Tips to bring the outside in

 

This article is a guest blog post from Paul Matthews, Director of Auburn Hill Orangeries who has been designing and building bespoke conservatories for over a decade.

A place in the home that should be suitable for relaxation, celebration, to reflect or gather with friends and family, Paul shares his insider’s tips on creating the perfect space between the home and garden.

Tips to Bring the Outside In

Although it means giving up a little garden space, a garden room can dramatically boost your property value.

conservatoryIt’s estimated that a conservatory alone can add 5% to the overall price of your home, but whether you’re looking to adapt your home for a profit, or improve your existing property, conservatories have stood the test of time as the most popular home extension to make.

From quirky orangeries to traditional extensions, a garden room removes the boundaries between interior and exterior space, giving you a place to enjoy your home and garden without having to put up with any typical British weather.

Bringing the outside in can ensure your home feels lighter and brighter, as well as enabling you to create a space that suits your needs. Be it a place for entertaining guests at a dinner party, or a relaxing family living room.

Fine Details

As with any build or extension approval will be needed, but don’t let this hinder your creativity.

conservatory2In most cases it is essential to stay faithful to the properties original structure, but even by adding full length windows, verandas, balconies and terraces to existing rooms, gives you the chance to open it up to the views and surroundings that are on your doorstep.

Always discuss with the architect or designer about how you’re going to live within the room, to help the space be built in the most organic way possible that will fit in with your way of life.

Botanical Beauty

If you’re the green fingered type and a dab hand in the garden, styling your room in a traditional botanical prints will make it in keeping with your taste.

conservatory3There are now a number of attractive wallpapers that offer interesting designs, to bring the beauty of nature inside, without feeling like you’re going over the top on the florals.

Add some of your favourite exotic plants into the room, but don’t let them dominate the space and become unruly, as a cluttered space will attract a cluttered mind, and it could soon become a room that leaves you feeling stressed rather than relaxed.

Add in a bistro-style table and chairs for an alfresco dining area, and you’ll instantly have a space that feels as though it could be in the garden rather than the home.

Rustic Design

Many people feel that as traditional garden rooms are full of fanciful florals and wicker furniture that the same has to be done to their own extension.

conservatory4But the truth is the new room is an extension of your existing home, so it should try to keep in style with your current interior design to give a smooth transition from room to room.

Despite neutral tones or beige, white or mocha commonly being used for this space, darker tones can work just as well if the furniture is displayed in a flattering manner.

Duck egg blue, moss green and even charcoal grey are trend lead colours that offer a neutral palette without such starkness. Combined with natural furnishings of oak or pine, the warm wood will offset the colour tones within the décor.

Adding cosy fabrics of tartan blankets and fluffy cushions, will provide you with a room that’s even fit for cold winter days watching the rain.

All at Sea

Nautical interior design is a fun option, especially if you have a young family, as you can include their collected shells from a day on the beach and hang their art upon the walls.

sea-675054_1280Pinstriped furnishings are a great way to hide any mucky fingers, and it can be easily smartened up for impending guests.

The colour scheme of nautical décor offers itself well to the garden room in the summer, as it fits perfectly with the feeling of summer holidays and gives a positive atmosphere for all that enter.

No matter the style that you choose for your garden room, make it a place that fits in with your current way of life. Many times the rooms can be added without any thought process behind how it’s going to open up the rest of the home.

 

Think of it as an entire space rather than a separate room, and you will find you have a more spacious home that offers not just a comfortable home, but also a more relaxed lifestyle.

Ten Top Tips to Ensure You Keep Your Rental Deposit

 

It’s easy when researching your next new home rental, to stumble upon horror stories of landlords keeping people’s deposits. While those horror stories do occasionally exist, certain safeguards such as the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme have been put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen.

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The Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme has been set up, and does protect both landlords and tenants by holding deposit monies in an approved Government scheme. However, there are caveats and certain conditions which can mean tenants aren’t guaranteed to receive their deposit back. For example, if for some reason a landlord feels that a property has fallen into disrepair, and it was of the tenants’ own doing, the price of repairing those damages would be taken from the deposit, (if this is laid out in your tenancy agreement).

With this in mind, here’s 10 tips to ensure you keep your rental deposit.

1. Tenancy Agreement

Always read your tenancy agreement – it lays out explicitly what is and isn’t expected of you. For example, some Landlords allow pictures to be hung as long you fill in any nail holes and re-decorate at the end of your tenancy, some specify that they do not. Stick to the agreement. If hanging pictures is important to you to make you house feel like a home, and your agreement dictates you can’t, there are other things you can do to personalise your rental home, without risking your deposit.

2. Photographs

Take your own automatically dated photographs and pay proper attention to the ones within an inventory. Always make notes of any existing damage so that you can’t be blamed for it. This will safeguard you for the future, should a particularly disgruntled landlord try to find excuses for withholding your deposit.

3. Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme

Ensure your deposit is held in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, there are three of these in England and Wales.

These schemes give both the landlord and the tenant peace of mind that the deposit monies have been lodged in safe hands.

4. Bill Payment

Make sure your rent and bills, such as gas, electricity, telephone and Internet, are all paid promptly. It’s your responsibility as a tenant to take care of these utilities, unless otherwise stated in your agreement. Failure to do so, may very well cause problems and give your landlord grounds to terminate your tenancy – particularly if you fall into debt.

5. Report Repairs

Although allowances can be made for general wear and tear depending on the length of the tenancy agreement, it is a landlord’s decision on what is reasonable and what is excessive dilapidation, so it’s essential you report any required repairs as soon as possible and that you carry out those such as a blocked sink or toilet caused by you. This will also put you in ‘model tenant’ territory, and maintain a good relationship with your landlord.

6. Basic Housekeeping

Keep the property clean and tidy. A build-up of grime isn’t easy to shift and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are leaving it in accordance with the inventory and schedule of condition. Carpets should be cleaned regularly, as well as a general deep clean every quarter to ensure your home remains manageable.

7. Floor Protection

Protect wooden floors with castors on furniture legs and wheels. Rugs over open spaces not only help to reduce damage to floors, but also add warmth and texture into your home. Floors can scratch easily; therefore prevention is far better than cure in this case.

8. Gardening

If any gardening is required, this would normally be outlined in the agreement also. Some Landlords offer their own gardener and include the expense in the rent. Be sure to check what is required of you. If it gets out of hand, this can prove costly.

9 . Vacating Premises

Make sure you leave the property empty or charges can be made to have your stuff removed. This includes an excess of rubbish, unwanted furniture and any other items that were not on the initial inventory.

In some cases the landlord may be happy to take any unwanted furniture off your hands for future tenants. In this situation it’s always best to ask beforehand, rather than presuming.

10. Disputes

If there’s a disagreement with a landlord about how much deposit should be returned, your Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme offers a free dispute resolution service, so contact them as soon as possible. It could mean the difference between only receiving part of your deposit and getting the full amount back.
Final Thoughts

A lot of the tips above are general common sense. Treat the property with respect, courtesy and look after it while you live there. Put yourself in the home-owner’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if someone damaged your home.

A little respect can go a long, long way and may just save you your deposit as a result.

If you are looking for a rental property, contact your local Whitegates office. We have thousands of rental properties to choose from – you can be sure to find the right home for you.

Top Energy Saving Tips For Tenants

It is well known that being a little more eco-conscious in your home can save you money on your bills. However, when you’re a tenant in a rented property it can often feel like a bit of a struggle to achieve this level, as you aren’t usually able to make changes to the property yourself.

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We’d like to share our top tips for tenants to achieve ultimate eco-warrior ranks, without losing your deposit. We’ve also covered things you could ask your landlord to do in order to save even more money on your bills, and put the property into the eco-warrior homes’ hall of fame!

What you can do

Defrost your freezer

Not only will defrosting your freezer free up oodles of space, but it will also make it run more efficiently and prolong its lifespan. Now that is eco-friendly!

Freezers are a major drain on your eco-conscience as not only do they use power to cool inside, they also kick out a lot of heat outside. Re-packing your freezer more efficiently and filling up any air gaps can also make it run better and use less power.

Wash clothes at 30 degrees

Less energy, less heat, less cost, clean clothes! Cynics of this idea claim that germs cannot be killed at such a low temperature. In fact, you can now pick up ‘extra germ killing’ washing tablets at the supermarket, which are designed to work at lower temperatures. Perfect!

Conserve water

This is especially useful for those with water meters installed in their property. Instead of running the tap when peeling potatoes, why not fill a large bowl and use to peel? When brushing your teeth, why not turn the tap off whilst you brush? Showers use less water than baths. In fact, a five-minute shower uses around 45 litres less water than a standard bath. Saving water is great for the environment, and for your energy bills when it comes to hot water!

Install energy efficient light bulbs

Replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones can save you massively in the long run. Some energy efficient light bulbs can last as long as 20 years, whilst traditional filament bulbs have an average lifespan of around 6 months. Tesla light bulbs may be in style at the minute, but they’re pushing up your energy bills and your carbon footprint. Energy efficient lightbulbs are no longer the ugly, awkward-shaped beasts they once were. Today they are available in an array of more elegant shapes and sizes. Make the change!

What your landlord can do

Is your landlord aware that making their property eco-friendly could be in their best interest? Eco-friendly properties are considered more desirable for many potential tenants, and are more likely to stay longer-term in a property that is eco-conscious. This is partially because of the money they save on energy bills, but also because it shows that a landlord cares about the property and instils trust. Such properties are generally finished to a higher standard with care and attention put in and visible to all.

Perhaps you could point your landlord in the direction of grants and loans that are available to them to make the house more energy efficient, such as the Green Deal. There are a number of things that landlords can do to improve the house on an economic level, including:

Installing new windows

Triple glazing is best but if that’s out of budget, good quality double-glazing will do the trick. New windows eliminate drafts that old windows may have let in. If the glazing has an inert gas layer between the panes, less heat will be conducted out of the property and you will therefore spend less money on heating bills. There are also special coatings that can be added to new windows to make them more efficient still.

Draft proofing

Covered slightly above, but extended to doors and other areas of draft. It’s a simple step that can save the average household £25-£50 a year on energy bills. Windows, doors and loft hatches are the main culprits when it comes to draft zones, but also look at open fires, ceiling-to-wall joints and rooms where moisture is produced (i.e. kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms). Draft proofing by a professional can cost anywhere in the region of £250-£580 but can be done on a DIY level by your landlord – should they be able and willing to carry out such work – for around half this cost.

Loft insulation

It’s a well-known fact that heat rises. Many properties don’t have effective loft insulation in place to stop heat escaping from the roof, which is costing them dearly. By installing loft insulation, you are effectively trapping heat into the property. It goes without saying that the thicker the insulation material, the more effective. However as long as it is above the recommended 250mm thickness, the insulation will be effective.

Cavity wall insulation

Similar to loft insulation, cavity wall insulation fills the gap between the two exterior walls in order to stop heat escaping from the sides of the property. It is usually a fibrous material that is pumped into walls via a number of small external holes. British Gas offers loft and wall insulation for around £700, regardless of whether you’re a customer with them or not.

Install renewable energy methods

This is a larger-scale project, but could save you and your landlord money in the long term. Devices such as roof-mounted solar panels or wind turbines enable the property to produce its own energy. Better still; under some deals the landlord can even sell ‘left over’ energy back to the grid. The initial outlay can be as much as £10,000, but there are various ways to pay this back – including via energy bills. It’s certainly a long-term commitment, but one that makes the property more appealing to many.

Install underfloor heating

Banish ugly radiators and save energy at the same time. Underfloor heating is the choice of the best architects because it distributes heat evenly around the room from below, rather than all from one angle like a traditional radiator. As heat rises, the entire room can benefit from underfloor heating leaving no ‘cold spots’ like radiators would, which also means you can keep the temperature a little lower and still be comfortable, which will save you money!

 

We hope you’ve found this blog useful. Perhaps you have your own energy saving tips you’d like to share via our social media pages? If you have any questions on the above article, would like more tips or more information on landlord grants, contact your local Whitegates branch.

Additionally, if you are a landlord, you may like to see our Landlord’s Guide: Grants For An Eco-Friendly Property.

Going on holiday? 12 top tips for beating burglars

 

It’s the start of the UK holiday season, with millions of us going away for a week or two and leaving our rental properties empty. And there is nothing that an opportunist burglar likes more than a property where he knows he won’t be disturbed.

holiday2The latest UK crime figures* show that in the year to September 2014, there were 789,000 reported burglaries – equivalent to 33 in every 1000 of us being a victim.

Following are some precautionary steps for both tenants and landlords, to ensure security is of the highest level during the summer months, when burglars are at their busiest!

  1. If you are a tenant, you may wish to let your landlord or letting agent know that you will be away, and provide them with an emergency contact number
  2. Set up table lamps and radios on timers throughout the property to give the impression that someone is at home during the day and in the evening
  3. If you have a burglar alarm, make sure it is set correctly
  4. Make sure you cancel milk, newspaper and other regular deliveries
  5. If your driveway will be empty, invite a good neighbour or friend to use it while you are away. This will give the impression that someone is at home
  6. Get the same designated person to check the outside of the property, pushing any post or newspapers / junk mail through the letterbox and removing any packages that may have been delivered
  7. Don’t publicise your absence on social media (such as Facebook)
  8. Remove any keys from windows and door locks – you may be surprised at how easy it is to break a window pane and unlock a window, or hook a visible set of keys to open a door
  9. Hide away any valuables and use a security pen to mark them for extra peace of mind
  10. If you have hedges or large shrubs outside the front of your house that obscure a clear line of view to the front door or front windows, then cut them back
  11. In the back garden, remove or store away (under lock and key) ladders, garden tools, bicycles etc. that could be attractive to a burglar (in terms of helping them break in or stealing it)
  12. For the same reason, lock any sheds and garages. Most thieves don’t carry a toolbox of tricks around with them and will see what they can find in your garden or shed to make their job easier.

Going on an extended holiday?

Don’t forget, if you are going on an extended trip – typically longer than 30-45 consecutive days – check with your current insurance provider as to whether you need to make additional insurance arrangements. (Tenants should also advise their landlord).

Most home buildings and landlord insurance policies, as well as tenants contents cover, will have limitations to the number of consecutive days a property can be empty until the current cover is restricted or even becomes void.
Taking security seriously

Finally, with rental properties, there is often some confusion as to who is responsible for security. We always advise a common sense approach to security and we take the safety of our tenants and the secure maintenance of landlords’ properties very seriously. We can offer advice on most insurance and maintenance issues to help protect you, contact your local Whitegates branch for more information.

Guest Bloggers Wanted!

 

As we continue to grow the Whitegates community we’re always looking to see what our industry colleagues have to say. Keeping up to date with industry websites and blogs is just a one way we make sure our team stays a step or two ahead of what’s happening in the industry.

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We are always active on social media and this year we have some big plans. We will shortly be launching a  brand new website and  we also have some great content planned for our blog this year. As well as a schedule of blog posts, look out for content such as Infographics, checklists for Landlords, factsheets, Q&A’s, comment pieces from our MD, Michael Stoop and more.

On that same note, we’re very excited to announce that we are looking for local property industry experts to provide guest blog post content for the Whitegates blog, starting now!

If you are an expert in the property market in your area, we’d be honored to feature your work on our blog. We are looking for submissions on any property topic, specifically aimed at any of the following:

• Landlords
• Tenants
• Buyers
• Sellers
• Students

Maybe there is a property trend you have noticed in your local area, a type of property which sells well, or not, or an area which is receiving regeneration and/or additional starter homes. Whatever the topic, if its important and interesting to those in your local area, we’d love to hear from you.

Please send submissions of any length – preferably 300-600 words to social@whitegates.com and we will get back to you know when your content will be posted on our website, how we will share it and where you can access it to re-share on your social media accounts.

How to personalise your rental home without losing your deposit

 

Rental properties can sometimes come with all kinds of rules – you might not be allowed to repaint the walls without the landlord’s permission, change the carpet, or even make holes in the walls!

But just because it’s a rental, it doesn’t mean that you can’t give it that personal touch. Read on for some great tips on how to ‘turn that house into a home.’

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Make it all about you

Choose accessories that really reflect your own tastes and styles. Think about what you love – are you a huge music buff or a major sports fan? Adding small reminders that reflect your passions can immediately make a place feel much more “you”. Small, carefully thought out details can really transform a space – by adding some select items, you can instantly add personality and atmosphere into a room, without having to make any major changes at all.

Been to an event that you loved and evokes lots of memories for you? Don’t just leave the ticket stubs in a drawer somewhere – frame them up and put them on display on the fireplace or a table.

Adding your own artwork and wall art to your new home is another very easy way to make it feel more lived in. Make a wall collage from old prints, postcards and other treasures.

Add a splash of colour

Transform your dining room or bedroom with some choice accessories – an oversized throw over the sofa or bed linen will give a significant colour boost. You may have a no-decorating clause in your contract, but there are alternative ways to add interest to walls. You don’t need to strip the existing wallpaper or repaint the walls to add a fresh new colour to your home. Choosing the right accessories can have just as much of an impact – and it’s a lot easier.

Make sure to choose colours that complement the existing walls and carpet of course – go with something monochromatic for a soothing and consistent look, by choosing accessories in a similar hue – or to add a vibrant touch, choose a colour that contrasts instead. It’s useful to look at a colour wheel to help you decide which colours will work!

No holes no problem

Want to create a feature gallery wall but can’t make holes? No problem! Invest in some removable picture hanging and poster strips, which attach frames or artworks directly to walls and can be removed without a trace. Or for a more fun and modern feel, Washi tape can be used to stick up unframed prints. There are so many uses for Washi tape, one of them being making a creative design on your boring white rental wall. Washi tape is strong, although peels right off without damaging your wall.

If you need a guide on how to make a Washi tape wall, head on over to Pinterest, where there are countless DIY projects to get your creative juices flowing.

Alternatively, why not consider some wall stickers? They are cheap and both easy to apply and remove – great! Inspire yourself every day with a new phrase above your bed. Or add some colour and decoration with sticker shapes.

Make it fresh

One of the best ways to give any space a fresh new lease of life is literally by adding new life! Plants are a fantastic way to make any house or flat feel more lived in and comfortable – they detoxify the air, add colour and don’t require any major amendments.

Choose plants that will suit your lifestyle. If you’re not particularly green-fingered, then plants that are easy to maintain – such as terrariums, succulents and air plants are a great choice, as they require little maintenance. But if you do love fresh plants, then be a bit more adventurous! A mini potted tree or exotic shrub that you can look after and nurture will imbue your space with a special touch.

You can also create the same effect with fresh cut flowers instead – fill a bowl or vase with a variety of colourful blooms to uplift the atmosphere of a room.

Make it fit

There’s nothing worse than moving into a new home, rented or purchased, to find that your furniture and belongings simply don’t fit the space. Your existing furniture may be too small or large and imposing for your new room. Many renters put some pieces into self storage until they decide what to do with them.

Storage is key in any home, but in a rental it can be extra tricky as you may be reluctant to invest in pieces to fit a space that isn’t your own, plus you may have to try to incorporate your landlord’s furniture into the mix. Don’t be afraid to use furniture outside of its intended room or context, for instance, a chest of drawers could create handy storage in a living room as well as acting as a side table, or that old tallboy might work as a seating area in the hall for children.

Alternatively, add colour to your furniture itself – try painting pieces with Chalk Paint, which is especially good for adhering to cheap melamine furniture. Or try your hand at decoupage.

Remember, you don’t always have to spend a huge amount to find something that works, check out eBay and pre-loved sites to find a new sofa that fits your living room properly.

 

Finally, when adding new furniture or accessories, always stick to what you love and what makes you happy, and you’ll be surprised at how it helps your rental space come together and feel like home.

5 Steps To Being A Model Tenant…And Avoiding Eviction

 

It’s always best to keep landlord-tenant relationships as friendly and open as possible, but of course sometimes things go wrong.

Since 2010 the number of landlords evicting tenants has consistently increased. In 2014 alone, there was 161,300 total landlord repossession claims issued (Direct.gov).

We’ve put together a list of how to stay in ‘model tenant’ territory, so you don’t have to worry about becoming part of these statistics.

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1. Be Informed On Legal Aspects Of Being A Tenant

Firstly – and perhaps most importantly – know what type of tenancy agreement you are signed up for.

A fixed tenancy will ensure you can live in the property until a fixed date, and are usually renewed on a six or twelve month basis.

If your tenancy goes from month to month (or sometimes even week to week) this is known as a periodic tenancy. Your landlord is within their rights to begin eviction proceedings at the end of your tenancy agreement.

Make sure you know what type of agreement you have in place and only agree to move into a property if you’re happy with this agreement.

Tip: If your tenancy began after 1st April 2007 and doesn’t have a definite fixed period mentioned, then your tenancy is guaranteed for a six month period.

Another legal aspect you need to be aware of is breaching the tenancy agreement.

This could include anything from damage to the property to failure to pay rent, overstaying your term agreement or subletting the property without appropriate permission. Make sure you carefully read your tenancy agreement and adhere to it completely. It is a legal document and is there to protect you as much as your landlord and the property.

2. Look After The Property (Neglect)

Landlords have the right to evict tenants if they fail to upkeep the property to a reasonable standard. Sometimes damage happens by accident and landlords are accepting of this, simply let them know and a good landlord should pay to have the damage repaired. Alternatively you could repair the damage yourself; if you are confident you can carry it out safely and properly.

If you are having difficulty paying for the upkeep of your house you may be entitled to a grant to help you cover these costs. See your local housing authority for more information, or contact your local Whitegates office for advice.

3. Pay Your Bills On Time (Arrears)

Not surprisingly, rent arrears are the most common reason for eviction. Make sure you can afford to pay for a property in the long term before moving in.

Take into consideration unaccounted for one-off costs and lifestyle expenses such as car insurance and holidays – can you still afford to cover the rent? If the answer is anything other than ‘absolutely’, then you should avoid going for that property in the first place.

4. Be A Good Neighbour (Antisocial Behaviour)

Nobody wants an antisocial neighbour. If your landlord is informed of antisocial activity from you, somebody living with you or even somebody associated with your property, you could well find yourself on the path to eviction.

Communication is key. As with any problem, don’t ignore it and expect it to go away; chat with your landlord. Inform them if you think your neighbour has (or will) report you for antisocial behaviour unfairly or maliciously.

Try to iron out any issues with your neighbours directly, a small token of peace offering can often go a very long way in such disputes. Above all, be the courteous neighbour you’d want to have living next door to you.

5. Be Present (Landlord Suspects Property Is Vacant)

Your landlord is entitled to start the eviction process if they have reason to believe you aren’t living in the property. If you plan on living away from your home for an extended period of time – but still wish to remain a tenant there – you should inform your landlord of this. Perhaps you will be working away or going travelling for a while.

If you want to remain a tenant you should of course keep up with all rent and utility bills during this period. If you are living at the property but the landlord mistakes the property as being vacant, you can use utility bills to demonstrate your occupancy.

 

Most of these points are common sense; however if you are worried that your tenant-landlord relationship is on the rocks, or you’d like some advice, contact your local Whitegates branch today.

Ten Points To Consider When Moving From Halls To A Student House

 
Moving from university halls to your very own shared student house can feel liberating and rather grown up. And it is a rather grown up thing to do, which is why you should treat it as a big decision and consider the following…

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1. Choose Your Housemates Wisely

Perhaps you’ll live with the same people you did in halls, or maybe other friends. Regardless, it’s usually a good idea to avoid living with ‘Party Pete’…awesome on a night out, not so good when the night out is in your living room at 3am on deadline week, and where’s his share of the rent again?

2. Make Sure You Use A Reputable Letting Agency

Some students choose to find (often unreliable) landlords on free advertising websites etc. While you may save a few pounds in the short term, when your boiler breaks you could find yourself cold for a very long time after the landlord fails to appear. Choosing a reputable agent gives you peace of mind that your home is safe and if anything goes wrong, it will be fixed quickly.

3. Make Sure Your Deposit Is Held In A Deposit Scheme

As of 2007, ALL deposits on rented properties are required by law to go into a recognised scheme. A Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme protects a tenant’s deposit and ensures that it will be refunded in full at the end of the tenancy providing certain terms are met. All Whitegates local offices hold deposits under one of the three Tenancy Deposit Schemes in England.

4. Factor In ALL Costs

Gone are the ‘all inclusive’ student halls days. Make sure you know what is –and isn’t – included in your rent. Internet, gas, electricity, water and TV licenses all need paying for, and utility inclusion differs from property to property.

Also remember to attain the relevant form from your university to make you exempt from council tax! If you’re going all out and installing Virgin/Sky, remember the installation costs!

TOP TIP: Remember that you require a TV license even if you are only watching TV online. One license per house. Don’t be left with a hefty fine.

5. Lay Out A Chores Schedule

Boring? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. We’re not asking you to go all ‘Monica Geller’ on your new housemates… but sharing the tedious tasks avoids the inevitable arguments in the long run when the one person cleaning the toilet eventually cracks. Tidy space, tidy mind etc.!

On the subject of tidiness, use common sense – be clean and don’t break anything. If accidents do happen, let your landlord know as soon as possible. Treating the property, as if it were your own, will protect you when you come to the end of your tenancy and you need your deposit back.

6. Split Bills Properly

There’s a few ways to do this:

a) Make sure bills are in everybody’s name – not just one person’s. If they’re late andin one person’s name, it could affect their credit rating in future. (It may seem like miles away, but CCJs can stay on your credit file for SIX YEARS, and will stop you getting loans, mortgages or even phone contracts during this time!)

b) Set up a joint bank account – all set up a standing order to pay into the account monthly (or as your student loans come in) and have all bills deducted from the joint account.

c) Share the bills – i.e. one person is assigned gas, one electricity, one Internet etc…

7. Create An Inventory List

A good landlord is likely to create one for you, but it can’t harm to have your own. It’s amazing how much you can forget in a year. “Was that sofa in the living room or dining room?” and “Is the microwave mine or Sarah’s?” “Did we buy the mop or was it already here?”

You can incur charges upon checkout if:

a) Any items are in a different room from when you moved in;
b) Any items are missing or;
c) Any items need removing once you leave

Leaving an ironing board may seem like a kind thing to do, but if it’s seen as litter then is it really worth a removal fee?

TOP TIP: Take photos. Despite having inventory, having photographic evidence of every item as it was when you moved in gives your that extra bit of protection when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of the year.

8. Read Your Tenancy Agreement

Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with all the information you need at the beginning of the tenancy to avoid any nasty surprises at the end.

TOP TIP: Never, ever move into a property without a copy of the tenancy agreement in your pocket. This is the only way to guarantee there’ll be no surprises – and you’re within your legal rights to request one.

9. Do Not Make ANY Changes Without Consulting Your Landlord/ Property Manager

A student house may seem a far cry from your rule-ridden halls of residence, but it’s still a rental property and rules still apply. Whether you think painting an purple wall is a good choice or not, always seek your landlord’s permission first or you could be charged for it when you move out! Even things as trivial as installing a picture hook could land you in hot water.

10. Research, Research, Research!

Research your landlord, research the area and research the house’s history if you’re unsure about something.

 

If you are on the hunt for a student property contact your local Whitegates office who can match you with properties in your area.

Landlord’s Guide: Grants For An Eco-Friendly Property

 

Everything today seems to revolve around the ‘green agenda’. Some people are passionate for the cause whilst others don’t view it as a main priority, or think it a maze of the unknown.

green-house

Landlords can often dismiss the green vision as a drain on their property profit, when in fact did you know you could cover such costs with various grants? And offering an eco-friendly property can actually make it more attractive and profitable?

What are the benefits of making your rental property more energy efficient to both you and your tenants?

  • Increase in property value
  • Lowers energy bills for tenants
  • Reduces rent arrears
  • Attracts longer term tenants
  • Achieves higher EPC ratings
  • Property is easier to let
  • Reduction in emissions

We’re here to shed some light on a few of the great grants on offer to landlords and homeowners across England and the UK.

Green Deal

If your property has an electricity meter, then you’re eligible for the Green Deal. You can take out a loan to cover home improvements that will make your property greener, and repay through your electricity bill.

Because of this repayment method, both you and your tenant must agree to the terms. They will be expected to cover the bill if you choose to repay in this way as opposed to covering costs outright yourself.

How does it work?

A Green Deal Assessor will pay you a visit and decide which measures will be the perfect fit to improve your property. This could include adding insulation, improving the heating system; draught proofing, installing new windows or looking into ways your property can produce renewable energy. From here you will be granted a loan to carry out the suggested works if you wish.

Note: Subsequent tenants will also be liable for this additional charge if you choose to repay via the property’s electricity bill, so you must tell them too. However, the money they will save in utility bills could well cancel out the cost of the repayments, and they will enjoy a clear, green conscience to boot!

Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance

As a landlord, you could claim back up to £1,500 in tax reductions if you install wall or hot water heater insulation, draught proofing or cavity loft insulation. The rewards will be passed on to your tenants, as they will benefit from lower utility bills and a more eco-friendly and responsible home.

Note: You can include this in as many properties as you own, so if you have six properties, you could claim back up to £9,000 etc.

Feed In Tariff (Fits)

These were introduced in 2010 and are really something to get excited about! If you install a renewable energy source at your property such as a wind turbine, solar panels, anaerobic digesters or hydroelectricity, you could secure an additional revenue stream.

How? Because you can be paid for the electricity you generate with such measures from the national grid and energy companies – even if the property uses the energy itself! You even receive a ‘bonus’ if you provide the grid with additional energy.

It’s all part of an incentive to become a greener country less reliant on fossil fuels. It also enables your property to become more self-sufficient which is a major advantage for potential tenants.

There are a plethora of both grants and loans for landlords, but what is available from council to council varies so we recommend you contact your local council as a first port of call for help and advice. You can also find more information on the Energy Saving Trust website.

Alternatively, if you have a property to let, why not contact your local Whitegates branch today? You could also download our Lettings Guide for information on the landlord services available to you.

Five Mistakes First Time Buyers Should Avoid, But Continue To Make!

 

Buying a home is one of the most exciting and self-affirming life experiences. Because of this, it can also be one the most stressful. We’ve put together some of the most common (and avoidable) mistakes that first time buyers continue to make, so you can be one step ahead.

Kitchen

1. Becoming Financially Stranded Before You Even Begin

Familiarise yourself with potential hidden costs and factor them into your budget. Your deposit is just the start: Think about mortgage arrangement and valuation fees, removal and storage costs, legal fees, Stamp Duty, home insurance, surveyor fees and always have a contingency fund. Planning ahead eliminates nasty surprises. Check our previous blog post, which details the costs involved in buying a property and provides a guide as to how much budget you should put aside.

Also be careful not to borrow too much by chasing your dream home. It may only be an additional £150 a month, but this is a long-term decision that will affect your lifestyle. Don’t run before you can walk and only borrow what you can truly afford.

2. Being Too ‘Green’ a Buyer

Arm yourself with facts. This will make the process easier, especially when it comes to negotiation, which you should not be afraid of.

Unrealistic expectations are also dangerous to first time buyers: There’s always flexibility but don’t expect a mansion on a flat budget… and if you find one, be very dubious indeed!

Research your preferred area for price trends and its ambiance at different times of the day. That quiet, leafy side-street could also be the bustling main walkway to the nearby football stadium on a weekend!

3. Failing To Conduct Structural Surveys

The period features you so dearly love come with age, which means the house around it will too have aged. Period properties require specific – and often constant – maintenance to remain beautiful and safe.

Do not take the risk, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and get the most extensive structural survey you can afford. In the long run it is usually a false economy to skip a survey.

4. Letting Your Heart Rule Your Head

It will be your home for a long time, but it will be an investment for longer.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know things change. Don’t let your emotions take over when buying a home and don’t pay over the odds for your dream home, it could be dead money.

An expanding family or relocation could mean you need to sell up in years to come. And if you do, you want to be confident in your initial decision. Know your potential resale value – check with your local council for planned transformation schemes that could add value to the area.

5. Relying Too Heavily On The Internet

Never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction. Pop into your local estate agents’ for valuations, visit your bank or a mortgage advisor to see which deals you’re eligible for when buying a home.

They are likely to suggest items that an online generator failed to display, and their knowledge is invaluable to first time buyers. The internet is wonderful, but information there could be outdated and you cannot be sure of the intention of the original source.

However, that is not to say that the Internet is an invaluable property search tool. Most websites and property portals such as Rightmove, OnTheMarket and Zoopla allow you to register for property updates. This can be vital in keeping you up to date with the latest properties that match your search criteria.

Add more tools to your arsenal; why not download a property app to keep up-to-date information on your smartphone?

If you have any questions, please contact your local Whitegates branch today. They’re happy to give free and solid advice, always.