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Quick solution to nightmare tenants offered by new website

A team of lawyers are offering property investors a quick and easy option to get rid of troublesome tenants at cut price expense.

It can be a long and tortuous process for any landlord to get rid of a tenant who is causing trouble and it often impacts on their landlord insurance policy, however, help may now be at hand. Moore Blatch are recognised as experts in repossession law and now they are offering landlords an online service to free themselves of nightmare tenants. The website PropertyReclaim.com uses technology that has already handled thousands of property repossessions and promises to deliver a similar service to landlords that have been taken for granted in the mortgage lender section for many years.

The PropertyReclaim.com website provides an easy to follow, 5-step, online system for the entire legal process of all claims and although it is essentially an online service Moore Blatch say they will certainly be able to facilitate phone users wanting to sign up for the service. Paul Walshe, head of Property Reclaim at Moore Blatch, said “Reclaiming properties from problem tenants can be a lengthy and problematic process. We have developed this website to streamline proceedings and with our expert team on hand to help at any point we believe we can find the best resolution for the claimant as quickly as possible.”

Property Reclaim is confident they can process many claims within a day but say they can guarantee the process will be complete in 48 hours of instruction. They are confident the technology they use will eliminate any delay in the process and hand back control of the property in the shortest possible time. The online system gives landlords and agent’s certainty of price and service with each step of the process conducted starting from £10.

Rent returns in Central London beginning to slip

As landlords in the rest of the country continue to see rental achievements go through the roof, landlords in London are being advised to be realistic about their charges as the property pendulum starts to swing the other way.

Throughout the last five years of continued growth in the private rental market property investors have been falling over themselves purchasing buy-to-let insurance on appropriate properties in Central London. Earlier this year rents were higher than they have ever been before and most residential landlords in the city were picking up double the average monthly UK rent for every property in their London portfolio. How things change!

Industry insiders report lots of landlords are offering extra-ordinary deals to would be tenants to avoid having an empty rental embarrassment over the festive period and experts say prices could come down as much as 20% as some landlords press the panic button. Lynn Hilton is a partner at residential specialists Coultons and has seen the market change very quickly.

She commented: “Affordability is now central to the performance of London’s rental market. Landlords cannot achieve the rents they were getting twelve months ago and must now be far more realistic with rent reductions of around 15-20 per cent in order to secure a let. Despite a small turn around in rents during the third quarter, our evidence shows that rents have begun retreating once more, highlighting the need for landlords to be realistic in their approach and expectations. Sensible landlords need to accept these reductions to minimise void periods. Greater choice across Central London is no doubt adding to tenants’ bargaining power.”

It is a surprising turnaround for the London market and landlords in the rest of the UK will hope it is not the first signs of the sector beginning to unravel. However, with the current level of mortgage lending staying as miserly as it has done for all of 2012, landlords have little reason to worry just yet.

Landlord organisation enjoys an upsurge in membership

The increasing number of property investors buying landlord insurance policies has been reflected in the swelling membership of the South West Landlords Association (SWLA).

For the first time ever, membership of the SWLA has passed 600 and with 73 new members signing up in 2013, a rise of 12% and dozens more with pending applications, the organisation has never been in better stead. A big difference has been made by the SWLA offering accreditation training courses which have proved popular with landlords and local councils including Plymouth City Council and Teignbridge District Council.

The courses give landlords a grounding in the the basics regarding private residential lets with the training based on all elements of the national landlords’ manual including tenancy issues, standards, employing agents, tax, landlord/tenant relations, noise and anti-social behaviour and management practices. Landlords completing the course come away with national accreditation, licensable HMOs and a £60 discount from councils taking part in the accreditation scheme.

Vice chairman of the SWLA, Iain Maitland, said “We are always delighted to grow our member numbers, but this year the growth is particularly significant as it comes at a time when many of us are being that little bit more careful with our money. Membership of the SWLA benefits everyone in the lettings market. Tenants know they are renting from an accredited landlord, and landlords are able to keep up-to-date with changes in the law and learn from best practice. That’s why two councils use and recommend our services – rogue landlords and nightmare tenants are the last thing anyone needs in this tough economic climate.”

Local MP Alison Seabeck, a landlord herself, welcomed the co-operation between the SWLA and local councils, saying “I am delighted that SWLA have taken this important initiative alongside Plymouth City Council to help drive up standards in the private rented sector and drive out cowboys in our city.”

Landlords offered cheap loans in coastal resort

Property investors looking for new opportunities may want to consider a letting business in the coastal town of Withernsea, Lincolnshire as the local council looks to offer landlords in the town loans for improving properties.

The scheme is to be operated in five areas of the run down town and the council say there is up to £1 million up for grabs for property owners with an interest in landlord insurance. The project will offer homeowners and landlords low coast loans to improve their properties in a bid to create a new image for the old Victorian seaside resort, that everyone agrees has seen better days. In conjunction with the home loan scheme, the council plans to spend £600,000 on a new library and visitor centre as well as almost another £1 million on the main thoroughfare in the town. Queen Street will get a modern day makeover which will include a new block-paved pedestrian walkway, resurfacing to the existing carriageway and new traffic signs, road marking and street furniture.

Locals are not sure whether the plan to upgrade homes is the best way to spend money with Sarah Barnet, from the Southern Holderness Resource Centre, saying “There are better things to spend the money on than making houses pretty. Withernsea is a ghost town. We need to get the closed shops open and create a bit of employment in the town. There should also be a focus on some form of centre for young people in the town as well.”

However, chairman of the local chamber of trade, Paul Armstrong, was more optimistic about the plan, saying “Any investment from East Riding Council is welcomed with open arms. Looking at the picture nationally, I think Withernsea is doing OK and holding its own; yes we need to capitalise on what we already have on offer but we are a Victorian seaside town. We need to develop the town as a water sports area, offering visitors the chance to sail and jet ski. We could do with a marina. It isn’t all doom and gloom. If people get out of bed and knuckle down, potentially we can improve the town for the future.”

Thin end of the wedge?

With the confirmation that private landlords in Northern Ireland will now be allowed direct payment from housing benefits when applicable, landlords in the rest of the UK are asking why they can’t be treated the same.

It has long been a bone of contention for private landlords that they cannot be paid direct from housing benefit and it has led to many landlords refusing to take tenants who are on housing benefit fearing their clients will fall into arrears. Now that Lord Freud, the Welfare Minister, has allowed Northern Ireland’s assembly to approve the proposal the wedge is well and truly in the door.

Chris Town, vice-chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said “With 9.1% of all rent in the private rental sector being in arrears, this is a situation which is simply not sustainable for either tenant or landlord. Both parties in the Coalition before the general election pledged to introduce direct payments to landlords. Organisations working with tenants including Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Trust all support tenants having the choice to have their rent paid directly to landlords. The Government should get out of the way and trust tenants to know what is best for them. If it’s good enough for Northern Ireland it should be good enough for the rest of the country.”

It is the fear of mounting arrears that prevents many landlords from taking on welfare tenants and although some landlord insurance providers do provide cover for non-payment of rent it is a situation that all landlords will do almost anything to avoid. Most landlord organisations agree that direct payments would cut the housing waiting lists in many big cities at a stroke.

Insurance hitch holds up tenant cashback scheme

A housing association piloting a Government led tenant cashback scheme has had to rethink its strategy after problems surrounding landlord insurance became an issue.

Hastoe Housing Association owns and manages upwards of 4,000 properties in the South of England and was chosen to be just one of four associations chosen to pilot a government scheme whereby tenants were allowed to do some of the more mundane low risk repair and maintenance jobs in their own homes, and were rewarded by getting cash back from the housing association. It was envisaged that jobs undertaken by tenants such as gardening and outside painting jobs in communal areas would save the associations money, some of which they could pass onto the tenants who completed the work.

However, Sue Chalkley, chief executive of Hastoe, found things were not quite so straightforward, she explained: “Our property insurance company made it clear we could not allow tenants to do any work which would ask them to climb more than three steps or that involved any power tools. We still have to come to an agreed position with our insurance company as they have concerns that if we’re going to give anybody money to do their own repairs, we’d have to have an employer-employee relationship with them. I just think in principle, we are positive about the scheme but we are hitting some very real practical difficulties around insurance.”

Hastoe have now abandoned the idea of paying tenants cash for doing repairs but are looking for ways to carry the initiative forward. For the time being they are sending tenants who wish to do simple jobs a set of tools to complete the task and it seems that many tenants are quite happy to do this as it means they don’t have to wait long periods waiting for contractors to turn up. Ms Chalkley was keen to praise tenants who volunteered to do work saying: “I think it’s about respecting tenants as people who are capable of looking after their homes.”

Landlord grief after skimping on his insurance

A private landlord who had his property trashed by tenants has claimed he is being forced into repossession because his house has become a magnet for vandals. Frank Hesketh, has been trying to sell his two-bedroomed house in Preston, since it was first wrecked in 2009.

Mr Hesketh rented his property to a young family who after a dispute over the £500 per month rent left a scene of devastation including dog excrement in the oven, obscene comments on the walls and every floorboard removed or broken. Since the initial damage, there have also been several break-ins where more damage has been done each time. The landlord can not afford to spend the £9,000 needed to make the house liveable again and so may have to make the sad choice of voluntarily surrendering it to the mortgage company and making himself bankrupt. His biggest regret is not having an adequate landlord insurance policy and his insurance company paid out only a very small amount.

He bought the house four years ago for £90,000 and rented out the modern house with attractive flooring and a beautiful open fireplace. The first damage occurred two days after he told the tenants they could be evicted due to unpaid rent. They had been recommended to him and the references they provided turned out to be fake. To add to his problems, fly-tippers have been dumping rubbish in his garden.

Mr Hesketh said: “I will be making one last-ditch attempt to save my property. I’m going to fill in a voluntary re-possession form but ask them to look at re-mortgaging the property. My last throw of the dice is to see the mortgage company again and ask if they’ll lend me the money to get the property done up. The trouble is they’ve refused me once before.”