Day in the Life of Commercial Agent

I pick up my morning coffee at Kaffeine on Eastcastle Street (one the best coffee shops in Fitzrovia I might add), before I meet contractors and our Head of Management on site at some offices we have recently let on Great Portland Street. We have had complaints from other tenants about the noise as they sand the floor and we therefore need to manage the expectations of both parties and inform the other tenants. Thankfully we come to an agreement.

I next take a short walk over to see a property close to Harley Street with one of our Graduate Surveyors on behalf of a client who has instructed us to acquire investment commercial property. As a firm of Chartered Surveyors in London we cover a range of property and it is a good opportunity for our Graduate Surveyors to learn all aspects of surveying and commercial agency work. After finishing the inspection we walk back to our offices in Margaret Street to write a report for our client, recommending that they view the property.

Our weekly Commercial Agency team briefing is next on the agenda. We meet for a quick bite to eat at one of the cafés or restaurants on Goodge Street where we discuss new developments, investments and potential on and off market properties. Our commercial property agents cover all areas of London and we regularly keep up each other up to date about our core areas such as Fitzrovia and Noho/Soho. It’s also a great opportunity for us to arrange access to properties early and get a foot in the door for our retained clients to see new opportunities in London before many others.

This afternoon my first job is to inspect a property on behalf of a landlord on Wells Street, W1 with one of our building surveyors to assess what works are required by the outgoing tenant for our surveyors to complete a Schedule of Dilapidations. With the outgoing tenant on a Full Repairing and Insuring lease, it is paramount that we inspect the premises thoroughly to ensure the landlord and their property are protected and the premises is given back to us in a good state of repair and redecoration, ready to be put on the market to let as soon as possible. The inspection went well and the outgoing tenant was very accommodating.

I get back to our offices on Margaret Street and put my “tenant” hat on. This particular tenant came across Davis Brown online and they contacted our commercial agency department to help with a rent review their landlord has served on them. The rent has doubled and no comparables have been supplied to support the landlords rental increase. As a commercial agent one of my roles is to search for comparable evidence in Fitzrovia, W1. Commercial agents are fully aware that rents in Fitzrovia and surrounding areas such as Soho/Marylebone increase year on year but it is imperative to ensure our clients pay a reasonable rent for the commercial premises that they let. After some research, we were able to support a considerably reduced rental increase (with evidence supporting such) and submitted a reduced rental increase in our clients favour. As always, rent reviews are not done in a day, but we are confident that the evidence supplied and our commercial agency experience in the area, especially W1 will stand us in good stead to facilitate the correct outcome for our clients. As with all rent reviews, providing excellent evidence of the local market is essential, whether you are acting on behalf of a tenant or a landlord.

Back with my “landlord” hat on, final job of the day was to inspect a small office suite which the current landlord is considering letting on Goodge Street for the first time after his current tenant of 20 years has decided to retire. As with inspecting properties for a Schedule of Dilapidations, it is always good practice to be honest and up front with landlords to advise what, if any, works, you feel need to be undertaken to ensure the best rental income for them. Very little works were required on the premise (which is not always the case, especially if the premises have not been put onto the market for some time) and the landlord was happy to listen to our guidance and advice. After a thorough inspection and discussions on the current market trends and new tenants expectations from today’s market, I am happy to say that we agreed terms and I am looking forward to taking the marketing photos after minor redecorations works have been carried out and adding yet another property onto the Davis Brown Commercial Property portfolio.

After a busy day, I start to look forward and think about what tomorrow will bring…

If you would like further information about Davis Brown Commercial Agents services, contact our office in Fitzrovia on 020 7637 1066 or email us at info@davis-brown.co.uk

Being a Landlord just got harder…

Are you aware of the new legislation brought in this year?  Or the government’s new proposals for 2016?  Being a Landlord has got a lot harder in 2015 and with new proposals for 2016, it isn’t going to get easier.

Davis Brown Chartered Surveyor’s and Estate Agents in W1, London are here to help and we have put together a brief outline of the changes brought in this year.

Let’s begin by re-capping over the new legislation brought in over the course of 2015….

  • Tax relief

 

The Chancellor announced in his summer budget that the current 10% wear and tear allowance will be scrapped and from April 2016 Landlords will only be able to deduct the costs they actually incur for replacing furnishings, whether the property is furnished, un-unfurnished and part furnished, in their rental properties.

 

  • The Deregulation Act 2015

 

These new rules have been brought in to prevent retaliatory evictions, i.e. serving a Section 21 notice if a tenant is complaining about disrepair.  From 1st October 2015, any new AST or fixed term replacement tenancy will restrict a Landlord’s ability to serve a Section 21 Notice if:

  1. The tenant has made a written complaint about the condition of the property or any common parts (N.B. The Act states that the agent and tenant must put the complaint and repair report in writing).
  2. The Landlord or their agent has not provided an adequate written response in 14 days or responded by serving a Section 21 Notice.
  3. The tenant informs the local authority who serves a Relevant Notice or carries out emergency remedial work.
  4. N.B. The Tenant is protected from eviction for six months from the date of service of that notice, regardless of whether they raise the issue with the Landlord first.
  • Changes to Section 21 Notices

 

The Deregulation Act also introduced a number of changes to when a Landlord can serve a Section 21.  The good news is that Landlords do not have to specify that the tenancy must end the last day of a periodic tenancy. However, the new rules do specify that a Landlord cannot serve a Section 21 Notice within the first four months of a NEW tenancy.  A new template notice must also be used for tenancies that start on or after 1st October 2015.

Unfortunately, the administration involved before the tenancy commences has become more arduous and a Landlord or their agents must ensure the following information is supplied to the Tenant otherwise Landlord will not be able to serve a Section 21 Notice:

  • A Gas Safety certificate  covering fixed and portable appliances
  • The Energy Performance Certificate
  • The Government’s ‘How to Rent – The Checklist for renting in England’
  • Any required Licences
  • Changes to Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations

 

The Government introduced the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations (2015) and so from 1st October 2015, Landlords will have to ensure that a smoke alarm is fitted on every floor of their property and install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where a solid fuel is burnt.

It will be the Landlord or their agent’s responsibility to check the alarms work at the start of each new tenancy and also demonstrate this to the tenant.

 

So, what’s in store for 2016?

Rent to rent

From 1st February 2016 and under Section 22 of the immigration Act 2014 a Landlord is not permitted to authorise an adult to occupy their property unless they have the Right to Rent in the UK. A Landlord or their agent must therefore first establish who will live at the property and obtain, check and copy one or more original documents which demonstrate their Right to Rent in the UK.  If the Tenant’s permission to stay in the UK is time limited, you must ensure you make a follow up check. If the follow up check shows the tenant no longer has the right to remain in the UK, the landlord or their agent must report this to the Home Office.

What if I don’t comply I hear you say? Well, you could be fined up to a hefty £3,000 per occupier!

 

There is no doubt that the process of letting a property has become an administrative minefield and a Landlord has a lot to prepare before you can even hand the keys over the Tenant.  Our agents at Davis Brown are ARLA qualified which means that we continuously keep up to date with new legislation to ensure our clients are protected.  We undertake a detailed and lengthy administration process to ensure the right checks and documents are served before the tenancy commences.  Our in house property management team specialises in Residential Property Management and if you are not already using our services, why not give us a trial run?

Contact us today for more information about our fees.

Top tips from our Commercial Property Agents in W1 to prepare vacant property for winter

Winter is officially here! As daylight hours diminish and temperatures drop, now is the time to start preparing and protecting your vacant property before the cold weather sets in.

The threat of damage to vacant property during winter is real and can cost thousands of pounds to repair as well as potentially delaying new occupants from moving in.

Davis Brown are Chartered Surveyors, Estate Agents and Commercial Agents in London providing services for both residential property management and commercial property management. We have prepared some simple steps to fight the freeze and prepare vacant property for winter.

1. Drain down

 

Many property owners underestimate the catastrophic effect that water damage can have on vacant property. Cold weather can trigger water systems to freeze and lead to burst pipes, causing significant damage and water ingress resulting in a major clean-up bill costing thousands of pounds. Draining down the water system as soon as a property becomes vacant is a cost effective and preventative measure to eliminate water damage and ensure the property is covered by insurance

2. Inform your insurer

Darker evenings often result in an increase in crime. Shorter days provide more opportunities for criminals to work under the cover of darkness, often leading to a rise in malicious damage and property insurance claims during the winter months. Remember, you are required by law to inform your insurer immediately when a property becomes vacant. They may have specific requirements to ensure your building is properly covered.

3. Check guttering

 

Gutters and downpipes can be damaged by frost. If there is a blockage in a downpipe caused by leaves or twigs, the trapped rainwater could crack or shatter the downpipe if it freezes. Blockages can also cause water to spill over and saturate walls causing masonry surfaces to freeze in cold weather and lead to further structural damage.

4. Clean and clear

 

All properties should be cleaned and cleared of rubbish to avoid creating hygiene hazards and prevent pest infestations. Any combustible materials should be removed from the building.

5. Safe and secure

 

Vacant property can become an easy target for vandals, trespassers and squatters and according to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) prolonged hours of darkness provide the perfect conditions for opportunistic crime. A range of cost effective and innovative solutions can be employed for vacant property security and surveillance ranging from anti-climb paint, alarms, regular inspections and monitoring to manned guards.

6. Inspect for mould

 

Mould growth through a lack of heating and ventilation can be a serious problem in winter months. The allergens, irritants and toxins produced by mould can pose a health risk to humans. Professional treatment will keep it at bay and protect properties for the long term.

7. Roof repairs

 

Water damage caused by leaking roofs in the winter months may compromise the rest of your property, and can be particularly hazardous as it may not be noticed for some time until it is too late and serious damage has occurred. The most common causes of a leaking roof are cracked or missing tiles or slates, broken or unsealed flashing, and points where the chimney or vents join with the roof. Additionally, lead flashing has been an increasingly common target for metal thieves so it is recommended to kill two birds with one stone by performing a simple check to prevent water damage and reduce the risk of metal theft. If in doubt, ensure you seek expert help as roof repairs and maintenance can be very dangerous.

8. Window treatment

 

Windows exposed to the hot sun in the summer and then cold temperatures in the winter can develop cracked seals from the continuous expansion and contraction. This can eventually cause the seals to break, allowing moisture to get between the glass, resulting in a white haze forming between the glass. Additionally, condensation can form on the inside of windows during the winter months, so make sure the window-sills stay dry on the inside as frequent exposure to water can lead to rotting wood.

9. Utility turn off

 

All services such as gas and electricity supplies should be turned off in vacant properties to reduce the risk of gas leaks and potential fire threats. Regular meter readings should be taken to ensure there are no discrepancies with previous tenants, and undertaken on a regular basis to ensure no usage.

 

We hope you enjoy the Christmas period and wish you a successful 2016. If you are interested in using our services, or have a vacant property and wish to instruct Davis Brown Commercial Property Agents in W1, please call us on 020 7637 1066.

 

 

 

Disclaimer

Davis Brown accepts no liability for the above statements.

Festive Feasting

Who doesn’t love to feel the spirit of Christmas wherever we go at this time of year? Our homes, the office, the streets of London – literally everywhere is sparkling and twinkling with all things pretty and festive!   In recent years, restaurants have got in on the festive cheer action too, with some going the whole hog and converting their feasting space into something magical and Christmas-themed.  One such example is the Coq D’Argent restaurant near Tower Bridge. For 3 months each year this restaurant turns into the Lodge D’Argent, transforming its wonderful terrace in a stunning apres-ski lodge themed bar, with sheepskin rugs, vintage ski paraphernalia and snowy mountain scenes.  So if you’re longing for a vin chaud and tartiflette on the snowy slopes of Mirabel, this could be the next best thing!

A little closer to us at Davis Brown estate agents in Fitzrovia, is the Churchill Bar & Terrace at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Portman Square. It has also undergone its annual winter makeover –transforming into an enchanting Narnia-inspired hide away to bring out the inner child in you.  Enter through a wardrobe door (of course!), and snuggle up under a cashmere throw, while indulging in a beverage from the hot chocolate inspired cocktails list!  Could it be more cosy?!

Other bars who have made the effort to be seasonal are the South Pole Saloon in Brixton, with Christmas-themed sharing cocktails and winter warming grub. The Grotto Outre – is a very different type of experience.  Hidden down the alleyways of Shoreditch is a secret and very much adult wonderland – experience it if you dare!  Several Christmas markets are dotted around the capital at this time of the year – South Bank being my most favourite with it’s wonderful backdrop of London iconic buildings.  Happy festive feasting!

London Area Identities: Our Favourites!

London is one of the world’s largest cities, as well as the most populated city in the European Union.  Although it is one big city, London can be broken down into different areas, each with their own identity and personality.  In total London is made up of 33 boroughs which spread over 35 miles.  As estate agents in W1, we know that there is something for everyone – whether you want to be in the heart of the theatres in Covent Garden, or the quiet streets of Bayswater, there’s an area to suit you.  Having been estate agents in W1 for many years, we have got to know all of the different areas pretty well, and so we thought we would put together a brief profile of our favourites.

Bayswater

A quiet and residential area of London, key to the identity of Bayswater is the long residential streets with white stucco fronted Georgian terraced houses. As estate agents in W1, whenever we think of Bayswater, these beautiful roads are the first thing that comes to mind.  With a large variety of schools, parks and property on offer, Bayswater is the epitome of central London living for families.

Soho

Situated just South of Oxford Street, the area of Soho covers approximately one square mile.  With our offices in Fitzrovia, we are often in Soho and it is one of our favourites.  Characterised by old converted buildings, and market stalls galore, it is one of London’s more unique areas.  Residents are spoilt by variety, with upmarket shops like Liberty, to vintage shops such as Bang Bang. In short, Soho is a diverse, eclectic and exciting area, with a strong community feel.

Covent Garden

Artsy and utterly charming, Covent Garden is one of the most famous areas of London.  Tourists flock here to see the huge selection of shows on offer including the street artists in Covent Garden Square.  St Martin’s Theatre for example shows the world’s longest-running production, The Mousetrap. There is also the stunning Royal Opera House, which has been entertaining people for over 200 years, and is also home to the Royal Ballet Company.  Full of energy and life, as estate agents in Fitzrovia, we know how popular Covent Garden is to live in.  For those that want to be at the forefront of all things West End, Covent Garden is the area for you.

Marylebone

With its epicentre, Marylebone Village, voted ‘London’s Favourite Street’, it is impossible not to fall in love with Marylebone.  Lots of estate agents have their offices in Marylebone, as there is a wealth of stunning properties on offer from traditional terraced houses to big, period mansion blocks.  Identifiable by its luxurious brands, boutiques and cafes, this wonderful area is the place for those looking for a small community feel in the heart of the city.

Fitzrovia

Our home! As estate agents in Fitzrovia, with roots dating back to 1901, this area has to be our favourite.  With over 6,500 residents today, Fitzrovia has finally been recognised as an area in itself, as opposed to simply an extension of the West End.  Artists and writers alike fell in love with the area, and residents such as Virginia Woolf, John Constable and George Orwell helped to establish the area as a creative and bohemian hub.  Characterised by its diverse mixture of new and old, Fitzrovia features quintessentially British establishments such as Pollock’s Toy Museum and the BBC.  Streets such as Goodge Street and Charlotte Street are some of the most famous locations within Fitzrovia, and are steeped in history and intrigue, with Blue Plaques dotted everywhere.  As estate agents in Fitzrovia, we take a keen interest in the heritage of our home area and we can promise you that there is far more than meets the eye!

For more information about property in Bayswater, Soho, Covent Garden, Marylebone or Fitzrovia, contact Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1.

 

The Queen of the Forest – Christmas in Trafalgar Square

Each Christmas everyone seems to have the dilemma of when is appropriate to put up their tree.   We here at Davis Brown Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in Fitzrovia got in the Christmas spirit early and our tree was up and looking pretty at the end of November – I know, I know…    However delightful our little tree is, the most celebrated of all the Christmas trees in London – without argument, is the soaring Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar_Square_Christmas_Carols_-_Dec_2006

Ever thought about the origins of this magnificent tree? Well if you didn’t know, let me enlighten you – the story behind it is a story of friendship and solidarity between two countries.  A yearly gift from the city of Oslo to the city of Westminster, it was first given in 1947 to commemorate the British support for Norway during the Second World War.

The ceremony during the felling of the tree has also been a tradition for many a year.  A few English school children join several groups of Norwegian school children in a silent forest just outside Oslo.  Everyone is drinking and eating, holding hands and singing while the tree is felled.   The tree is a “she” and she’s usually around 45 years old and 30 feet tall. She’s is not left to fall but respectfully lifted skywards by a crane, and the journey to London begins.  Erected on 1st December, the Queen of the Forest (as she is known) comes to life again as the hundreds of white lights adorning it are switched on.   Well worth a visit over the Christmas period.

(I know we’re still in November But…) The Magic of Christmas Starts Now!

“We several Estate Agents from Davis Brown W1 are” (meant to be sung in the style of “We 3 Kings of Orient are” – I won’t give up my day job…) are very much in the Christmas spirit, having just put up our very pretty office Christmas tree. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a carol or 2 to be sung somewhere spectacular, and being estate agents in Fitzrovia we are lucky enough to have a plethora of carol services practically on our doorstep.

All Saints Church, our neighbour on Margaret Street has a few carol services to choose from, starting on Tuesday 15th December, then Friday 18th December at lunchtime, and on Monday 21st the 9 lessons in carols. If you pop along on one of those dates you will be likely to hear the dulcet tones of some of us at Davis Brown estate agents (oh what a treat!). On Tuesday, 1st December we have “Carol Singing through Mayfair”, with the Grosvenor Chapel Choir and local residents, starting at the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square at 6pm.

All Saints church

Services are also taking place at Trafalgar Square, which is very well known for it’s magnificent tree, beneath which the carols are sung; singing starts here on 11th December until the 22nd. The Royal Albert Hall hosts an annual singalong service from 13th Dec to 24th, and if you fancy a bit of celebrity spotting head to St Pauls Cathedral from now until Christmas Eve. You couldn’t really ask for places with a more Christmassy atmosphere, so get ready to clear your throats and join in with the festive cheer, and in some of the capitals most stunning buildings.

Royal Albert Hall

 

Places for Pooches

24 percent of households in the UK own a dog, and the number of dog owners in London is most definitely growing.  Several of us at Davis Brown estate agents in have pooches, and so not wanting to leave out our four-legged friends let me share with you a few of their finds around the West End.

Dog Blog map

 

SusanAs the official Davis Brown office dog, at lunchtime Bertie likes a stomp around Fitzrovia with his owner, office manager and head of residential and commercial property management, Susan.    He loves the welcome he gets at The Crown and 2 Chairmen 31-32 Dean Street.  This old school boozer in Dean Street in the heart of Soho welcomes our dogs with a stroke and a lovely big bowl of water – just what’s needed after a hard day at the office!

 

LisaA bit closer to us at Davis Brown estate agents is the Newman Street Tavern.  Described by some as having a rural atmosphere, but being in the centre of town.   Hungry hounds and owners alike can settle in for the evening in this cosy pub, everyone’s welcome! Lisa our property manager enjoys taking Ruby there after a walk.

 

 

Sarah-JaneThe Society Club in Ingestre Place, Soho is for the more cultured canines.  A little gem which combines books, art gallery and a members club.  You can also get your paws on signed first copy editions too. Sarah-Jane, our residential negotiator loves to take her book loving pooch Tara for a read on a Saturday afternoon.

 

 

EmmaDuring the festive season, it’s fun to be preened and pampered, but let’s not forget that our pets love a good pamper session too!  Pet grooming parlours are few and far between in the West End so the closest to us is Primrose Hill Pets at 132 Regents Park Road. Emma our residential sales and lettings manager is looking forward to taking her man Sebastian down there for a trim before the Christmas Holidays!

 

So thank you to all our local establishments who open up their doors to our dogs.  And if you want to come and meet Bertie, or indeed would like to chat to one of our agents here at Davis Brown, please feel free to pop in and see us at 1 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia.

 

Anything could happen in the APC Final Assessment

October has passed and another wave of eager graduate surveyors have walked the gauntlet of the APC final assessment to come out as RICS qualified chartered surveyors. As I continue to gather my experience in order to become a qualified commercial chartered surveyor in London I always listen out to what has happened to others who have already been through final interview, picking up unique advice that you wouldn’t expect to hear in a training lecture.

This is based on the assumption that I am prepared, and not doomed to failure as soon as I walk through the door; however, as always, there is the potential of several scenarios cropping up that are outside of your own control.

  1. If you are asked about an event within your competencies that you have mentioned make sure you can remember what you actually did! If for example you valued an office unit within Fitzrovia and can’t remember what happened clearly, there is a good chance you could be interpreted as not having a clue, and you no longer look like you have the capability to be a chartered surveyor based in London.
  2. Remember that panel members do not specialise in every part of the property industry. Try not to be patronising, however if someone looks confused make sure they follow what you mean – you may need to use different wording for an agent in W1 than you would for another surveyor in Bournemouth.
  3. If your CRIT has an error in it be prepared to fend off some tough questions which may start along the lines of “you have either done this because you are incompetent, your PA did it because you are lazy, or you are hiding something” – as happened to a friend of mine, but don’t worry there is an answer for everything as he still managed to get out alive and pass!

Some other titbits of advice my fellow APC colleagues have given me are below – yet the main thing they have reminded me of is: ‘You have no control of your panel, they could do anything… especially if they have had to spend hours in the same room all day’. Baring this in mind, I am preparing myself for:

  • Randomly being asked questions completely unrelated to any of your experience (that guy who just loves talking about sustainable buildings or dry rot)
  • Being asked repetitively ‘are you sure about that?’ The likelihood is they are tired, stressed, bored, and desperate for a coffee – don’t think of it as a reflection of your work.
  • Suddenly being presented with a pile of foliage (or photos of foliage) – this genuinely did happen.

Even though the above may seem like an attack on the panel, I must keep in mind that sometimes your nerves can get the better of you. So when asked a question totally out of the blue – such as ‘what is the price of a brick?’ it is advised not to respond as this recently qualified London based chartered surveyor did with ‘**** if I know.’ Remarkably the panel found it hilarious and appreciated that even estate agents in W1 are not expected to know the price of an individual brick.

Despite the above events, my friends and colleagues have succeeded in qualifying. This proves to me that, as long as I am prepared on the day, fortune is in my favour, no matter what random question on bricks or foliage is fired my way!

 

(Written by John Eden – Graduate Surveyor at Davis Brown)

Illuminating Oxford Street!

I can’t believe I’m about to use the “C” word already but here goes nothing…  the tradition of lights at Christmas time came about in the 17th century.  This was way before we had electricity, so the only way to do this back then was to use real candles which were attached to dried out Christmas trees – very pretty, but elf (ha!) and safety wouldn’t be too happy about that these days!

Nowadays, with the use of electricity and the health and safety people hot on our heels we have come on leaps and bounds with our festive decorations.  As we have seen in more recent years not only our houses, but our streets have also been adorned with illuminations, and the turning on of the Christmas lights is a sure sign that Christmas is on its merry way!   Our beloved Oxford Street – just around the corner from Davis Brown estate agents in W1, had its lights turned on 2 weeks ago by Kylie Minogue no less.  Christmas lights first adorned Oxford Street in 1959; 5 years after Regent Street’s light went on.  Due to recession they were turned off between 1967-78, and since 1981 celebrities have been invited to join in the annual ceremony. The first celebrity to turn on the lights was in fact the Venezuelan born Miss World Pilin Leon, and since then other (sometimes questionable) celebs have been involved.  Richard Branson in 1993, Anita Dobson in ‘86 (Den and Ange storyline was big at the time..),  Jessie J in 2013, Spice Girls in 1996 and old crooner Cliff Richard in 1990.  And just to make you feel old, 10 years ago it was those fresh faced boys from the Green Isle – Westlife.

Davis Brown Estate Agents and Commercial Agents will be adding to the festivities of W1 with our very own decorations, so feel free to pop along to 1 Margaret Street for some Christmas cheer!

Christmas Ox Street