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Where We Can Save Money Without Compromising Standards and Safety

Apr 25, 2024

Original article from Landlord Vision - Where We Can Save Money Without Compromising Standards and Safety  - Landlord insider (landlordvision.co.uk)

At the moment, there are thousands of landlords who are on the brink of selling up, I don’t intend to talk about the reasons for this, most of us know only too well.  What I do want to do is explore options where we can make some savings to help to get through this difficult time. 

For those who simply cannot make the loan payments, I have no advice because finance is not my area.  For those who can make the payments but dread the ongoing and increasing costs there are some options:  

  • Tenants do not need to know our financial business and we should not use it when increasing rent or when asked to repair or replace items. 
  • Health and Safety must always come first. 
  • Legal obligations must be met. 
  • We need to plan for extra costs before we take a tenant. 

I often read posts online where landlords say: “They keep on adding more legislation and increasing our costs.”  This is not true, and it usually comes from people who didn’t do their homework before becoming a landlord, and have often only found out the hard way, that they have broken the law by not knowing about legislation which is often well established. A good example is the Housing Act 2004 where Mandatory, Selective and Additional licensing was introduced for the first time, it isn’t new it’s 20 years old! 

There has been no new national legislation specific to letting property in England since 2019 – 4 years. And it’s looking like the Renters Reform Bill might not make it this year, meaning 5 years with no new legislation. 

I won’t be popular for saying this, but in my opinion, it should be compulsory for anyone who wants to let a home to another human being to attend training on the legislation, regulation and documentation involved. Until the end of 2022, I delivered this training in one day or two half days on behalf of local authorities who then accredited the landlord/agent and discounted the price of a mandatory, selective, or additional licence. The cost was £150, and a full set of notes came with the seminar as a guide going forward.  If those landlords got it wrong, they were choosing to, because they knew what was required by law and what was considered good practice. Ironically knowledge can not only keep you out of trouble it can save you wasting money on things which are not necessary.  Here is an example of where you could save money if you were given the correct information: 

I often read comments on Facebook groups which I know are wrong. Sometimes they come from people who should know better and who are considered a credible source. Sometimes I post a correction, and usually a source of the information which is often the original legislation or sometimes a person who, for whatever reason, I know will be 100% correct. Often, people disagree with me, which is fine, but when I ask for the source of their information, either they do not reply or they offer a source from the media, which I do not consider credible.  Since social media began, I have watched many people posting wrong information, I have seen people selling seminars which contain wrong information and I have seen others following them blindly often at their cost. 

It isn’t only on Facebook groups; this also happens on discussion forums and blogs. When Googling, these discussions come up, often containing multiple sources, giving the wrong information which will then convince the reader that it is correct. I realise that the reason for this is that very few people do the homework. Many are quite happy to rely on others hoping that they have done their homework when often they have not, they have simply re-worded and copied the wrong information.  

My rule is always to read the original legislation and any updates or subsequent changes made in later legislation, only then can you be 100% certain of the accuracy of the information.  

Here is an example – this is one of the causes of landlords thinking that there is always more legislation being introduced. 

Question asked: 

  • Does a landlord have to supply a cooker by law? 

I replied that we do not. 

Several people contradicted me, and some posted the information that they have taken from a Google search, some of which came from the websites of legal firms others from property blogs. 

I don’t always bother to correct these people, but sometimes, when I have written an article for Landlord Vision, I use it as a source to explain the error, because it’s quicker to provide a link for them to read than it is to explain. I will be doing that with this article, but this will not be just another blog, this will explain why they are wrong, and provide the source of the correct information to both the legislation (2 pieces in this case) and one of the people who drafted it.  I hope that this will convince people to do the homework. 

To begin with which legislation are they misunderstanding: 

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (legislation.gov.uk) 

“An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; and for connected purposes.” 

The Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sections 8 to 10 and inserts  new 9A, 9B and 9C. 

I admit that the amendment is ambiguous: 

10Fitness for human habitation. 

In determining for the purposes of this Act whether a house is unfit for human habitation, regard shall be had to its condition in respect of the following matters— 

repair, 

stability, 

freedom from damp, 

internal arrangement, 

natural lighting, 

ventilation, 

water supply, 

drainage and sanitary conveniences, 

facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water;” 

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (legislation.gov.uk) 

Finally, we need to look at the Housing Health & Safety Hazard Rating System for the details of what can actually be enforced. This was introduced in the Housing Act 2004 and is the system upon which a local authority officer will access any risks present in a rented property and potentially issue notices to the landlord to request repairs.  An Improvement Notice is the usual one and if this is issued, the landlord cannot use a section 21 to evict a tenant for 6 months after the date of issue, or until it is withdrawn by the officer. It is therefore best to avoid getting this notice which means keeping everything in the property in clean, safe condition and in proper working order. 

HousingHealthSafety.qxd (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

“Food safety covers sinks, draining boards, work tops, cooking facilities (or cooker points and space for cooking facilities), cupboards and/or shelves for storing cooking and eating utensils and equipment. It also includes food storage facilities (which these days are usually just electricity sockets and refrigerator space).” 

Section 16 is where the definitive requirement is found: 

Cooking  

• Facilities should be of adequate size for the household with appropriate connections for fuel (gas or electricity);  

• Should be capable of being readily cleansed and maintained in hygienic condition.” 

No mention of actually supplying a cooker. And this is in line with Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.   

Something to note in this section is the main cause of problems identified in a kitchen: 

“Cracks/chips/other damage to internal surfaces of sinks and worktops prevent thorough cleansing and permit pathogenic and food spoiling organisms;” 

A food preparation area must be impervious, and if it becomes damaged by cuts or chips it must be replaced because this is a risk to life.  Yes, the tenant will have caused it unless the worktop was old and no longer strong enough to be used, and we can charge for the damaged item to be replaced based on age verses life expectancy. Of course, if this happens in an HMO we must take the hit but we must replace it unless someone owns up. 

Going back to the misunderstanding of this legislation. I asked Giles Peaker the Solicitor who was very involved in the writing of this Act and the author of 

 Fitness for Habitation – a thumbnail guide – Nearly Legal: Housing Law News and Comment 

He confirmed that the Homes (fitness for habitation) Act 2018 was written with the intention of making the landlords’ and tenants’ obligations clear NOT TO GIVE LANDLORDS NEW OBLIGATIONS. It is a very small act, just one page and worth reading and understanding if you want to save money doing things for which the tenant is responsible or avoiding fines, penalties and prohibitions to section 21. 

My top money saving tips while holding on to our rentals: 

LET UNFURNISHED & NO WHITE GOODS 

There are no legal obligations to provide any items. I was surprised when I began listening to those landlords who had very short turnaround periods and no hassle with deposit deductions – what had they got in common? They all let with just carpets and window coverings. I have found those properties which I offer as a blank canvas are occupied for longer because people are choosing what to put in their homes.  These days there are so many local charities or Facebook groups offering items either for free or for very little. It’s not so difficult nor expensive as it once was to furnish a property. The savings on a property full of furniture and white goods which we must maintain is many thousands of pounds over the years. 

NB Even where the tenant brings in their own gas cooker we must have it included in our gas safety inspections and only a qualified person should fit either gas or electric appliances. 

DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR CREATION 

You are preparing a property which someone will want to rent from you not a display piece for social media.  Keep it simple and if you want to jazz it up use wall art on plain white walls which are easily touched up or repainted without needing to do the whole room.  This saves loss of rent because of downtime as well as the cost of redecorating. 

If you want to avoid the bane of most landlords’ lives pay a little bit more and use Glixtone Funghishield emulsion. You will only have mould if there is damp coming in from the outside wall otherwise no black mould again.   

If you’ve already got black mould spray with HG Mould Remover – not mould and mildew just mould.  It’s like magic, no rubbing or scrubbing it just disappears in a few minutes (mask up and ventilate the room well). 

A little bird told me that there are Facebook groups where tenants are told how to get a council house. How to cause black mould is one of them.  Be warned. 

BUY CHEAP EASY CLEAN CARPETS 

Pale carpets are very nice when they are new, but once they need to be cleaned it’s the beginning of the end of their life.  Buying cheap, mid tone, easy to clean carpets saves money and arguments about deposit deductions as well as downtime between tenancies. 

KITCHEN FLOOR COVERING IS WORTH THE INVESTMENT 

Ceramic tiles will pay you back year on year in a kitchen, just make sure to keep a couple of spares.  Vinyl tears quickly, especially when large white goods are being moved in and out.  Laminate looks lovely until it doesn’t and the amount of foot traffic, drops and drags a kitchen floor gets means that it needs something which will take it all and still look good.  Buy a steam mop for when tiles need to be cleaned between tenancies they make very light work of it. 

PREVENTING MAINTENANCE IS A GOOD COST & TIME SAVING 

Buy cheap full sugar coke and pour it down every sinkhole, toilet, shower and outside drain.  Wipe it off chrome fittings, leave it for 24 hours and wash it through thoroughly.  This is the best way to clear the pipes and drains of grease, rice, pasta, hair, shower products etc.  If your tenants do get a blockage tell them to do this first. If the toilet is blocked, tell them to begin with a mug of fabric conditioner, and after 5/6 hours (without using the toilet) pour down the coke and leave it overnight.  It will clear even sanitary wear and nappies and clean the toilet and pipes. 

Have the gutters cleared every February/March to prevent overflow and wet walls/black mould inside. 

MAKE INTEREST ON YOUR TENANTS’ DEPOSITS 

The Average rental deposit now £1,434. 

Average rental deposit now £1,434 | Property Reporter 

Many landlords put these deposits into the custodial scheme out of habit, but have you considered how much this is actually costing you? 

Putting that amount into an interest-bearing easy access savings account could give you a profit of an average of £64.53 at 4.5% less the cost of deposit protection via the insured scheme which is as little as £17 for NRLA members and a few pounds more for non-members. A profit of an average of £47.53 for each deposit you take. That covers half the cost of a gas safety inspection in my area. Just make sure that your AST states that the landlord will keep any interest and remember if you enter into a dispute with your tenant at the end of the tenancy, the deposit scheme will ask you to lodge the deposit with them while they arbitrate the case. 

WORKING TOGETHER  

If you know other local landlords, form a buying group with them and contact contractors like gas and electric engineers and ask them for a discount for bulk purchasing. Even if you have to lose a few months on your first certificate, it will only happen once and it will pay in the long run.  You also won’t need to remember because one of you will take on the job of booking them in each year and letting you know to let you tenants know. 

Sharing a local handyman is also a good way to make sure that work gets done while saving on finding a contractor for small items, someone to let the tenant in when they lose their keys, someone to test smoke alarms and replace batteries, put bins back when tenants are on holiday etc. 

As a famous supermarket says “every little helps” and I am hopeful that by the time you are reading this the interest rates will have been reduced again 

I heard a new quote today and I’m passing it on because it’s so profound. 

“Never be afraid to try something new – 

Remember amateurs built the Ark;  

professionals built the Titanic 

author unknown 

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