Allowing Pets in your Property

cat asleep on sofaSome landlords are extremely strict when it comes to pets, and many refuse straight away for any tenants to keep pets in their properties. However, if you are planning on letting out to a family, or are planning on investing in a long-term tenancy then you may have to relax the rules a little – after all your tenants want to feel like the property is their home. So here is some advice if you do decide to allow pets in your properties:

Set out rules in the Tenancy Agreement

In order to avoid having to have an argument with your tenants you should set out the rules concerning pets in the Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. You may decide to only allow small pets such as hamsters or fish, or you may have a clause stating that your tenants must gain your written permission before buying a family pet. If it’s in the Shorthold Tenancy Agreement and your tenant’s break the rules you know you can rely on your landlord insurance to help you remove the pet (or the tenant!) from the property.

Don’t put yourself Out

Whilst you may want to keep your tenants happy, it would be ridiculous for you to let them have an animal in the house which will cause you stress. For example, if you are allergic to cats or dogs then it probably isn’t a wise idea to let a tenant keep one in the house, as you would end up allergic to your own property! Furthermore, make it clear to your tenants that they need to train their animals properly, the last thing you need is angry neighbours complaining about nuisance pets!

Agree on Maintenance Costs

Pets cause mess; there is nothing you can do about that. However, what you can do is arrange with your tenant extra maintenance costs for your property should they wish to keep a pet. Obviously this may not be the case if they just want to invest in a goldfish, but if you need new upholstery due to cat scratches, or a steam cleaner to remove animal smells then you need to make sure the tenant will pay. Also, make it clear to them that they could lose their deposit if they fail to co-operate!

Letting pets in your properties can sometimes be a risky decision, especially if it’s a short-term tenancy, as it may put off future residents to know that an animal lived there. However if you do decide to allow pets in your houses make sure you explain the rules carefully to your tenants first.

What to do if your tenants are in Rent Arrears

wallet with money and credit cardsThere has been a lot of talk in the news recently about how the upcoming welfare reforms teamed with the lack of affordable housing in the UK are leading to more and more families falling into rent arrears. Whilst this may be stressful for them, it can also cause a lot of problems for landlords, especially as you will have to carry on paying the mortgage on the property with a reduced amount of income. So what do you need to know about rent arrears?

The Government’s Plans

Most landlords have already read up on the new welfare reforms, especially if they have tenants that receive housing benefits. Currently, tenants’ housing benefits are paid directly to landlords, however after April they will receive them in one lump sum along with any other benefits they are entitled do. This has concerned many landlords, especially if they have tenants that are not very good at budgeting. The best thing to do in this case is maybe ask your tenants if they would like to set up a personal direct debit so that the money is paid straight to you the same day that they receive it.

Talking to your Tenants

If you know that your tenants are likely to be affected by the welfare reforms, it may be a good idea to arrange a meeting with them so you can discuss if they are worried about anything. By doing this before the reforms are launched you can try and make a plan that will benefit both you and your tenants. Furthermore, your tenants will really appreciate your help, which means they may make more effort to pay their rent on time.

Protecting Yourself

Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan you may end up finding that some tenants are beyond help and will eventually fall into rent arrears. In order to protect yourself against this you need to invest in landlord insurance which includes a rent guarantee policy that will pay out if you find yourself short on income. Your landlord insurance provider will also help you if finally choose to evict your tenants, as they can help cover the legal fees and give advice on what to do.

The welfare reforms may seem a long way away, but when you think that they will launch in just over six weeks then you’ll realise that you don’t have much time left to plan. Whilst it may take up a bit more of your time to talk to your tenants, it could help you protect your livelihood and make things easier in the future.

Cooking in Motorhomes

cooking potsOne of the best parts of going on holiday in your motorhome is that you get to enjoy your trip whilst keeping all the little things you love about home with you. For instance, many people enjoy the fact that they don’t have to guess whether they will like the food in a new country they travel to, so they bring food with them and cook for themselves! If you like to cook in your motorhome, or just fancy improving your motorhome culinary skills, here is some advice:

Don’t pack too Much

Motorhomes are heavy enough as it is, so stocking it to the brim with your favourite food will make your journey more difficult. Instead, before you leave maybe write up a menu so you don’t bring anything you won’t use, and you could also think of ingredients you can use in more than one meal. For instance, there’s no point in bringing the whole spice rack if you only plan on using a bit of oregano! And don’t forget you can always pick up ingredients along the way – some things are the same in every country!

Be careful what you Pack

Whilst some motorhomers may be dedicated carnivores, there’s no point in bringing two weeks’ worth of meat with you as most of it will go off before you finish your holiday! Also, be careful what types of fruit and vegetables you pack – onions and potatoes tend to stay fresh for a while, but salads and soft fruits are likely to bruise or go soggy along the way. Some things that are always great to bring are pasta, rice, sauces and – most importantly – tea bags. Just make sure you don’t leave them in your motorhome for too long as even these things will eventually go off!

Cook Safely

Barbequing goes hand-in-hand with motorhome holidays, however it important to make sure that you keep an eye on your barbeque at all times. Even the smallest amount of fire could spread quickly and damage your motorhome leaving you having to claim on your motorhome insurance, and if worse comes to the worse being stuck without a vehicle! Also, when barbequing make sure you cook the meat all the way through, no one wants food-poisoning whilst on holiday!

Cooking can be a great way to get everyone together on a motorhome holiday, as you are always sure to find someone who is happy to help out with the cooking – or maybe just the eating. Just make sure you plan ahead and stay safe, and bon appetite!

Understanding Deposits

combination safe lockIt has been reported recently that private landlords in Northern Ireland will soon have to use Deposit Protection Schemes that will look after their tenants’ deposits, and also intervene if there are any disputes as to whether the tenant should receive the deposit back in full at the end of the tenancy. In England and Wales it is already mandatory for all private landlords to place deposits in a Deposit Protection scheme, but many are unsure of what is required of them or how much deposit to take, which we look at here:

How much to Expect

It is very rare for landlords to rent out a property without first taking a deposit, as this generally covers any damages the tenants may cause whilst living at the property. Most of the time landlords ask for between four to six week’s rent money as a deposit, however some are arguing that it would be better to ask for a smaller amount. Due to the poor economy and lack of wage increases, many people looking to rent a property may find saving up six weeks’ worth of rent will take an extremely long time, which means your property could be left empty. If you want to get someone in your house in a hurry you may want to reduce or even wave the deposit fee, and instead get your tenants to provide a guarantor.

How to Protect Deposits

There are currently three different Tenant Deposit providers in the UK, and only one that will be launched in Ireland on the 1st of April. For England and Wales they are: Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and Tenancy Deposit Scheme. All three of these schemes are government backed, and each requires landlords to submit their tenants’ deposits within thirty days. They also require landlords to provide tenants information on whom and how their deposits are being protected, and if landlords fail to do any of these they could find themselves facing a fine of up to three times the original deposit amount. In order to prevent receiving a fine it is important to research the scheme you choose to invest in and what regulations they have.

Deposits are one of the biggest safety nets landlords have besides from their landlord insurance policies, so it is important to research protection schemes and also talk to your potential tenants as to what it will be used for. A good idea is to add all the information you can to your Shorthold Tenancy Agreements, so if there ever is a dispute you have evidence to support you.

Selling your Motorhome

pound coinsMany people are thinking of investing in a new motorhome before spring so that they are ready to go as soon as the weather becomes brighter. But what should you do if you are planning on selling your old one? You want to make sure that you get a good price, and also that everything is done safely and legally, so here are some helpful hints:

Finding the Right Buyer

You have probably had some fantastic journeys in your old motorhome, so you want to make sure you don’t sell it to just anyone. More importantly, you want to make sure that the person you are selling to will pay you – be warned that sometimes you can get scammers! When you meet prospective buyers try to get an idea of who they are, maybe ask if they have been on any motorhome holidays recently to see if they are actually keen on buying the vehicle. And don’t forget, if you get a gut feeling about someone you are usually right, so don’t sell if you are not entirely sure they will pay!

Deposit Protection

Even if you are sure you have found the right person to buy your motorhome, it is still wise to ask them for a deposit before you take it off the market. The last thing you want is someone to drive away with your vehicle and never come back! A deposit generally protects you against this, but you need to also make sure you are covered by motorhome insurance just in case. Generally it’s best to ask for around ten per cent of the selling price, but this can always be negotiated so it suits you both.

Taking Payment

Some people feel awkward talking about money, but unfortunately sometimes it just has to be done. You need to think about the best way of taking payment for the sale, as if it is an expensive motorhome sometimes paying in cash could make things awkward and time consuming. Some people like to pay by cheque, however if it bounces then you will have to arrange payment with your buyer all over again. Usually the best thing to do is take the deposit in cash and then arrange a bank transfer with the buyer, especially as sometimes the money can be in your account the same day.

Selling your motorhome can sometimes be time consuming, however it is important that you do it properly otherwise you could find yourself with no motorhome and no money! Even if your motorhome isn’t in a fit state to sell, don’t forget you can always contact local scrap dealers who may give you a small amount of cash for it.

What you need to know about the Government’s new Green Deal

house with a grass roofLandlords often have very little time on their hands, and whilst many want to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, they often lack the money or the time to do so. Therefore, it is good news that the government has recently launched their new Green Deal scheme which enables landlords to have improvements made on their properties for free. Here, we discuss how the scheme works and what you have to do if you want to take part.

How to take part in the Green Deal

It is now mandatory for all landlords to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for all their private rented properties, and more and more tenants are now asking to see the EPC for a property before they move in. By improving the energy efficiency of your property you will probably see an increase in interest from potential tenants, as a house with a good Energy Performance Rating will save them money in energy bills.

If you want to take part in the Green Deal scheme then all you have to do is go onto the government’s website and complete a Green Deal assessment which will decide if you are eligible for the scheme.
After this, you need to find a Green Deal provider who will come to your properties and decide what work needs to be done. This could include adding insulation to the property, replacing old heating appliances, or even just draught proofing. Finally, the Green Deal provider will then arrange for a Green Deal installer to come and upgrade your property.

How is it Paid For?

The best part of the Green Deal for landlords is that it is completely free. The Green Deal provider will arrange with you a contract stating how much it will cost to improve your property, and then the payments will be made by your tenants through their energy bills. Whilst this may automatically seem like this is unfair to tenants, it is actually a win-win situation as the improvements to the property will actually decrease the cost of their energy bills, meaning they will pay less and get more.

The Green Deal is sure to help many landlords improve the energy efficiency of their properties, especially those that have a poor F or G rated houses. Just remember to protect your property with landlord insurance before any work is started in case there are any accidental damages.