyond its actual footprint, in terms of noise, pollution and roads.

Now I am not suggesting for one second we concrete over every inch of the locality, but the bottom line is we, as a country, are growing at a quicker rate than the households we are building. I appreciate the emotional effect of housing is greater than other land use types because most of us spend the vast majority of our time surrounded by it. As Brits, we live our lives driving along roads, walking on footpaths and working and living in buildings meaning we tend, as a result, to considerably overemphasise how much of it there is.

In fact, I was only flying home recently back from a short break abroad, when I looked down and I was reminded just how green Britain actually is!

The bottom line is Tamworth people and the local authorities are going to have to put their weight into building more homes for people to live in. There is going to have to be some give and take on both sides, otherwise house prices will continue to rise exponentially in the future and Tamworth youngster’s won’t be able to buy their own Tamworth home, meaning Tamworth rents and demand for private rented accommodation in Tamworth can (and will) also grow exponentially.

If you want to learn about the Tamworth Property Market , one source for information is the Tamworth Property Blog authored by yours truly at https://www.tamworthpropertyblog.co.uk

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Tamworth Property Market and Hammond’s Budget Promise to Build 300,000 more homes

I miss the good old days of George Osborne as Chancellor, with his hardhat and hi-vis jacket. He must have visited every new home building site in the UK with his trademark attire! For the last few years, the nearest Philip Hammond got to donning a ‘Bob the Builder’ outfit was at his grandchild’s birthday party. However, with what appears to be a change in focus by the Tories to ensure they get back in power in 2022, they appear to have fallen in love with house building again with the Chancellor’s promise to create 300,000 new households in a year.

Nationally, the number of new homes created has topped 217,344 in the last year, the highest since the financial crash of 2007/8. Looking closer to home: in total there were 160 ‘net additional dwellings’ in the last 12 months in the Tamworth Borough Council area, a decrease of 36% on the 2010 figure.

The figures show that 89% of this additional housing was down to new build properties. In total, there were 142 new dwellings built over the last year in Tamworth. In addition, there were 10 additional dwellings created from converting commercial or office buildings into residential property and a further nine dwellings were added as a result of converting houses into flats.

While these all added to the total housing stock in the Tamworth area, there was 1 demolition to take into account.

Net additional dwellings in Tamworth in the last 12 months
New build Conversions Change of use Demolitions Net Additions
142 9 10 -1 160

I was encouraged to see some of the new households in the Tamworth area had come from a change of use. The planning laws were changed a few years back so that, in certain circumstances, owners of properties didn’t need planning permission to change office space in to residential use.

With the scarcity of building land available locally (or the builders being very slow to build on what they have, for fear of flooding the market), it was pleasing to see the number of developers that had reutilised vacant office space into residential homes in the local council area. Converting offices and shops to residential use will be vital in helping to solve the Tamworth housing crisis especially, as you can see on the graph, that the level of building has hardly been spectacular over the last seven years!

Now we have had the autumn budget, Theresa May and Philip Hammond have set out their stall with housing as their key focus. I was glad to see the Government introducing a variety of changes to improve housing, including more funding for the supply side and an injection of urgency into the planning system.

The biggest question is, just where are the Government going to build all these new houses? Maybe a topic for a future article?

Back to the main point though and the focus on the housing market by the Tory’s is good news for all homeowners and buy to let landlords, as it will encourage more fluidity in the market in the longer term, sharing the wealth and benefits of homeownership for all. However, in the short term, demand still outstrips supply for homes and that will mean continued upward pressures on rents for tenants.

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Ask Lorraine – My problem tenant

Ask Lorraine – One of my Tamworth tenants who has

ask lorraine my problem tenant
ask lorraine my problem tenant

been renting off me for nearly there years is on housing benefit. I gave this lady a chance when others would not take benefit tenants. Five months ago she became a nightmare tenant, she is now causing the neighbours problems and I am getting so many phone calls from them asking that I  resolve the situation. Three weeks ago I received a visit from two of her neighbours demanding that I  evict her. Unfortunately I live on the same Tamworth estate as my tenant.

ask lorraine mad woman

I served a section 21 notice straight away and after receiving notification from the housing benefit department I returned the £500.00 deposit. It appears that the council are on her side as they are now saying that my section 21 is invalid and they have told her not to move out. I have been advised that I must provide evidence that the deposit was protected in accordance with regulations.

For the sake of my tenants neighbours, I need this lady out of my life as soon as possible and hope that you can advise on the best course of action in order to evict her.

Help  A.J.

Lorraine’s Answer

Hi  A.J.

It sounds as though the deposit wasn’t protected within 30 days of being received, if at all?

If you served the section 21 before returning the deposit, you will need to serve  a new one as the council are correct, it is invalid.

In order to serve a valid section 21 there is also legislation paperwork that must be issued (and signed for) at the start of the tenancy. I would recommend checking out the government website      https://www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property     to ensure you did issue this. Once you have your ducks in a row, serve a new section 21.

Good luck in your quest.

Until next week

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The Do’s and Don’ts with Carbon Monoxide – what Tamworth Landlords need to know

Landlords are being urged to step up and ensure that all rented properties and accommodation meet recent laws relating to carbon monoxide alarms.The legislation, which came into effect in Autumn 2015, states that smoke alarms must be installed on every floor of a property and be tested ahead of any new tenancy, with carbon monoxide alarms placed in every room containing a solid-fuel burning appliance, including wood burners and open fires.However, a survey we carried out identified that only 6% of students are aware that their digs is likely to need a CO alarm whilst only a third (32%) of student accommodation is believed to have a working CO alarm.To stop students being at risk from the ‘silent killer’, landlords and letting agents are being reminded of their obligations to install lifesaving detectors.Servicing of appliances and alarms should also be high on the agenda as new tenants move in, as well as the installation of alarms.Our survey discovered that just one in eight people in rented accommodation were aware of a landlord’s duty to provide a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with a solid-fuel burning appliance in their properties. This contrasts with the overwhelming four in five people who are aware that a smoke alarm must be provided.

Renters were also shown in the poll to be unaware of a landlord’s responsibility to provide an up to date gas safety certificate. Only four in 10 had asked for this when moving into rented accommodation.

Our research also reveals a worrying lack of knowledge among the public of how to detect CO, the so-called ‘silent killer’.

When asked how you would know the gas is present, 28% of people believe you can smell it, 8% think you can taste it, 6% answered see it, 2% insist you can hear it, while 1% of those asked reckon you are able to touch it.

Key indicators that carbon monoxide is present in your property and things to warn your tenants to look out for are: if the cooker flames are yellow or orange, sooty marks on walls around boilers, stoves or gas fire covers, pilot lights that frequently go out or there is increased condensation inside windows.

Carbon monoxide myth-busters

True or False: It is possible to smell carbon monoxide being emitted in the home.

Answer: False. Carbon monoxide is both colourless and odourless so is almost impossible to detect without an alarm.

True or False: Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely difficult to diagnose.

Answer: True. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to that of flu so it makes diagnosis very difficult. They include; headaches, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, confusion and eventually loss of consciousness.

Currently, GPs don’t all have access to equipment to check carbon monoxide levels and the only way to the presence of carbon monoxide is with a blood test. Some 46% of GPs have seen patients with carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms but only 18% say that they wouldn’t consider CO poisoning as a diagnosis. Find out more about the symptoms of CO here.

True or False: Carbon monoxide won’t leak if I have new gas appliances or if I have my appliances serviced regularly.

Answer: False. Although having brand new gas appliances, such as a new hob or boiler, will significantly reduce the chances of them leaking carbon monoxide it doesn’t rule them out.

CO can be emitted from appliances new or old and if you’re worried you should see your GP. Regular servicing of your gas appliances is the best way to reduce the risk of your property being subject to a CO leak and having an alarm fitted is the best way of detecting if and when something has gone wrong.

True or False: Carbon Monoxide can only leak from my boiler.

Answer: False. Carbon Monoxide can leak from any gas appliance in your property. This could include an oven, gas fire, or a boiler.

CO is produced when there is not enough oxygen to form carbon dioxide. For example, when a flame is burnt in a poorly ventilated space. This is why it is extremely dangerous to barbecue in a tent as there is often too little oxygen for carbon dioxide to be produced and so carbon monoxide is released instead.

One of the main things to look out for in your property are if flames on gas appliances burn a yellow or orange colour rather than blue as this could mean that they are not burning properly.

For a more information on how you can keep your tenants safe from the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, visit this webpage.

Article courtesy of Estate Agent Today 

Ask Lorraine – Can I sell my Tamworth Buy-to-let with a sitting tenant?

Ask Lorraine  – Due to changes in my circumstances, I have decided to sell one of my Tamworth properties. Is there any way of selling with the tenants in situ. They are lovely tenants  who have been renting from me for a number of years,  I would like to ensure they are looked after.

Will other landlords buy tenanted properties or must I sell the house with vacant possession?

Many Thanks  Rodney

Tamworth
Tamworth

Lorraine’s Answer – Hello Rodney

I understand you are trying to do the decent thing by your tenants but you do not owe them anything.

There are many landlords who would welcome buying a property with a good solid tenant  in situ. Generally good, long term tenants are an asset to a sale, rather than a problem.

How about offering a financial incentive for the tenants to help you sell for the best price possible?

Whatever route you decide to go down, the new landlord is duty bound by your Tenancy Agreement until the end of its term, so please ensure that your tenants are made aware of this fact.

If your tenants become jittery with the idea of you selling and  a new unknown Landlord, why not let them leave without giving their full notice. At least this way you will have vacant possession.

Until next week

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Tamworth Rents Set to Rise to £749 pm in Next 5 Years

 

Tamworth
Tamworth

It’s now been a good 12/18 months since annual rental price inflation in Tamworth peaked at 3.9%. Since then we have seen increasingly more humble rent increases. In fact, in certain parts of the Tamworth rental market over the autumn, the rental market saw some slight falls in rents. So, could this be the earliest indication that the trend of high rent increases seen over the last few years, may now be starting to buck that trend?

Well, possibly in the short term, but in the coming few years, it is my opinion Tamworth rents will regain their upward trend and continue to increase as demand for Tamworth rental property will outstrip supply, and this is why.

The only counterbalance to that improved rental growth would be to meaningfully increase rental stock (i.e. the number of rental properties in Tamworth). However, because of the Government’s new taxes on landlords being introduced between 2017 and 2021, that means buy-to-let has (and will) be less attractive in the short term for certain types of landlords (meaning less new properties will be bought to let out).

Interestingly, countless market experts assumed at the start of 2017, that the number of rental properties would in fact drop throughout the year. The assumption being as the new tax rules for landlords started to kick in, landlords looked to kick their tenants out, sell up and invest their capital elsewhere. (Although ironically that would lower supply of rental properties, decreasing the supply, meaning rents would increase again!).

Anecdotal evidence suggests, confirmed by my discussions with fellow property, accountancy and banking professionals in Tamworth, that Tamworth landlords are (instead of selling up on masse), actually either (1) re-mortgaging their Tamworth buy-to-let properties instead or (2) converting their rental portfolios into limited companies to side step the new taxation rules.

The sentiment of many Tamworth landlords is that property has always weathered the many stock market crashes and runs in the last 50 years. There is something inheritably understandable about bricks and mortar – compared to the voodoo magic of the stock market and other exotic investment vehicles like debentures and crypto-currency (e.g. BitCoin).

Remarkably, there is some good news for tenants, as Tory’s recently published the draft Tenants’ Fee Bill, which is designed to prohibit the charging of tenants lettings fees on set up of the tenancy. However, looking at evidence in Scotland, I expect rents to rise to compensate landlords, thus hammering faithful tenants looking for long-term tenancy agreements the hardest. This growth will be on top of any usual organic rent growth.  It really is swings and roundabouts!

So, what does this all mean for landlords and tenants in Tamworth? In my considered opinion,

Rents in Tamworth over the next 5 years will rise by 10.4%, taking the average rent for a Tamworth property from £679 per month to £749 per month.

To put all that into perspective though, rents in Tamworth over the last 12 years have risen by 19.3%. In fact, that rise won’t be a straight-line growth either, because I have to take into account the national and local Tamworth economy, demand and supply of rental property, interest rates, Brexit and other external factors. Please see the graph for my projections

In the past, making money from Tamworth buy-to-let property was as easy as falling off a log. But with these new tax rules, new rental regulations and the overall changing dynamics of the Tamworth property market, as a Tamworth landlord, you are going to need work smarter and have every piece of information, advice and opinion to hand on the Tamworth, Regional and National property market’s, to enable you to continue to make money.

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