Are you ready for the minimum energy efficiency standards for rented properties?

The new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) are being introduced next year and if you are a buy-to-let investor, you may be required to take action.

Over the last year or so, many experts have put out tips and reminders encouraging all landlords to take measures to ensure that their properties will comply with MEES.

The changes come into force from 1st April 2018 and at that point, it will be illegal to let or lease a residential or commercial property with a poor energy rating.

Buy-to-let landlords should now be addressing these upcoming changes to ensure that, depending on the volume of potential work necessary, the deadline to meet compliance with the regulations is met.

After the April deadline, properties that do not meet the minimum standards cannot be re-let until improvements are made. If the property is re-let, potential penalty fines of £5,000 for a domestic property and £150,000 for a non-domestic property could be levied.

The MEES were introduced with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of private rented properties. All buildings, domestic and non-domestic, in England and Wales are required to achieve at least an E rating on their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) under the MEES scheme. This needs to be in place before they can be leased or rented.

If any improvement works have already been completed but they took place after the original EPC was issued, the property may already be up to the new standard required.

The government will be publishing detailed guidelines in October to clarify the new rules and the obligations of agents, landlords and others. This is expected to include news on a possible cap on improvements – an initial figure of £5,000 has been discussed, but not yet confirmed.

The rule applies to new tenancies and renewals only, but will be extended to existing tenancies by 2020. The Residential Landlords Association says it has now confirmed that listed buildings will be exempt, on condition that landlords have done as much as they are permitted to, to make them energy efficient.

Paul Carr Residential Lettings are working closely with our current, and future, landlords and we are busy advising them, if necessary, on the steps to take to ensure that they are compliant.

If you are currently a landlord, or are looking to rent your property, contact our Lettings Hub and find out all about our with you every step of the way service.

Renting/letting jargon – A-Z

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly letting or renting a home.

This guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

Absent Landlord
A landlord described as absent is one who cannot be contacted. If the lessees wish to create a Right To Manage Company but are unable to contact the landlord, they are free to make a legal application to acquire the right to manage.

Administration Fee
A payment which is charged to cover the costs of processing a property rental application. This is paid by the tenant and will be taken from the initial monies once the tenancy starts.

Agreement Fee
A payment which is charged to cover the costs of drawing up a tenancy agreement. This is usually shared between the landlord and tenant.

ARLA Propertymark
The Association of Residential Letting Agents, the UK’s foremost professional body for letting agents.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
A widely used rental agreement where the tenant is an individual and net rent does not exceed £25,000 a year. It covers a fixed period, so both parties know the date the property will be vacated.

Break Clause
A clause sometimes agreed between the landlord and tenant to be inserted in a fixed term agreement, typically if the initial fixed term is for a year or more. A break clause will usually allow either landlord or tenant to give written notice after a particular date or period of the tenancy in order to end the tenancy earlier than the original fixed term.

Credit Search References
References requested for a tenant applying to take up rented accommodation. Many agents and individual landlords use external companies who will contact the applicant’s employer, landlord and check the tenant’s credit history, providing a report on their financial suitability to rent.

Deposit
A monetary sum held by the landlord or agent for security against damage to a property or a breach of the tenancy terms. This is usually the equivalent to six weeks’ rent but may vary. If the deposit is for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), then it must be protected by one of the approved tenancy deposit protection schemes.

Dilapidations
Items that have been damaged during a tenancy. The tenant is usually responsible for the cost of repair or replacement.

EPC
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a property and gives an indication of the fuel bills. It is displayed as two graphs, the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the property. Each is graded from A (the best) to G (the worst).

sale is binding and no terms may be altered.

Fixtures and Fittings
Items usually provided in a letting that may include curtains, carpets, blinds, light fittings, kitchen units and appliances. In some cases it may also include furniture. It is advisable to check what is provided and not to assume that items will be provided.

Gas Safety Record
A certificate that states all gas appliances, pipework and flues are safe. It is a legal requirement for all landlords and must be provided every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer after a safety check.

Inventory
A list of the contents of a rental property. The inventory will note the condition of items and will form the basis of a dilapidation report at the end of the tenancy. It often includes photographs of specific items and existing damage/defects.

Lease
The legal document governing the occupation by the tenant of a premises for a specific length of time. At the end of the period the property reverts to the owner.

Listed Building
Buildings of special architectural or historic interest. A listed building may carry certain obligations and restrictions governing its use, repair, and maintenance.

Maintenance Charge or Service Charge
Many leasehold properties (especially flats) are subject to such a charge which pays for items such as the insurance and maintenance of the building.

Maisonette
A flat with its own private entrance.

Multiple Agent Instructions
Where more than one letting agency firm is instructed by a landlord to offer a property to rent.

The Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman offers a free and independent service for resolving disputes between sales and letting agents, which are members of The Property Ombudsman, and buyers/sellers of residential property in the UK.

Sole Agent
Where only one letting agency firm is instructed by a landlord to offer a property to rent.

Tenancy
Possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.

Tenancy Agreement
The legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
An insurance-based scheme run by The Dispute Service Ltd. for the protection of tenancy deposits and the resolution of disputes between landlords, agents and tenants concerning the return of deposits at the end of a tenancy. It is one of three schemes approved for tenancy deposit protection.

Tenant
The person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.

Tenants not taking out contents insurance?

Shocking figures are released in a recent survey about tenants and their lack of contents insurance.

Recent research has shown that 61% of tenants currently have no contents insurance, with 48% admitting that they have never taken out contents insurance at a property they have lived in during their lives.

The survey further revealed that 19% of tenants questioned said they had no idea what contents insurance was, whilst amongst those who actually did have  a policy, 42% of them did not know what it actually covered or what to do in the event of needing to make a claim.

The figures from the Upad research also showed that 78% of tenants have personal belongings that value more than £1,000, with 22% having belongings  with an aggregate value of over £5,000.

Upad founder James Davis stated:

It is madness that tenants are exposing themselves like this, regardless of whether they are trying to save money or, for some reason, think their landlord’s own insurance will keep them covered in the event of loss or damage to their property.

Tenants are far better served having contents insurance that they don’t need rather than finding out they badly need it at precisely the time when something goes horribly wrong. Remember that, even in a fully furnished property, tenants will still have plenty of their own belongings. If tenants are unsure about their level of cover they should check their insurance policy or with their letting agent or landlord.

During the tenancy application process, Paul Carr Residential Lettings recommend that our prospective tenants take out both contents cover for their personal possessions and also cover for accidental damage to the landlord’s contents (such as carpets).

We can assist our tenants in getting the appropriate cover and will provide a free no-obligation quote.

Further details can be found in our Tenants Guide available on our website.

What are the biggest causes of deductions from rental deposits?

When renting out a property, most landlords – or their letting agents – opt to take a deposit from the tenant(s) prior to the tenancy starting.

Deposits offer a level of protection to landlords, meaning that, if the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement, they can them make appropriate deductions from the deposit.

Clear property damage, poor cleanliness or anything that is different from the property’s original state, which is easy to identify if there is an inventory management report and a schedule of condition in place at the start of the tenancy agreement, will enable the landlord or their agent to rightly off-set the compensation from the tenant’s deposit.

Research by interior specialists Hillarys, part of ongoing research into the habits of Britons and their attitudes towards renting, showed that top reasons that tenants were given for why they had lost part, or all, of their tenancy deposit.

Marks on the walls, carpet stains, the need for redecorations and mould were among the five most common reasons listed as to why tenants had had money deducted.

Broken furniture29%
Marks on walls24%
Carpet stains21%
Redecorations12%
Mould9%

Spokesperson for Hillarys, Tara Hill, said:

Security deposits are an unavoidable part of renting a property, and can be an essential way for landlords to deal with damage caused by tenants. But they can result in disputes and are a major cause of distrust among tenants.

Whilst there appears to be an issue around the lack of trust when related to deposit protection, according to the research, Paul Carr Residential Lettings use The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), which is run by The Dispute Service under a government awarded contract.

For further details in regards to The Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the guidelines Paul Carr Residential Lettings follow, please see our Tenant’s Guide.

How do you store your belongings when you rent out your property?

So, you have decided to rent out your property. What do you do with all your belongings (if you aren’t moving them to another property)?

❏    List the items you plan to store
(Your storage company should be able to advise on the size of space you require. If storing the entire contents of your property, you just need to advise the size, i.e. a large/small three bed house, etc.)

❏    Work out when you will need to put your stuff into storage
(You can take it out when it suits you. Most self storage companies only ask for seven days notice when you want to leave.)

❏    Decide how you will get your goods to the storage facility
(All good self storage companies will be able to recommend a local removal company)

❏    Will you need access outside the reception opening hours?
(If so, find out when these are and when you can get access outside of these times. Check your storage company opens at convenient times, e.g. Sunday.)

❏    Do you need any packing materials?

❏    Check the storage facilities have the following security:

Individually alarmed rooms
24 hour CCTV with external monitoring
Staff onsite 7 days a week
Secure perimeter fencing with electronic gates
Pin code access
Well lit corridors and intercom to the reception

Top tips for renting a property

The private rental sector of the UK property market has grown dramatically since the late 1990’s and the growth is predicted to continue.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 36% of households in England and Wales were rented rather than owner-occupied in 2011.

Being a tenant is widely accepted as a viable alternative to home ownership, particularly among those who may not yet be willing or able to consider buying a permanent home. Renting a property should be an enjoyable experience and for those who are new to the process, On The Market have put together the following top tips for renting a property.

Preparing your finances
Decide how much you can reasonably afford to pay in rent each month. Take into account your general costs of living and the fact that you will be paying Council Tax as well as fuel bills, contents insurance, TV licence and broadband. In addition, you will need to budget at least six weeks’ rent as the amount to be put down as security deposit for the length of the tenancy.

Finding a suitable property to rent
Search for properties in areas that you want to live in and create a shortlist of potentials to go and look at. Remember that the rental market is usually fast-moving and that good properties in popular areas don’t stay on the market for very long. If you see something that may suit your needs, get your skates on and quickly go and see it. Get in touch with the letting agents and register to receive alerts when new places come available. Many letting agents belong to industry bodies such as the ARLA Propertymark (formally the Association of Residential Lettings Agents) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). This can provide some peace of mind to tenants that they will be dealt with in a professional manner.

Asking questions
When you find a property that you would like to rent, you will most probably have read about it online or in an agent’s printed details. You will have seen only basic information, so if there is anything that is unclear or not stated don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, check who is responsible for maintaining the garden, and whether there are any restrictions concerning pets or smoking in the premises. If you clear such questions at the earliest stage you won’t waste money applying to rent an unsuitable property. Don’t hesitate to ask the letting agent for a list of all the charges that you may incur throughout the process of applying to rent the property.

The tenancy agreement
Assuming you pass the checks and referencing process, the agent will draw up an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement for signing by you and the landlord. Read the agreement very carefully before signing and if you are unsure of anything don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. The tenancy agreement is a legal document and binds you and the landlord to the terms within it. Make sure they are in accordance with your understanding.

The deposit
You will be required to pay a security deposit that will be held by the agent on behalf of the landlord for the duration of the tenancy. Its purpose is to provide the landlord with compensation if you damage the property or its contents. Fair wear and tear is excluded from these dilapidations. All deposits in assured shorthold tenancies must be registered with one of the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes that guarantees no-one can run off with the money. The deposit scheme will also provide a dispute resolution service if, at the end of the tenancy, you cannot agree the amount charged by the landlord or their agent for the dilapidations.

Inventories
Even if the property is being let unfurnished, it is really important to have a properly prepared and comprehensively detailed inventory, which is carefully reviewed and signed by tenant and landlord. It will list any existing faults in the property such as areas of damaged decoration, marks on carpets or chips in bath enamel. This ensures that when the dilapidations are assessed at the end of the tenancy you will not be charged for those that were in the property when you took it over. A good inventory will include photographs of such faults.

Paying the rent
You will probably be paying the monthly rent by standing order to the landlord or their agent. Always ensure that rent is paid on time and in full. Non-payment of rent is a serious matter that can end up in court. If there is any problem with the property, do not withhold payment of the rent. Such an action is guaranteed to make resolution all the more difficult and puts you in breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement. It can also show up in future referencing checks and might cause problems if you come to rent another property.

At the end of the tenancy
When the tenancy period is nearing its end, you can ask if the landlord will agree to renew the tenancy (the amount of the rent may change and there may be some administration charges to pay) or you can leave the property. Arrange to move out by the agreed time on the agreed day. Make sure the property is clean and tidy and in at least the same condition as when you moved in. On the moving day, the inventory should be checked at the property by the landlord or their agent, with you in attendance, and it should be signed off by you as correct before you vacate. Take a note of the meter readings for gas and electricity and apply for final billing. Don’t forget to arrange with Royal Mail to redirect mail to your new address (ensure the redirection is specifically for mail in your name).

Repaying your deposit
Shortly after you move out, you will receive an account from the landlord or their agent detailing the charges for dilapidations, if any, that you agreed when the inventory was reviewed during the check-out. Providing you agree the amounts, the balance of your deposit should be returned without delay.

If you are looking to rent in the North Birmingham area, please call our Lettings Hub on 0121 308 7676 to start your rental journey with Paul Carr Residential Lettings.

We are committed to making the application process and your tenancy as stress free as possible.

The West Midlands region is now a primary focus for UK property investors

Map of the West Midlands regionThe London housing market is continuing to slow and a growing number of property investors are now looking further afield to make far more promising capital growth on their investments.

The latest Hometrack report, released at the end of February 2017, shows that London has been overtaken by Birmingham, as well as Manchester and Liverpool, where affordability levels remain attractive to investors with yields that are simply not available anymore in London. Numerous investors are taking their money out of London and this will continue to be a growing trend in 2017.

Paul Carr Estate Agents
We are the largest independent estate agent in the West Midlands. With 19 networked sales and lettings branches, Paul Carr Estate Agents has established a reputation for quality customer service. Our ethos of being with you every step of the way remains across all disciplines within the Company and is the driving force behind every decision.

The residential sales branches are complemented with a bespoke Exclusive & Rural Homes division, which offers a tailor-made service for homes in the region of £600,000+ and properties set in village and rural locations in all price ranges.

Our lettings hub has a dedicated team that successfully manages properties for landlords, both single landlords or those with a portfolio, and offers a service to fulfil all of our clients’ needs.

Additionally, our specialised Land and New Homes division represents numerous national and local builders in the sale of their new-build properties. They also advise on the sale or purchase of land, from single to multi-plot opportunities.

If you are looking for an investment property, register your interest here and our friendly team will assist in finding the right property for your investment.

What is the Tenancy Deposit Scheme?

You may be wondering what on earth the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is and how it affects you. Let us explain.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is run by The Dispute Service Ltd. It is an insurance-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme authorised by the government.

The TDS has two main roles:

To protect deposits and to help resolve disputes about deposits

What is tenancy deposit protection?

Tenancy deposit protection applies to all deposits for assured shorthold tenancies that started in England or Wales on or after 6 April 2007. By law, a landlord or agent who receives a deposit for such a tenancy must protect the deposit.

Most residential tenancies in the private rented sector are assured shorthold tenancies, with some exceptions. For example, a tenancy cannot be an assured shorthold tenancy if:

  • the tenant is a company;
  • the rent is more than £100,000 a year;
  • the tenancy is for a holiday let; or
  • a university or college rents the accommodation to its students.

Tenancy deposit protection means:

  • protecting a tenant’s deposit with a government-authorised scheme such as TDS;
  • providing the tenant with prescribed information about where their deposit is being;
  • protected and how it will be managed.

Tenancy deposit protection schemes can be one of two kinds:

Custodial – this is where the scheme itself holds the deposit during the tenancy.

Insurance backed – this is where the landlord or agent holds the deposit during the tenancy, but must give it to the scheme at the end of the tenancy if there is a dispute. The scheme is insured because this guarantees that tenants will always get back the money to which they are entitled.

The TDS is an insurance-backed scheme.

Paul Carr Residential Lettings use the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. You will be provided with a certificate to confirm that your deposit is held within the TDS.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme Member logo
If you are looking to rent a property, contact our Residential Lettings, team who are committed to making the application process, and your tenancy, as stress-free as possible.

Understanding Energy Performance Certificates

On The Market.com has published the following guide on understanding Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and offers tips on saving money on fuel bills.


What does an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) look like?

It is a little coloured chart which shows how well the property is rated in terms of energy efficiency. The best rating is A (dark green), the worst is G (bright red).

Don’t take the word of the vendor or landlord
Always ask to see the property’s Energy Performance Certificate, or EPC.

What if the vendor or landlord says they don’t have an EPC chart?
That is not good enough! An EPC certificate is required when a house is built, being rented, or sold. It provides documentary evidence of how much it costs to heat, light and provide hot water. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the home is and the lower the fuel bills are likely to be.

What’s the average energy efficiency rating for a house in England or Wales?
A score of 60, in Band D (yellow) is the average score.
Example Energy Performance CertificateEPC OnTheMarket.comSource: Savills

How eco-friendly is the property?
The fact is, the average UK household causes or creates about six tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Your EPC also has a report on the environmental impact of your property in terms of producing carbon emissions. Again, the average score is in the mid-50’s (in Environment Impact Section D).

Are there any costs not shown in the EPC?
Yes. What you are likely to spend on providing electricity for your computer and television and on providing gas or electricity for your cooker or fridge.

What if the property doesn’t have an Energy Performance Certificate?
You can arrange for an assessor to come and give your home a rating.

How else can energy bills be reduced?
Switch off electrical appliances, rather than leaving them on standby. This should cut £80 a year off your fuel bill. Fill your kettle with only as much water as you need to boil (£7 a year saved). Fit draught excluders (£25-£50 annual savings). And fit an efficient, hot-water shower-head in your bathroom. In a house with four people you could save £67 per year on fuel costs (the shower-head takes already heated water from your boiler).

What else cuts fuel bills?
Turn down your heating thermostat by just one degree and you’ll save £85-£90 per year. In a typical UK house, more than half the fuel bill per year goes on providing heating and hot water.

Can you forecast a property’s average fuel bill?
Look at the EPC. It carries a table showing estimated annual fuel costs. A home in the suburbs might cost £135 to light, £135 to provide hot water and £1,050 to heat. Multiply that over a few years’ time and you can see how heavy your fuel expenditure is likely to be. That way, you won’t get a big shock when the electricity bill arrives.

Want to find out more?
You can visit the Department for Communities and Local Government website at www.communities.gov.uk/ekpd. This is the body which oversees domestic energy efficiency. There you can find out which assessor produced the report and get more tips on how to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Still baffled?
Either ask an expert (e.g. your local estate agent) or visit the EPC website.

And lastly do the maths!
Even if you only make small economies, you can save yourself £100-£200 per year. And buy yourself a new duvet or two when winter arrives!

No need to skip over or be mystified by those colourful energy charts in property brochures anymore.


This content is for information purposes only.

New lettings blog has arrived!

Paul Carr word cloudAs you can see, we are rather excited that our new blog page is here!

We will be keeping you updated on Company news, news from around the industry, helpful guides and how-to’s, as well as much, much more.

Welcome – sit down, feet up, have a drink and a biscuit and enjoy!