Things to consider before buying a home…

Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement.  Wait!  That house may seem like everything that you have ever wanted, but before you make an offer, take some time to consider a few things as well as the size, style and price.  When buying a house, it is easy to let emotions get in the way of reality, much like life.  I regularly find that buyer excitement brings on a sudden case of amnesia about many facts that will make a difference.  Some times people want something so badly they won’t ask the relevant questions upfront.  There is nothing more frustrating for our vendors than having a purchaser start asking obvious questions 6 weeks into the transaction; (after both parties have spent money on legal fees) and then threatening to pull out of the purchase.

My advice to all potential buyers is to do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions – to both the vendor and yourself- right at the start of the transaction.  In addition, always be prepared to answer any questions the agent may ask you at the start of the transaction.  After 30 years experience I still find couples arguing 6-7 weeks into the transaction when they utter the line, “I told you you should have asked that when we first looked at the house.”

If you are thinking of building an extension or altering the property make your enquiries with the local authority at the start.  You can then establish whether your proposed olympic-size swimming pool will be approved.

It is not the seller’s fault when you establish the day before exchange of contracts that the property cannot be turned into the house of your dreams.

Establish all the facts early on: what you want from the property and what the estate agent needs from you.

Ask a professional – it’s our job….

I am often asked by landlords what they can do to protect themselves in case their tenant disappears overnight, owing rent.  Firstly, I would implore any potential landlord to employ an agent when drawing up the tenancy agreement.  That way you can trust a responsible letting agent to have made all the necessary enquiries to satisfy themselves of the suitability of the tenant.  I have lost count of the number of times a landlord has said to me that they met their tenant through a mate down the pub who uttered the immortal words, “He’s as good as gold.”

6 months and no rent later, landlords wish that they had employed an agent.  A past acquaintance of mine always used to come out with the infamous comment, “I have been talking to an expert down the pub”… Whether the subject matter was rentals, brain surgery or rocket science, this expert always knew best.

Whilst I am not the man to perform a frontal lobotomy, I (and other professional letting agents) am the man to go to to ensure that all the necessary checks and precautions are made before the start of the tenancy.  And should the worst case scenario occur of a tenant defaulting, then I have the professional means and knowledge to at least attempt to resolve the situation.

 

What is the difference between a Section 8 and a Section 21 notice?

What a fantastic question this is! (I know, I need to get out more often).

In very simplistic terms, you serve a Section 8 when the tenant has done something wrong.  The most common cause is rent arrears although there are many other breaches of the tenancy agreement which can be listed as grounds to issue a Section 8.

A Section 21 is served when the landlord simply wants the tenant to vacate the property at the end of the tenancy or during a periodic tenancy. Even though a Section 21 is called  a ‘Notice of Possession Order Form’, it does not mean that you are in trouble, it simply means that the landlord wants his house back at the end of the agreement.  It is a legal document that protects both parties.

I cannot stress how important the correct completion of the forms and the actual timing of the issing of the notices (both section 8 and 21) are.  If you make the simplest of mistakes be prepared for a judge to dismiss the matter immeditately and tell you start the whole process again.  The reason behind this is that the law is the law and whilst the judge may sympathise with your case and reasons for issuing a Section 8, if your paperwork is not in order, he will have no option but to kick it out.

Whilst the internet is a wonderful tool and these forms are available online, I would urge landlords to resist the temptation to do it themselves: get the services of a professional.

Landlords’ Responsibilities

Despite writing my weekly blog and always being on hand to answer peoples’ questions I still feel that there are many landlords and potential landlords out there who still are unsure of many of the most important issues that arise from being a professional landlord.  Hopefully I can address some of these here:

My gas safety certificate has run out, what do I do?

In short, get one – now.  Whatever you are doing, stop it and get a gas safety certificate.

My tenant is complaining about the loose carpet on the stairs, what shall I do, do I have to do anything?

The answer is no, until they trip over and break their neck, then you get sued.  In this situation (the loose carpet, not the broken neck), I would advise a landlord to use common sense.  If something looks dangerous or broken, then it usually is.  Make sure that there are no obvious health and safety hazards.

Tenants ask me, “I can’t seem to open or close my windows properly, does my landlord have to do anything?”

The answer, is yes, he does.  A landlord has a health and safety obligation to make sure that the house is serviceable and habitable. If someone doesn’t like the colour of the paint on the window frame, then tough, but if the window doesn’t open properly that is an entirely different, legal, health and safety issue.  The point I am trying to make is, if things get this far the law of tort comes into play.  This means that a landlord has to respond within a resaonable period of time and more importantly, act reasonably.

 Do I have to have a smoke alarm in the property that I am going to rent out?

Surprisingly enough, no you don’t. Whilst it is wise to have one and as an agent I would be more than a little concerned if a landlord refused to fit one in their property, the law does not state that a rented property has to be fitted with smoke alarms before it is leased to a third party.

What as a landlord am I legally required to repair for tenants?

Anything that involves their health and safety.  I have been rung by tenants complaining that two light bulbs have gone in their hallway.  Other than ‘oh dear’ I don’t have anything else to say as it is wholly their responsibility.  If on the other hand, the centre light is hanging from the ceiling with wires exposed, I would ensure that an electrician is sent round immediately.

If I have a problem as a tenant, do I ring the landlord or the letting agent?

If the property is managed, always contact the agent. If the property is handled by the landlord, then ring the landlord.  No matter what you think, if it is a managed property, going directly to the landlord and ignoring the agent, will not speed things up – usually it has the opposite effect.

Do I have to know the landlord’s contact details?

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 it states that a landlord must provide an address where they can be contacted.  Please note, this does not have to be their residential home.  Even if you know where your landlord lives, but it is not the address that you have been given, don’t go round there.