Tenants allowed pets? Whatever next?!

Naughty dog home alone - yellow labrador retriever destroyed the plush toy and made a mess in the apartment

The Labour party have recently proposed that every tenant should have the right to keep a pet in their rented property. It is common practice for many Landlords to forbid pets within a property, and this can lead to eviction if terms are broken in the lease. This could end up being a vote-winning tactic by the Labour Party appealing to ‘the many’ that are unable to own a pet. The question is whether this is actually feasible and what would the actual consequences be if every tenant had the legal right to have a pet in their rented accommodation.

Every pet owner is aware of the amount of damage that can be caused, however well trained they may be. Taking this into account would the Landlord be able to charge a higher deposit to pet owners to cover the damage? As many may not declare owning a pet prior to moving or acquire one part way through the tenancy would this result in rental deposits increasing for all tenants so the Landlord can cover the damage at the end of the term? If so this could prevent people from moving into a new home as the initial rental costs become too high! If plans come into cap deposits, as has already been proposed, we may end up with some very unpleasant contaminated flea ridden properties. Let’s not forget that not everyone looks after their pet as well as you may do.

Pug dog having a siesta an resting in bed on a pillow on his back , tongue sticking out looking very funny and wrapped with blanket

For people out there who highly allergic to pets you could have a lot of thinking to do. You may have specifically chosen your apartment block or shared accommodation because of a strict ‘No Pets’ policy. Well sadly for you, this could no longer be the case so get prepared to find a new home if a pet owner moved in to the same building!

It is common for many Head leases to prohibit any pets within a block! This means that it is impossible, however hard a Government may try, to force the Landlord of the rental property to give permission for pet access, as they themselves are restricted by the over-riding Head lease. Has this been considered by those who made the proposal?

It can often be the case that tenants who can keep a pet are longer serving tenants, and often people are forced to give away their animals to rescue centres if they move into home where pet ownership is not allowed. Giving all tenants the right to have a pet therefore appears to be a very liberating concept. There are however, so many glaring pot-holes, some of which mentioned above, that this would likely create far more problems than it was actually worth.

 

 

There’s a rat in my kitchen, what am I going to do?

Kitchen pilferers. Now we know who steals meal!

Music is a wonderful thing and thankfully there is  a song for just about every situation.

Up on the 4th floor where all the property management magic happens, we like to keep it light while we scurry around trying to get to everything.  We have a nice team up here and there are moments of banter and hilarity despite the pressure (and probably because of it!).

The song of the week up here is “Rat in my kitchen” by UB40 because unfortunately we are not the only things scurrying about, and lately there have been quite a few reports of rats and mice in some of the properties we manage.

Self-doubt immediately crept in and began gnawing at us (sorry- couldn’t resist!).   Who is responsible  and what can be done?

We turned to one of the pest control companies we use for some facts – knowledge is power after all !

There is a great deal more to effective pest control than meets the eye and it turns out that rats and mice are very versatile creatures capable of causing severe damage to properties including fires from chewed electrical cables, spreading diseases and contaminating furniture and goods.

rat in pot

They are also very good at reproducing, and an occasional sighting can quickly turn into an infestation if immediate action isn’t taken.  Mice are apparently more of a problem than rats because they are drawn to warmth and food sources  and tend to nest in close proximity.  Both need to gnaw on things constantly to keep their incisors short as their teeth grow  constantly.

The general consensus is that poison in appropriate bait boxes is the most effective way to deal with them along with traps, although there are more humane “catch and release” options.

It appears that the best way to combat a mouse or rat problem is to first remove any obvious food sources and then to make sure they do not have easy access to your home by taking measures to cover any holes or gaps in walls and around pipes (apparently steel wool is effective for this). Fixing a bristle strip to the bottom of doors can help too. Follow this with a comprehensive pest control treatment which should be repeated every 6-8 weeks for at least 3 treatments to be sure.

Some of the properties we manage are residential blocks and multi-tenanted commercial buildings and most of our activities in this sphere of property management are limited to the common parts.  Our pest controller’s advice is that sometimes it may be necessary to extend the treatment regime to the tenanted areas  as well as the common parts because the pesky critters will ignore the tasteful bait box in the lobby  and will happily play hide and squeak  and have a “mice” time in the office or flat next door!

Awww rats – that’s enough for now – make sure you read the lease on who is responsible for pest control in tenanted areas but keep an open mind that a wider approach may be necessary and treat the appearance of rats and mice immediately.

Good admice sorry – advice!

 

 

 

 

What might have occurred before the Party Wall Act…

Did you ever wonder how we managed before ‘The Act’ or how it may have helped to ease neighbourly relations if it had been available when some historical structures were built? There must have been a bit of trouble with the neighbours from time to time. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and you can’t build a wall the breadth of Scotland without risking a ‘Glasgow handshake’.

In what follows, we explore some examples from antiquity of grumpy adjoining owners, builders from hell unrestrained by the wise and conciliatory determinations of a brace of party wall surveyors and rampaging building owners. 

Before the Party Wall Act………

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa in Tuscany, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most recognized and famous buildings in the world.

The leaning tower of Pisa is surely one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world. It is the campanile or bell tower of Pisa cathedral. Its construction spanned hundreds of years and was supervised by legions of architects. Generations of adjoining owners suffered and no doubt fumed. Here we imagine how just one of the neighbours may have grumbled about the usual things. 

A letter  from a Concerned Neighbour 

The Villa Cassandra

Via Pandora 13

Pisa 

1st April 1198

Snr. B.Pisano

Architect

Pisa Cathedral

Sir,

Re: The Bell Tower

It is with mounting irritation that I find it necessary (yet again) to write to you with a complaint about your building work at the cathedral site which adjoins my property.

As if it were not enough having to put up with the blood-curdling screams of the English stonemasons every time they whack a finger with a mallet – I know they are cheap but do you not see their monumental incompetence – it is now clear that your building is not straight by which expression, as if it needed explanation, I mean vertical. It leans, Sir; it leans. If it leans any further, the bells, if the English don’t steal them first, will be entirely in my airspace.

The reason for the tower being, forgive my directness, ‘p****d’ is that the masons are short-changing your client by using smaller stones on the side out of view. My poor great-great grandfather would turn in his grave, knowing that he had allowed this monstrosity to be built on what the Holy Father was pleased at the time, to call “the line of junction”. The floors slope so much now that I regularly throw back articles that have fallen off into my garden. I have a fine collection of mallets, chisels, a lump hammer that brained my wife’s favourite cat and what I take to be a mason’s ceremonial codpiece.

We were told that “projecting footings” might be placed on our land. Blow the footings, the whole darned thing is on our land.

Another thing; when will it be finished?  The work started at least four Popes ago. You are the umpteenth architect, your predecessors having died of old age or boredom. At the present rate of progress, the chiming pocket watch will have been invented well before ‘topping out’ and the whole exercise will have been futile.

Your engineer, Snr. Da Vinci is beyond a joke (is he really an engineer? He spends his time drawing naked boys and girls – I see him from my window). When he last visited me to check the inclination as he puts it, he said “This tower”; his actual words, mind, ”is good for a thousand years”. Well, really! One puff of wind and the whole thing will be a pile of rubble in my vineyard – and who’s going to pay for it to be cleared up?

I will and have, put up with most things; the overpowering stench of fish and chips from the stonemasons’ mobile canteen, impenetrable clouds of dust from their stone cutting (which has wrecked my rhododendrons) and their vile shrieking penny whistle music; but the endless procession of artisans’ donkey carts with their unwashed drivers trundling up and down Via Pandora day after day, is the giddy limit. This is a superior residential locale, not the fishermen’s quarter of Naples’. You know very well how much we pay in Council Tax to live here!

They are not supposed to work on Sundays but they do. They collect up the dung shed by their incontinent beasts and on Sundays hawk it around as garden manure; as if I would let English donkey doo-doo anywhere near my roses.

I urge you to abandon this ill-starred adventure. There should be a law protecting the interests of those unfortunate enough to share a boundary with the criminally insane.

Your troubled and long-suffering neighbour,

G.Galilei

INTERIOR TRENDS of 2018

Being Estate Agents in W1, Fitzrovia we like to keep our ear to the ground of what’s hot & what’s not in the Interiors World.   With many top notch interiors show rooms in our vicinity,  it’s easy to do just that!  2017 saw the rise of all things copper, marble and green, and as we step in to 2018, we have asked Emma to give us her thoughts on interior design predictions for the year ahead and the trends that she would like to hang around for a little longer.   Here’s what she said…

G R E Y is here to stay!

3D illustration. The interior of gray bedroom with a wooden table

It’s probable this neutral hue is here to stay. And why not? I love grey. It’s timeless and looks great in any interior. It is a versatile colour and is often used as a base colour of an interior scheme. Lighter hues can create a bright, crisp and simplistic setting while warmer and darker hues can create something more moody, cosy and sophisticated. It works well to pair them together or you could create a contrast by adding vibrant and bolder colours. I am a bit of a sucker for piaring lighter and darker shades of grey with soft pinks or emerald greens – sumptious!

We are G O L D!

Gold Light blog

Gold is the metal of 2018. A little more sophisticated than copper, gold compliments pinks, navys and greens. Think gold accessories – door handles, candle sticks and lighting. I love antique gold and brass accessories. I am currently using Olson Pendant lights from Heals for my latest  interior design scheme in Fitzrovia.

V I O L E T S are blue!

Rendering of a Modern chic classic luxury white European interior with violet velvet sofa

 

Pantone released Ultra Violet as 2018s colour of the year. I’m not sure I could paint an entire room in it (remember Rachel and Monica’s apartment from Friends!) but I’ve always quite liked tones of purple linked subtly to a scheme. Purple is associated with Royalty and could make an interior look fabulously regal. If you’re a bit like me, you could use it in a couple of scatter cushions, a lamp shade or perhaps some glass door knobs on your favourite cabinet for a change.

W A L L  A R T  C L U S T E R

photo or painting frames set

Cluster together your favourite prints, photos and pieces of art to create your own wall gallery. If you have tendancy for order though, this might not be for you but a wall gallery can look really effective and is a chance to display all your favourite pictures.  Choose your wall carefully and think about the ratio of the number of frames to the size of the wall.

Pantone 2018

Grunge purple interior with modern sofa - rendering-the art picture on wall is a my composition

Each year a colour is chosen by the company Pantone as Colour of the Year.  You may have got wind by now that the pantone for 2018 (“pantone” meaning “a system for matching colours”, not to be confused  with “pannetone” an Italian sweet loaf cake, often scoffed around Christmas time), is…wait for it…18-3838, also known as Ultra Violet. Yup, an I-mean-business, in your face, shocking vibrant purple – pretty much describes this shade.  This colour is no shrinking violet.

Purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. The colour has also been known to represent wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic. Each year the shops become awash with the chosen colour, so you’ll have plenty of ultra violet to get your hands on if you wish to do so, but what can we realistically do with this proud purple colour?  Unless you connect with all of the above/ are Barbara Cartland/want to make a really bold statement, I would err on the side of caution and use sparingly.  Accent your bathroom with a hand towel or a toothbrush holder and soap dispenser.  A cushion or a vase in the bedroom or sitting room will add a splash of colour.  But my best tip would be to find some beautiful purple flowers, they’ll die naturally (so no need to feel guilty about throwing them out), they’re inexpensive, and it would be the perfect, diplomatic, subtle nod to the colour.  The perfect win win situation!  And just as a side note – Davis Brown. estate agents in W1, will not be changing the colour of their logo any time soon..

 

Predictions for the UK Property Market in 2018

London Skyline

2017 was an unusual year both in the UK and overseas, showing increased uncertainty in the UK property market. BREXIT has been hugely responsible for this uncertainty within the UK and there have been signs that the number of deals decreased towards the end of 2017 as investors became increasingly cautious. It looks like this may continue into 2018 as negotiations in Europe and other national and global political decisions remain completely unpredictable. So how could this affect the UK property market in the next 12 months?

Although companies are being more cautious the office market, especially in Central London, is expected to remain relatively active. This is primarily due to a significant lack of available office units on the market. In London’s West End much of the development, over the last couple of years, has been the conversion of office blocks to residential units. This includes projects like Centre Point at Tottenham Court Road creating in excess of 80 luxury flats. In 2017 Davis Brown (being estate agents in Fitzrovia) continued to let offices in Fitzrovia despite concerns that activity may slow as companies were becoming reluctant to move or even move to cheaper locations outside of Central London. This is expected to continue into 2018 as there are a limited number of offices on the market, and rents achieved are likely to remain consistent.

As consumers’ attitudes change increasingly towards purchasing online, along with the worry of increased inflation, it has been predicted that secondary high streets are likely to struggle, whereas main streets with flagship stores are less likely to be affected. Despite this, areas such as Kentish Town Road are becoming more popular locations. New leases have just been agreed with increasingly upmarket brands and this will attract further retailers and likely result in overall rental increases in the area.

This continuing change in shopping behaviour has increased the requirement for industrial warehouses and distribution centres. Over the last few years demand for industrial units has increased leading to rental increase and continued development, so likely to remain an attractive investment to many investors.

The residential property market struggled in 2017 due to a change in Stamp Duty – particularly in Central London and on second homes. The severe lack of housing still means there continues to be a rise in rents and increase in sale prices in highly populated areas. Incentives made by the government to assist first-time buyers have not been sufficient for many people to be able to buy a home, especially in London. This has resulted in many unable to get out of renting a property, putting increased demand on the rental sector. The RICS have recently predicted that an additional 1.8 million rental homes will need to be built by 2025!

Despite certain markets appearing to remain strong the level of uncertainty is likely to remain high for many investors, so as a result will be focusing on more risk adverse assets. Properties occupied by tenants with strong covenants for lease terms in excess of 15 years similar to the Nuffield Centre in Newbury, currently on the market with Davis Brown, are likely to appeal more to investors as the rental income is guaranteed.

We can only wait and see what happens to the UK property market over the next 12 months; however it may not be as bad as many scare-mongers believe. As the pound still remains low it is likely that many overseas investors will continue to invest.

 

Hello, I am calling to report a leak..

flooding in luxurious interior. 3d creative concept

It’s 3am in the morning and your peaceful sleep is shattered by a panicked call from a leaseholder in a prestigious block.

There is water pouring into their unit from the flat above, and while you try to calm them down,  you begin to recite the lyrics to REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it” to yourself.

Your mind is filled with visions of their Yorkshire Terrier (which they are not allowed in terms their lease) dog paddling across the engineered wood floor in their living room (which should be carpeted).   Who will you call? How long will it take  for them to get there?  Where is the water valve for that building? What about the flat below? Insurers will need to be notified!  Maybe I should call an electrician to make sure the Yorkie isn’t electrocuted, why does it always happen at 3am?  The list goes on….

Finally you manage to get the flat owner off the phone, so you can in turn get hold of that firm that promised they offered a 24 hour emergency response service for situations just like this.

Is this really your problem?  As a conscientious property manager you will probably be trying to help despite the fact that your function is (mostly) to manage the service charge and the common parts.  In a block, leaks are always going to be a possibility (perhaps probability is a better choice of word!).

It’s a good idea to send a copy of your building insurance policy schedule to everyone with a covering note.   Leaseholders are legally entitled to have a copy of the insurance schedule anyway, so this is an ideal opportunity to highlight how they can help reduce leaks.  You may suggest that they regularly check that their appliances are correctly connected and that the waste/supply pipes are securely connected.  You might ask them to check that mastic seals around the shower and bath or kitchen sink are in good condition and that waste pipes are not leaking.  You could even go further and remind them to let you know if they are remodelling or altering their premises because these works carry an inherent risk of leaks into the flat(s) below.  You could ask them to let you have current contact details  – you never know when you will need them!

At 3 am in the morning though, please make sure you ask them if they have knocked on the door of the flat above first before you call that expensive 24/7 emergency plumber…!

Dilapidations, Explanations….Apply within.

Extensive mold growth throughtout the walls and ceilings of a home

In all the excitement of moving into your smart new premises, don’t forget that one day you are likely to be moving out again. This will come at a cost. I don’t mean just the removal company’s bill. If you are a lessee of commercial
property in the U.K., you will have a liability for dilapidations.
Your lease will impose obligations on you as a tenant. You will probably have to keep the property in good repair. You will certainly have to decorate shortly before your lease expires. You may also have to reinstate those expensive alterations you carried
out when you moved in. This will often come as a shock and usually as a large and unexpected expense, too. What can you do about it?
Take professional advice before entering into a lease. A Chartered Building Surveyor can provide a report on the condition of the property and, if you are planning to occupy a part of a building, the state of repair of the parts you may have contribute to the cost of maintaining through service charges. This may enable you to negotiate a reduction in your liabilities. Develop an exit strategy in good time. Prepare for your departure by setting aside funds to meet your liabilities. Ask your surveyor to have a look around close to the termination date. Do not leave the place in a mess. Even if
you decide not to redecorate and to take your chances with the landlord, remove those trailing cables gushing from floor boxes. Make sure the lights are all working.
Do a professional clean. Leave the space fit for occupation.
These simple measures will help to make your exit less painful.

2017…OVER AND OUT!

As 2017 draws to a close, my team and I have been reflecting on 2017’s property market. As with any market, there have been some peaks and troughs. We came to the conclusion that 2018 might be another tough year and if you are a Landlord or a Vendor, our motto for 2018 will be ‘dress to sell’.

To summarise the property market in 2017…

The year end lull of 2016 continued into early 2017. Buyers were reluctant to buy and vendors were reluctant to reduce asking prices. Who to blame/what to blame? Stamp duty, Brexit, changes to Landlord tax, BTL lending .  For those of you are interested this is great article to read: https://www.economist.com/news/britain/21730914-first-time-years-capital-performing-worse-rest-country-londons

Buyers were nervous, prices began to fall and we saw an increase in activity and offers. Despite a pretty turbulent start to 2017, the lettings market remained pretty steady which should make Landlords breathe a sigh of relief.

It became more apparent over the year, the flats that were well presented and dressed beautifully, were attracting more attention and achieving the best possible price we could achieve on the open market. We therefore took a look back through our Top 3 ‘best dressed’ properties of 2017.

If you are a vendor or a landlord and you are struggling to sell or rent your property, perhaps this should be something to consider?  Being Estate Agents in W1 , we offer services in residential sales, lettings and interior design.

F I T Z R O Y  S Q U A R E

1stpic

(Interior Styling by EHG Home)

M O R T I M E R  S T R E E T

pic2

(Interior Styling by Davis Brown)

F I T Z R O Y  S T R E E T

pic3

 

 

The New 2018 EPC Regulations

Energy labels with home on white background. Vector illustration

For most people the carbon footprint of their rental property isn’t the top priority when looking into next year.  However, as of 1st April 2018, any rental property which doesn’t comply with the changes to the Energy Performance Certificate regulations could actually cost you money and your ability to let the property.  As this deadline approaches we consider the main issues.

The issues of EPCs have long been contentious issue within the property industry creating uncertainty among landlords and agents alike. Earlier this year the Dept. for Energy & Climate Change finally completed the 2018 EPC regulations, which set out the minimum level of energy efficiency for private rented property in England and Wales. This means that as of 1 April 2018 it will be unlawful to let or lease a property that has an EPC rating lower than E.

These new EPC requirements apply to both domestic (from one-room flats to detached houses) and non-domestic properties including factories and offices. The changes to the regulations will be based on CO2 emissions for commercial property and on fuel costs for domestic dwellings.

So what does this mean for Landlords? You could find it increasingly difficult to let a house/flat or renew a commercial lease when the EPC rating is below an E. Government data shows that between 2008 and 2015 35% of non-domestic buildings that went under an EPC survey achieved an E,F or G rating as did 26% of domestic properties surveyed within the same time frame. This suggests that a significant proportion of the UK rental market could be affected by these changes, unless changes are made to improve their EPC rating.

As so many properties will need changes making by April next year to comply, this could well affect rental prices in the market. The upgrade costs to make sure properties comply with the regulations could be expensive, potentially forcing landlords to increase rent to cover those costs. The new regulations are also likely to have a significant effect on market value where poor performing properties will decrease in value due to their inability to let them without carrying out works.

Enforcement of these regulations will fall to local Trading Standards Officers and will have powers to impose civil penalties determined by the property’s rateable value. If a let property is found to be in breach of the Regulations and a penalty is imposed, the lease between the landlord and the tenant remains valid and in force.
Where the breach is for less than three months, the fine will be the equivalent of 10 per cent of the rateable value of commercial properties, subject to a minimum penalty of £5,000 and a maximum of £50,000 and £2,000 for residential properties. Where the breach is for more than three months, the fine will be the equivalent of 20 per cent of the rateable value for commercial properties subject to a minimum penalty of £10,000 and a maximum of £150,000 and £4,000 for residential properties.

Penalties for a single offence may be cumulative, up to a maximum of £5,000. Further penalties may be awarded for non-compliance with the original penalty notice where a landlord continues to rent out a non-compliant property; however, penalties would be cumulative up to a maximum of £5,000. The landlord can be awarded a further penalty if they keep offending.

If you’re a landlord and are worried about the upcoming changes, the first step is to talk to experts who can advise you on your situation. A local energy assessor will be able to offer you tailored expert advice and give you an EPC if you need one.  Even if a property doesn’t meet the required standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be faced with a large repair bill for energy efficiency upgrades as some properties will be exempt.

Whatever your circumstance, there’s still time to prepare your property before the new changes take effect. If you’re still unsure, it is advised you receive an expert overview to make sure you are complying with the regulations, but with only a few months to go, it’s better to act sooner, rather than later.