How to best utilise your spare room when selling

Making the most of the space in your home is a sure-fire way to increase its value when it comes to selling up – and it’s a trend which has become very popular with UK sellers.

After all, who wouldn’t want to ensure that their property sold for the highest price possible?

It’s often found that when enhancing their home, many sellers are failing to give their spare room enough attention.

It’s a room which many homeowners have, but few utilise to its full potential.

However, with some simple alterations you can make this room attractive for buyers from a variety of demographics and it can have a variety of uses…

Home Office

No matter who you are marketing your property towards, a home office is always a fantastic use for a spare room. It’s likely a home office, or a space which has the potential to become one, will be viewed as desirable by buyers.

Young professionals will crave a place to work from home, and students will want a separate place where they can complete their studies.

If you’re considering transforming your spare room into an office, it won’t take much work. Ensure the room has a large window, great lighting, and if needs be, purchase a desk to help make the room look the part.

Playroom

If you believe your home is ideal for first-time buyers and you have a spare room, then it’s likely that this buyer demographic will want a playroom in the future, something which can be easily transformed, regardless of the room’s size.

If you’re thinking that a playroom could be a smart move for your property, then ensure the room has wood flooring instead of carpets as spillages are inevitable. If you have a few spare toys this could also further demonstrate its potential as a space for children.

Guest bedroom

When you think of a spare room, an obvious way of utilising its space is to convert it into a guest bedroom. When buyers come to visit your home, highlight the room’s potential for having extra people to stay, and you can also inform them of the extra storage facilities available in the room, too.

You don’t need to transform the spare room into a guest room just yet, as you’re not sure exactly what buyers will want. However, by de-cluttering, giving the room a fresh lick of paint in a neutral colour and adding new flooring and a rug, it will increase your chances of getting the thumbs up from prospective buyers.

Home Gym

A home gym would certainly be an attractive added extra to your home, and it’s a trend which is really growing in popularity. After all, who doesn’t want to be fit and healthy in the 21st Century?

Gym memberships can be incredibly expensive, so creating your own workout hub will mean that potential buyers could save time and money – something which every buyer would be happy to hear when they view your property.

Now if you’re a seller, don’t go getting ahead of yourself and get the room kitted out with the latest gym equipment when transforming a spare room.

All you need is a bright space with some low-cost gym equipment to help buyers envisage the room’s potential.
At crucible, we’re aware of what buyers are looking for, and our job is to assist sellers with the successful marketing and sale of their property.

Contact us today for a free valuation!

Landlords – The importance of having an annual gas safety check on your tenanted property.

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This blog focuses on the importance of having an up to date annual landlord’s gas safety check on your property.   The law requires this to be done annually whilst you have a tenancy in place.

If it is not done and you allow the certificate to expire then you are putting lives at risk and breaking the law. HSE gives gas safety a high priority and will take the appropriate action to ensure compliance with the regulations; this could result in a substantial fine and/or a custodial sentence.

It really is that serious.

If you let a property equipped with gas appliances, you have three main responsibilities:

  1. Maintenance: pipework, appliances and chimney/flues need to be maintained safely. Gas appliances should be serviced in accordance with the frequency given in the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available, you should ask a Gas Safe registered engineer to service them annually.
  2. Gas safety checks: An annual gas safety check should be carried out on each gas appliance/flue. This will ensure gas appliances and fittings are safe to use. There is a legal requirement on you to have all gas appliances safety checked by a registered engineer annually and you also need to maintain gas pipework and flues in a safe condition. This is UK law.
  3. Record: A record of the annual gas safety check should be provided to your existing tenants within 28 days of completion, or to new tenants upon the start of their tenancy. If the rental period is less than 28 days at a time you may display a copy of the record in a prominent position within the dwelling. You’ll need to keep copies of the record for at least 2 years.

Some landlord/tenant relationships can become problematic, and tenants may refuse to give you access to the property. If this is the case, you should have a previously drawn up agreement with the tenant allowing you access to the property to ensure any maintenance or safety work is carried out. You’ll have to take (and demonstrate that you have taken) all ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the work is carried out – this can involve giving a tenant notice. If a tenant does refuse access, be sure to keep a record of any action taken as you may need this at a later date. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations do not give powers to ‘force disconnection’ of the gas supply in these circumstances and you may need to seek legal advice.

I once again stress that if you are a landlord and you wish to carry out your own landlords gas safety check then please make sure that it has been done before the expiry of the latest one.  There is no “cooling off period”.   It is also your responsibility to evidence that you have tried all possible ways of getting access to the property if the expiry date passes and there is a gap between the checks.

Should you wish Crucible to take over the management of your gas safety checks then please contact Dawn Watts (Property Manager) who would be more than happy to undertake this for you.

d.watts@cruciblesalesandlettings.co.uk – 01709 300333

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Landlords Legislation

Landlords – Are you compliant?

Alex Byard is a regular blogger for Taylor&Emmet specialising in landlord and tenant issues. In this article she explains the most recent rules and regulations that have come into effect for landlords…

1. Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force 1 October 2015. These impose obligations on private landlords in England to provide carbon monoxide detectors in their rental properties.

The purpose of the Regulations is to reduce the number of injuries or deaths from smoke or carbon monoxide poisoning in the private rental sector. Under the new Regulations, a smoke alarm must be installed on each storey of the premises that are wholly or partly used as living accommodation. A carbon monoxide alarm must also be installed in any room that is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

The landlord must also ensure that the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order at the start of a new tenancy (a new tenancy being a tenancy granted on or after 1 October 2015).

If landlords fail to comply with the new Regulations, the local Housing Authority must serve a Remedial Notice, specifying the premises to which the Notice relates; details of the breach and the remedial action required. You must either comply with the Notice or make written representations against the Notice within 28 days.

If you fail to comply with the Notice, the Housing Authority must arrange for an authorised person to carry out remedial action. If you fail to comply, fines can be up to £5,000.00.

2. Changes to Section 21 Notices

In order to gain lawful possession of the premises from your tenant, there are certain steps that are required. The first is to send a Notice upon your tenant advising you require the premises back. This will be either under Section 8 or Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (commonly referred to as “Section 8” or “Section 21” Notices).

The new Regulations, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 will apply to assured shorthold tenancies (“AST”) granted on or after 1 October 2015. They will not apply to a fixed-term AST granted prior to 1 October 2015, even if the fixed-term AST becomes a statutory periodic tenancy.

The Regulations will, however, apply to all ASTs from 1 October 2018.

A new prescribed form must be used (Form 6a). This new form cannot be served upon a tenant unless the landlord has provided the tenant with:

a. any due performance certificate free of charge;
b. a gas safety certificate;
c. a copy of the Department for Communities and Local Government booklet, “How to Rent: the Checklist for Renting in England”.

The Regulations provide that the new Section 21 Notice cannot be used where:

a. the tenant has resided in the property for less than four months;
b. the landlord is prevented from retaliatory eviction;
c. the landlord has not protected the deposit under a Debt Tenancy Deposit Scheme;
d. the property requires a licence, but it is unlicensed;
e. the landlord has not complied with the new Regulations (as set out above).

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3. Right to Rent

From 1 February 2016, all private landlords in England will have to check that new tenants have the right to be in the United Kingdom, before renting out the property. This will be known as the “Right to Rent”.

Under the new Rules, landlords who fail to check a potential tenant’s “right to rent” will face penalties of up to £3,000.00 per tenant.

If you fall into one of the following categories, you will need to make “right to rent” checks if you:

a. are a private landlord;
b. have a lodger;
c. are sub-letting a property;
d. are an agent appointed by a landlord to make the “right to rent” checks.

There are, however, some landlords who will not need to make the checks.

Under the “right to rent”, landlords should check identity documents for all new tenants and take copies. This should include the following:

a. check that adult tenants will live in the property as their own or only or main home;
b. ask tenants for the original documents that show they have the right to be in the United Kingdom;
c. check the documents are valid with the tenant present;
d. make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you make the check.

The Government has provided guidance as to what will be accepted as documentation to show that the tenant has the right to be in the United Kingdom. Acceptable documents include:

• United Kingdom passport
• EA passport
• identity card
• permanent residence card or travel documents showing indefinite leave to remain
• Home Office immigration status document
• certificate of registration or neutralisation as a British citizen

The introduction of new tenancy rules and regulations can be daunting, particularly for inexperienced landlords. If you need further guidance about legal changes affecting the rental property sector, always seek advice from a specialist solicitor.
If you are interested in finding out more about the topic of this blog, contact Alex on 0114 218 4289 or alex.byard@tayloremmet.co.uk.

Landlord licensing scheme

Have you heard about the new landlord licensing scheme?

In an attempt to cleanse the community of rogue landlords the government has implemented a new landlord licensing scheme, which means that landlords who operate in certain areas will need the license to ensure they remain legally compliant.

In Rotherham the designated areas are Eastwood, Masbrough, Dinnington and Maltby South East and came into force on the 1st May this year. Landlords who have properties in these areas will now have to have a five-year license, costing up to £625. However, there is a discount of up to £100 if landlords are accredited, the property has been assessed independently against the Housing Health and Safety Rating system in the last 6 months, and is shown to be free of Category 1 hazards.

The penalties for not obtaining a license can also be pretty steep. In an area subject to selective licensing, all private landlords must obtain a licence and if they fail to do so, or fail to achieve acceptable management standards, the authority can take enforcement action, e.g. issuing a fine of up to £20,000 or in some cases, assuming management control of the property.

According to the council the license will benefit tenants and the wider community in the following ways:

• Reduce the turnover of occupiers in domestic properties
• Ensure private landlords are managing and maintaining the property
• Reduce crime and anti-social behaviour
• Make sure minimum standards for rented housing are met.
• Reduce the number of empty properties

How will it benefit Landlords?
• Selective licensing will create a clear set of rules that all landlords must follow.
• Landlords will also have to give and ask for references for their tenants, hopefully ensuring that the tenants they choose will pay the rent and look after their property.

Let us know your thoughts. Do you feel this is a fair way to monitor landlords and ensure they are looking after their tenants and property?

Should tenant fees be banned and what are the implications if they are?

Should tenant fees be banned and what are the implications if they are?

You may have heard amongst the recent election campaign hubbub that Labour wish to ban tenant fees.

As an agent that manages over 550 properties throughout South Yorkshire this is an issue that is close to our hearts and we would like to address why these charges exist.

The majority of letting agents base their business model on charging both the tenant and the landlord. Not being able to charge tenants would result in the agent having to pass these charges on to their Landlords, which in turn would put pressure on landlords to increase the rent on their properties to cover the additional cost.

You might ask yourself, however, if increasing rents is an option now why do we not instigate it?

In a mature provincial lettings business around 60% of income is derived from management commission and 40% from other fees including tenant fees. The average management commission nationally is 9%, which means that on average every £1 of rent generated is split 9p into the agent’s pockets and 91p into the landlord’s. So a ban on charging tenant fees, which translates into an increase in rents, will benefit landlords, but would have a large impact on the agent’s profit and loss sheet.

At Crucible Sales & Lettings our average tenant fee is £216 including VAT (dependent on how may people are applying). Our tenants are not VAT registered so this is a cost which they have to burden.

In context, this figure represents a very small percentage of what a tenant will pay over the lifetime of their tenancy based on our average rent and tenancy length. I am sure you would agree this does not feel exploitative.

It is also interesting to look at the average length of a tenancy in 2015. Approximately, 12 years ago the average tenancy was 14 months. It is now double that.

Private rental is now overtaking social housing and has been since 2013. It is no longer a lifestyle choice, a stop gap between leaving school and buying your first home. Increasingly, we house the nation, and with over a million new tenancies being granted every year, renting a home  will be the only property transaction many people will have had experience of.

With this growth in the private rental market comes a responsibility not to alienate a generation of renters. We must work with the new Government to secure longer tenancy lengths and prevent price gouging on fees. We need to ensure that fees are transparent and fair. Tenants must feel safe and secure in the lettings process and landlords should also have a clear understanding of what their agent is charging their tenant.