Property Blog

Posted by & filed under Landlords, Regulatory, Tenants.

Last week saw another step toward the banning of letting agents fees levied at tenants when the government published its “tenants fees bill”. Originally slated for April 2018, it has been postponed to Spring 2019, likely as a result of Brexit and for many it can’t come soon enough.

A new rental is an expensive time for anyone, firstly you have to find the bond, often a month’s rent but in some parts of the country 1.5-2 times that amount and a further month in advance. To then be asked to stump up, on average, an additional £272 for fees can be a deal breaker. Part of the reasoning behind the ban was that some rogue landlords know these fees are enough to put tenants off moving, in effect trapping them in sub standard properties. A recent blog by the housing charity Shelter listed 10 of the worst fees they had come across, including

  • £210 for preparing a tenancy.
  • £500 for referencing and checks.
  • £225 per tenant for a contract renewal.
  • £200 for the end of tenancy check out.
  • And our favourite… £10 to iron the curtains!!!

These are of course the extremes and the majority of agencies and landlords are above board but fees of £140-£300 at the start of the tenancy are standard throughout the industry. The bill will bring in to law the following:

  • Ban letting agents or landlords from charging fees for the granting, renewal or continuation of a tenancy.
  • Cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than 6 weeks’ rent. It is important to note that this six weeks will be ‘an upper limit and not a guideline’, with each landlord deciding this on a case by case basis.
  • The draft bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
  • Create a civil offence with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban on letting agent fees and creating a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Civil penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution.
  • Require Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees.
  • Appoint a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector.
  • Amend the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements should apply to property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.

For a lot of letting agents and landlords there is a lot of genuine concern. For some letting agents, this is a genuine revenue stream, which they rely on, so what do they do? Take the hit financially? Doubtful. Pass it on to landlords by increasing their finder’s fees? Possibly. Or increase rents to tenants? Another possibility. It is likely that it will be a split between the two. The good news is that at Haboth, by structuring our business in a forward thinking way by taking our selves off the high-street and using the latest software to improve efficiencies, we don’t charge fees to tenants so there will be no increase to landlords or tenants come Spring 2019. It’s just one way we are looking to change the way people rent.

If you’d like to know more about how we can ensure virtually Fee Free renting while keeping fees to landlords low too, call Haboth Lettings on 0333 012 4895 or email hello@haboth.com

Posted by & filed under About, Landlords.

So, a couple of months ago, we shared an article to our Facebook page from Landlord News, which explained that a staggering 87% of landlords would prefer to let directly to tenants, rather than through traditional letting agents following a survey by HomeRenter. The findings are quite interesting, with the following high on the list of complaints:

  • High fees and poor service (52%)
  • Bad Tenants (50%)
  • Managing Repairs and Maintenance (42%)
  • New Tax Rules and Regulations (37%)
  • General Admin Headaches (33%)

Now there’s not much we can do about new tax rules and regulations with the exception of keeping you informed, but the other four are very much something we can help with, in fact these are same complaints we had when we decided to set up Haboth Lettings. For too long we thought that landlords were paying over the odds for the service they were getting so not only are our fees some of the lowest around (7.5%) we reduce them further for portfolios of 5 or more, we also don’t load the difference on finders fees which for fully managed properties is just £149.99. Everything else really just comes down to good old fashioned customer service, making sure we select the right people in the first place and staying on top of issues. It seems simple right? But all too often we get landlords saying they manage the properties themselves because the service from their agent was poor. Our Managing Director and Founder, Sean Peters, has 15 years experience of dealing with demanding blue chip companies who demand the highest levels of service and communication. That approach to customer service is at the very foundation of what we do at Haboth. We use specialist providers such as KKC Facilities Management for maintenance and Let HQ for tenant checks who can deal with a reference far quicker and cheaper than we can, so we can minimise your admin headaches and keep costs down.

There were similar frustrations from the other side of the letting relationship with tenants airing their frustrations too, 70% saying they’d prefer to deal with landlords directly. The main complaints here being:

  • Unreasonable Fees (42%):
  • Having to chase for repairs and maintenance (41%)
  • Paying security deposits (36%)
  • Poor service (33%)

This has an element of deja vu about it doesn’t it? Would it surprise you to know that some agents charge the same fees to tenants AND landlords. We thought this was scandalous. As we are an online agent with no high street stores and associated overheads, we are able to keep our costs to a minimum so we don’t charge tenants fees at all, just a £25 application fee to cover the cost of checks, and we are close to eliminating this too, making us truly a fee free agent. The rest, again, is just making sure we look after our customers.

One comment that was made by a particular landlord was they didn’t feel the fees were aligned to the service they were getting and preferred to take a “do it yourself approach”. This was also something we felt was missing in the lettings market. There are parts of the process you would be comfortable doing yourself but typically there are two options (Let Only and Fully Managed) and two fees, so if you are only looking at Let Only, regardless of how much you require your agent to do, the fee is the same. Not here, we build a bespoke solution just for you staring at £84.99, just part of the flexible service we offer.

All the findings and comments really struck a chord with us here at Haboth as they were the exact same complaints we had  as landlords and were exactly why we set up Haboth in the first place. So if you are reading this and finding yourself nodding along to the findings above, please get in touch on 0333 012 4895 and hopefully our fresh approach to lettings will restore your faith in letting agents.

 

Posted by & filed under Landlords, Regulatory, Tenants.

Data! It’s a valuable commodity, and one which has come in to sharp focus in recent weeks, with the scandal engulfing Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and (amongst others) the US Presidential elections. It is therefore quite poignant that new regulations covering how organisations look after your data, are just around the corner.

May 25th 2018 sees the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR is an EU wide set of rules for the handling and storage of data of EU citizens and will remain in force once the UK leaves the European Union.

Don’t we already have the Data Protection Act for this sort of thing? The short answer is yes but the GDPR retains a lot of this but there are significant changes too. So what’s new?

Firstly it’s worth understanding why this affects tenants, landlords and us, the letting agent. We, as “data controllers” handle a lot of data from you the “data subject”. This can range from name and address to bank details and this is information we’re sure you wouldn’t want falling in to the wrong hands.

Firstly we will need to map out how the data is used, from how and why we are collecting it to how it is stored, who can access it and finally how it’s disposed of, a real cradle to grave approach if you like. Next we need to identify the lawful basis we have for processing the data, i.e. which of the following reasons we are collecting it for:

  •  Consent
  • Performance of a contract e.g. it is required to create the AST
  • Legal Requirement e.g. right to rent checks.
  • Vital interests e.g. life threatening situations.
  • Legitimate interests e.g. collection of rent arrears.

Finally you as the data subject have certain rights and we as the data controllers, certain obligations in relation to what we do with your information and it’s in part why you will have been asked to “opt in” in order to continue receiving marketing materials from some organisations, these rights are as follows:

  • Right to be informed about the collection and use of your data and why it is being collected.
  • Right of access to that data so you are aware of it and that it is correct.
  • Right to rectification if any of the information held is inaccurate.
  • Right to erasure so that the data can be removed/deleted if circumstances allow.
  • Right to restrict processing as an alternative to erasure so there are limitations on the use of that data.
  • Right to data portability should you wish to obtain copies of the data held for your own uses e.g. a credit check.
  • Right to object to the data being collected. This particularly relates to supplying of data to third parties, which we simply would not entertain at Haboth

In short, this is about offering more transparency to you the data subject, so that you know what information we have, how we use it and importantly we have YOUR consent to have it and retain it.

Haboth takes the confidentiality of all landlord’s and tenant’s data very seriously we will never provide your data to third party marketing companies and businesses, are registered with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) for peace of mind and a copy of our data handling procedure is available upon request. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0333 012 4895 or hello@haboth.com

The full GDPR can be found on the ICO website and the RLA also have a useful guide to the industry specific implications.

 

Posted by & filed under Landlords, Regulatory.

Part of our job here at Haboth is keeping everyone (landlords and tenants) up to date with the latest laws, rules and regulations and April will see an important change concerned with a property’s energy performance. At present it is unlawful to advertise a property for rent (or sale) without a valid EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). The EPC is nothing new, anyone renting, buying or selling a property in the last decade will be familiar with an EPC, the indicator of a properties energy efficiency ranked from A-G, which is valid for 10 years.

So What is MEES?

From April 1st 2018 however, we will see the introduction of MEES or Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. This will require any properties being let from this date to have an EPC rating no lower than an E, this not only includes new tenancies but also any tenancy renewals, extensions or when a statutory periodic tenancy comes in to effect. From April 1st 2020 ALL rental properties must have an EPC rating of E or above and those that do not will need to be brought up to the required level, a civil penalty of £4,000 will be imposed for breaches

Are there any exemptions?

In short yes there are but it should be seen as a very last resort and in the following instances, a landlord can apply for an exemption:

  • They have undertaken those improvements which are cost effective but the EPC rating remains low.
  • Where they are unable to obtain funding via the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), Green Deal Finance or local authority grants.
  • The tenant denies access to the landlord in order that the improvements can be made.
  • If evidence from a professional (e.g. Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) can be produced that the proposed improvements will devalue the property by more than 5%.
  • There will be no requirement for wall insulation, where verified by an independent body (e.g. installer) that the installation of any insulation will have a negative impact o the fabric of the building.

The RLA has more information on exemptions, exclusions and enforcement here.

 

What Should I do next?

Well the first thing you need to do is check your EPC, your letting agent should have a copy or if you are a private landlord a copy of your property’s EPC can be found here, and make sure that the rating is at least an E, if this is the case you need take no further action. If it is an F or G rated property then you will need to take the appropriate measures to bring it up to the required standard. Each EPC will also provide you with a potential rating alongside the current one. Just below the rating is a list of the top three actions you can take to improve the rating (some of these are available with Green Deal) and finally each element of energy efficiency such as lighting, heating, insulation is given a rating out of five so you can see exactly where your property falls short, thus allowing you to take the necessary whilst consulting with an EPC provider such as Nationwide EPC.

If you have any questions about whether your property is ready for the change, please contact us on 0333 012 4895

Posted by & filed under About, Tenants.

During our last blog, we talked about how Haboth is looking to change the way letting agents are viewed by landlords. This time we want to explain what we can offer to tenants, to make the letting experience better.

Being a letting agent is a slightly unique business when it comes to customer service. We as a letting agent have two customers with each transaction, the landlord who has entrusted us with their property, an asset, which is often a way of earning a living or an investment for the future. Then there is the tenant, for the tenant, the property is their home and should be respected as such. We understand this unique three way customer relationship and always make sure we treat both parties with respect.

For some time now, the government has been discussing the banning of letting agent’s fees. This ban was supposed to come in to being in April 2018, but due to the ongoing Brexit negotiations, has been postponed until 2019. With this in mind we have set up Haboth to be prepared for this, making sure that fees are low for tenants now and that they won’t need to be passed on to landlords (which will inevitably lead to higher rents) when the time arises. Our organisation has been set up to be as stream lined as possible so we can ensure that tenants are checked properly and regulations adhered to without that cost being passed on to either tenants or landlords. For example, many agents will charge for created or reissuing a tenancy agreement, sometimes to the landlord and the tenant, our standard agreement takes five minutes to complete so you will never be charged for this, the same goes for inventories or checks, it’s all part of the service.

We are even going further in our attempts to making sure moving home doesn’t cost the earth and is fairer to tenants. We have started working with Canopy using their Deposit Free scheme. Instead of paying a month’s rent (or more) as a deposit, tenants can now save hundreds of pound not to mention help you improve your credit score, more on that another time.

We’re also committed to making sure repairs are carried out as soon as possible, again this

Finally we are always looking to improve on the service we offer and will be explaining in coming months more about the following:

  • How we are best positioned to respond to and fix repairs.
  • Online applications.
  • Online reporting of maintenance issues.

Everything is designed to make being a tenant or landlord easier.

We are geared up to find the best tenants and keep them happy so they stay as long as possible, to find out more, contact us on 0333 012 4895.

Posted by & filed under About, Landlords.

In our last blog we touched on an article in the Guardian, which alluded to the sentiment that neither landlords or tenants were entirely sure, what letting agents did for their money. Well there was a time when I felt like this as well, being a landlord I had become disenchanted by the service being offered by high street letting agents and was shocked at some of the cost tenants and landlords have to face and decided there had to be a better approach to renting property.

With proposed changes in the law, there are some uncertain times ahead in the rental sector and there has been much concern from landlords and tenants alike about what this will mean for them, our fees cover all admin costs meaning we can keep rents down and landlords profitable when the introduction of a ban on fees comes in to force in 2019. The prices on our website are the prices you will pay.

We try to offer the ultimate flexibility, offering a truly bespoke solution so that you can let your property in a way that is most comfortable to you. You may be hands on and happy to do most things yourself, you just need help with the marketing, or you just want to receive your rental income and not worry about the property from month to month, we can create a plan to suit you, we will even work with your favoured trades people if that’s something you prefer.

Over the coming months we will cover off topics such as MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards), Agents Fees, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) Compliance so that you are kept up to date with the latest regulations.

We work with recognised bodies such as The Property Ombudsman, DPS, UKALA so you can be assured you are safe and legal at all times. We will market your property on Zoopla, Rightmove, social media and here on our website and our streamlined approach means we seek to get all applications completed within 72hrs of receiving them so your void periods are kept to a minimum.

Finally we have sought out partnerships with leading professionals to give landlords the best deals on mortgages, insurance, conveyancing, home buyers reports and maintenance and work closely with Let HQ and Canopy to make sure you get the best tenants and they pay on time (more about this in a special blog soon).

Our aim is to make sure you only ever need to have one contact when it comes to your rental property, we’ll take care of everything else. We are exclusively a letting agent providing a high street service at online prices, working hard to make sure your portfolio works as hard for you as possible.

 

Contact us on 0333 012 4895 or hello@haboth.com to find out how we can help you.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorised.

Firstly if you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit our website and for staying long enough to read our blog.

We would like to use this first post as a way of introducing Haboth Lettings to you and giving you an insight as to what sets us apart from other lettings agents.

Haboth Lettings has been established to make sure being a tenant or landlord is as stress free, pleasant and fair an experience as possible. It is our intention to bring award winning customer service to the rental sector. The customer service roll within letting is an unusual one, in so much as we have two customers to take care of with each transaction, the landlord and the tenant. For the landlord, the rental property is an asset, a form of income or part of their pension, for the tenant, it is their home and here at Haboth we respect both of these equally.

Since setting up Haboth, I came across this article by Penny Anderson in The Guardian, it’s from 2014 but it struck a chord, in particular the following:

Tenants and owners hate letting agents

Bad blood festers mostly because nobody is entirely sure what letting agents do. If tenants request repairs, they are usually referred straight back to the owner, and owners wishing for help with delinquent tenants are left to cope alone. Growing animosity is fuelled by the enormous fees paid by both tenants and owners, sometimes for the same service, such as £300 for photocopied contracts. I know from contacting previous landlords that expensive references are frequently not pursued, and yet we still pay for them.

This is exactly the reason Haboth was set up, to change the perception that letting agents don’t offer a valuable service.

Whether we as letting agents believe this to be fair or not is irrelevant, it is the perception held by the two most important groups of people in our business, the tenant and the landlord, and it is one we at Haboth will endeavour to change through strong communication and by offering great value, including the drive to eliminate admin and move in fees without passing the costs on to landlords.

Over the coming months, we will cover a variety of topics here, such as why we are the right choice for landlords and tenants, regulation changes, market updates and focusing on some of the businesses we have partnered with to help make being a tenant or landlord a more pleasant and fair experience.