Joplings joins national customer service award scheme recognising the best property professionals in the UK.
Joplings Property Consultants, the Ripon and Thirsk based agent has entered The ESTAS Customer Service Awards. The ESTAS is the national award scheme which recognises the best estate and lettings agents, mortgage advisors, conveyancers and suppliers to the residential property industry. Winners are selected purely on feedback via ESTAS Customer Review platform which generates thousands of reviews from customers who have experienced the full service delivery from a property professional. Last year over 45,000 customers completed an ESTAS survey helping firms taking part to gain valuable feedback which enables them to improve their services for the future.
Founder of The ESTAS Group Simon Brown said “ESTAS has become a community of forward thinking property professionals who are committed to delivering great service and in turn changing the perception of the sector by the general public. The fact is 99% of agents, conveyancers and mortgage advisors do a fantastic job for their clients, our review platform and awards provide a kite mark of service excellence for any property professional involved in the home moving process.”
The ESTAS Awards take place every spring at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Phil Spencer, the country’s favourite property expert and ESTAS brand ambassador, announces the winners in front 1,000 of the UK’s top property professionals.
Spencer says “I think it says a great deal about a firm who takes part in The ESTAS. They care about their reputation and they care about their customers. Companies who sign up to The ESTAS are committed to giving customers the best possible service they can.”
Michael Stephenson BSc (Hons) MRICS, General Manager at Joplings said “We take our levels of customer service very seriously because we know clients have a choice. We have always been very proud of the personal service we provide and this is great way to demonstrate how good we really are.”
Current statistics suggest that in years to come, renting is only going to become more popular – that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to a life of off-whites. We take a look at ways to give your rented space some personality and style without breaching your tenancy agreement.
1. Plants In a pale colour scheme, a green leaf can really pack a punch. Although often assumed quite complex to grow, an orchid will give your home an elegant touch of colour. For the less green-fingered tenant, an Areca Palm is a full and vibrant green that gives a tropical feel and will grow big enough to be a focal point. Spider plants could be another good option for those with a tendency to kill off their plants. Whatever you choose, plants will really soften a room.
2. Crockery So many interior design schemes now feature exotic locations, it is easy to pick up some colourful crockery. Give your table a hint of the far east with coppers and include some Moorish accents with mosaic tiled patterns. Or, step back in time with vintage tearoom style. In particular, larger serving bowls and platters can be left as permanent table displays, or you can display them in a dresser for added personality.
3. Art Colourful, unique and personal, art can transform a room. Choosing a large canvas will draw the eye and be all the more stunning for the pale-coloured walls around it. Larger works will save you making too many holes in the walls which you need to fill later, but if you prefer a collection of smaller images you could opt for a large frame with space for lots of images to give a collage feel.
4. Mirrors Make a room feel bigger and brighter with the addition of a mirror which bounces light and space around a room. You can go for something ornate or very simple, depending on whether you want some artwork or a more functional mirror. Think about different shapes too; a convex, port-hole style mirror could be ideal in a small toilet to give the illusion of space while adding a nautical theme. Alternatively, a large rectangular mirror resting on the floor and tilting upwards will give the room a greater sense of depth.
5. Wall hangings Using fabric to cover a wall is a great way to express yourself; you can create a feature wall which only requires a curtain rail. Hang some material behind your bed to give a dramatic, sumptuous feel for minimal cost and effort. Pop into your local haberdashery to peruse the colourful fabrics. Not only is this a relatively cheap option (dependent upon the fabric you choose, the size of your wall or the proportion of wall you want to cover), but it is also easily changed, unlike wallpaper or paint. You can change your style according to the season or even your mood.
6. Rugs Beige, bland carpets can be the backdrop to some spectacular floor art: welcome the rug. From spiced Moroccan coloured runners to a faux fur rug, a well-placed mat can give your home bags of personality. What is great about this is that you are able to keep your other items fairly neutral, making them perfect for taking to your new home which may be very different.
7. Textiles From cushions to bedding, carefully picking patterns and colours for your textiles will convey a homely, loved feel – which makes a huge great difference to rented space. Play with different textures and materials in complimentary colours for a layered, expensive look.
8. Tiles Think outside the box and add tiles for a quirky feel. While you are likely to have a splashback in your kitchen already, resting some bold impactful tiles behind the cooker will inject colour. The bathroom is another good place to try this; if you have a shelf or a window sill, rest a few tiles on it. They will seem in keeping with these rooms in particular, even though you are using them more like pieces of art. Don’t be afraid to choose different types of tiles; a mismatched pattern with a recurring colour scheme will make for an eclectic space.
9. Lighting Add a freestanding lamp to your living room to create an expensive and tailored look. You can make a reading nook with a low-hanging lamp over a comfy chair, or perhaps light up an alcove with an uplighter to showcase features. Table lamps will also help to style your home, whether they are on your bedside table or in the hall; the right lamp is always a feature. If it’s feasible, a statement chandelier could give a room real drama.
10. Furniture This is perhaps one of the most obvious ways to make a space your own. If you are in an unfurnished property though, it may be that you have bought a collection of cost-effective furniture which could be a little bland. A way to avoid a white-washed room or a pine frenzy, is to choose one item which is unique and turn it into a feature. Charity shops could be a fantastic source for something which is still relatively cheap, yet totally different to the rest of your items. Don’t be afraid to sand furniture down and get the paint brush either!
A recent report by a leading Insurance Company claims that one in seven tenants break the rules of their leasing agreements.
The most common offences include a failure to pay rent on time, smoking and keeping a pet; but perhaps of even more concern is that it is claimed that one in eleven (or almost 10%) of renters are living contract-free.
25% Failing to pay rent on time (or at all) 21% Smoking in the property 18% Keeping a pet in the property 17% Damaging or making alterations to the premises 16% Changing the locks 14% Caused disturbances or a nuisance to neighbouring properties 14% Sublet a room without notifying the landlord 13% Failed to clean accessible windows 12% Redecorated without permission 10% Failed to check smoke or carbon monoxide alarm
The most common sanctions for breaking tenancy rules include losing some or all of the deposit (52%), followed by having to pay for any damages (22%) and in some extreme cases, tenant evictions (4%). However, more than one in five (21%) tenants say that the landlord never found out about their misdemeanours.
This lack of transparency can hurt both the landlord and the tenant. The renter risks exploitation and even summary eviction if they do not have a binding agreement to protect them, whilst the landlord is exposed to potential misuse of the property and possibly even a sitting tenant who can’t easily be removed.
In a professional world, the tenant’s behaviour is defined and bound by their contract, and a good landlord will actively manage and nurture the relationship to protect their investment.
Any failures for both sides to act responsibly can be very expensive; for example, a separate report published last week highlighted the risks taken by landlords who don’t properly deal with repairs requests by inhibiting the ability to serve a section 21 notice.
So what should landlords (or their letting agents) do as a minimum? A few simple rules may help:
Legal Agreement: Ensure that this is appropriate, signed and dated. Writing your own contract will save some money, but may miss out important aspects – it is best to get proper advice, or employ a solicitor or letting agent to assist.
Regular Inspections: If you inspect as opposed to expect, it is much more likely that the tenant will follow the rules. Always ensure that you give the tenant fair warning of your intentions to visit the premises so as not to breach their right to privacy.
Be Informed: There are increasing legal requirements on both landlords and tenants, and ignorance will not be a suitable defence if something goes wrong!
Respond in a Timely Manner: Living with broken or poorly working appliances can be very frustrating, particularly when the tenant is paying significant rent. How long would you put up with a hotel room where the lights or plumbing does not work? Therefore, you should deal as quickly as you can with requests from tenants for repairs and improvements, even if the answer is ‘no’.
Keep Communicating: Legal disputes can quickly get expensive, so the ability to discuss any issues openly and rationally may reduce the stress and potential cost. Remember that very few tenants set out to get themselves evicted.
See Both Sides: You need to think of the property as a business investment and not as your home. Your tenants may have a different lifestyle and tastes to you, and are paying in hard cash for the right (with few guarantees and little or no financial return) of borrowing your property; also, don’t forget finding new tenants can be expensive so you may want to bend occasionally over the small stuff.
With average yields now at about 5% across the UK, taking the time to find a good tenant and looking after them properly (avoiding constant personnel changes and voids) may be the best investment you can make in your rental property.
Also, the legal requirements in relation to letting are now so onerous that having a professional manage your rental affairs might be the best solution in the medium term.
As of the 1st February 2016, no tenancy can legally commence until the right to rent has been established. But what exactly is right to rent? Here is a very brief overview.
Before a property is legally rented, all landlords have to confirm that the tenants have the right to rent residential property in the UK. And, under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, landlords should not authorise an adult to occupy a rented property unless the adult is a British Citizen, is a European Economic Area citizen, or Swiss National, or has a Right to Rent in the UK.
Who needs to be checked? Landlords or the lettings agent must check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent the residential property in England. Before the start of a new tenancy, they must make checks for all tenants aged 18 and over, even if:
• they’re not named on the tenancy agreement • there’s no tenancy agreement • the tenancy agreement isn’t in writing
All new tenants must be checked.
If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, the check needs to be undertaken in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy.
Some types of accommodation are excluded from these checks. Click here to view these types. There is no need to check tenants in some types of accommodation (e.g. social housing and care homes).
How will tenants be checked? All landlords and lettings agents have to check original documents to make sure a tenant has the right to rent in the UK.
What will happen if a tenant fails to pass the checks?
If a tenant fails to pass the checks, the landlord or letting agent cannot legally allow the tenant to rent the property.
Further checks Landlords and lettings agents must make further checks on their tenants to make sure they can still rent property in the UK, if their permission to stay is time limited.
If tenants fail to pass the further checks, they may be evicted from the properties.
What could happen to landlords if they fail to comply? Landlords can be fined if they rent their property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK and you / they can’t show that they checked a tenant’s right to rent.
You’ve found the perfect tenants, they’ve moved in without issue, and you’re expecting smooth sailing with the tenancy. But then you check your bank account and find that rent hasn’t been paid that month. What do you do? Guild Members share their expert advice to help in this tricky situation.
All of our agents agree that communication is key to keep track of payments and to resolve an issue with tenants.
First of all, it is important to check to see if rent is due on time, rather than realising later in the month.
“Check your bank statement the day after the rent is due,” advises Louise Cawley from Newland Rennie. “Your tenant has a responsibility to pay rent the same day every month as if he/she were paying a mortgage, the rent should never be late. If the rent has not come in there may be a simple explanation, a telephone call to the tenant may sort the matter out very quickly.”
“When a tenant defaults with their rent, the first steps are to contact them,” said Suzanne Bellamey of Jackson Green & Preson. “Non-payment of rent does not always mean you have a bad tenant. Sometimes their personal circumstances may change throughout the tenancy, such as losing their job or suffering from ill health and relying on sickness benefits.”
If a miscommunication has happened in the past, now is the time to fix it.
Sarah Green from Mundys says: “Communication is key with tenants to enable the right course of action to be taken in the event that a tenancy is not running as planned. You need to ensure that all the correct information and guidance is provided to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy so that the tenant is clear on what, when and how payments can be made.”
2. Clear records
Be sure to keep clear records of all communications and decisions while you are trying to get rent from the tenant. It may be needed in court, though hopefully the dispute won’t reach that stage.
Sarah Green from Mundys said: “You should ensure that you keep a record of contact with the tenants, a clear statement of account and copies of letters or notices served to a tenant.”
Does your tenant have a guarantor to pay their rent if they are unable to? Now is the time to find their contact details.
Sarah Driscoll from M&M Estate & Letting Agents says: “Remind the guarantor of their agreement to pay the rent should the tenant not be able to. As with the tenants, keep any conversations and emails professional.”
Emma Foreman from Complete Property agrees that talking to the guarantor could solve the problem.
“If you have a guarantor for the tenancy, speak to them immediately as it is likely that they are unaware of any rent issues and may be in the position to pay the rent over directly themselves,” she says.
Landlord insurance is always a good idea to have in case of situations like rent not being paid.
“If you have any form of landlord insurance now is the time to review the terms,” says Sarah Driscoll from M&M Estate & Letting Agents. “Should you need to make a claim, you want to make sure you have adhered to the T&Cs of the policy. Depending on your insurance, you may find they take things out of your hands.”
Suzanne Bellamey from Jackson Green & Preston has further advice on landlord protection. “I recommend that all landlords take out a ‘Rent Guarantee’ cover offering legal cover, rent arrears and offers financial help for part of the empty period of the property once possession has been obtained through the courts, whilst the property is either being re-advertised or brought back to a satisfactory standard, paying part of the monthly rent.”
Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris says: “A good policy will protect against lost rent when a tenant stops paying but does not vacate a property and will also cover the legal costs involved in recovering possession of the property. This is something we would strongly recommend to any Landlord, though it is important to check and understand the full details of any policy and the cover it provides.”
So what should your communication plan of action be?
“When a tenant doesn’t pay, the first thing is a call, email or text to the tenant (the initial check) to ask why,” suggests Joe Gervin, in-house solicitor and Director of LPS in Liverpool.
“Keeping a record of all initial communications is key in case it is required as evidence in court. We would normally recommend a grace period of seven days from due date to allow for banking logistics. If the initial message or call doesn’t work then a formal letter requiring payment forthwith (usually in 7-14 days) is required. Keeping a copy of this letter is imperative. If rent is still not received, then attendance at the property is required. Give 24 hours’ notice that you will be attending to inspect the property to discuss arrears.”
If communicating clearly and giving the tenant time to pay hasn’t solved the issue, it is time to consider legal action.
Sarah Green from Mundys says: “If a landlord is experiencing difficulties with a tenant, speak to the letting agent who will provide guidance on how the matter can be handled. A Legal Adviser and Landlord Bodies such as National Landlord Association can also provide useful advice and guidance for members.
“In the event that the tenant is not keeping up to date with their payments and the landlord is unhappy, it is important to serve the correct section notice at the correct time. A Section 21 notice provides the tenant with a minimum of two months’ notice, coinciding with the fixed term of the tenancy, of the Landlords intention to regain possession. A Section 8 notice can be served where a tenant is two months in arrears and provides a shorter two-week notice of the landlord’s intention to regain possession. Serving the appropriate notice promptly can stop the issue escalating.”
Jenny Owen, Sawyer & Co agrees, though recommends leniency if the tenancy has been successful up to that point. “If the tenant has always paid on time in the past it, depending on the situation you may decide that giving them a small period of breathing space to catch up is fine, otherwise depending on how long they’ve been in the property, you have the option of contacting your solicitor and serving notice under Section 21.”
The Guild recommends seeking the help of a qualified advisor, such as a solicitor, to get the best advice before serving a legal notice.
7. Solutions going forward
If you are able to resolve the problem and the rent is paid, it is worth looking at solutions to make sure the tenant can pay on time in future.
“If you understand the reason for a late or non-payment of rent, you are able to look at simple solutions. For example, an alteration to the rent payment date so it coincides with the timing of work incomes, or a payment plan if the tenant is struggling to make a single larger payment per month. This will prevent the situation from escalating.”