Buy online or call us Free on 0800 515 3810800 515 381

Opening Hours

Mon - Fri 8:30am to 8pm
Sat 9am to 1pm

Housing industry at the crossroads

The cut in housing benefit, the housing shortage, the difficulty in getting a mortgage and the declaration by the government to enable social landlords to achieve up to 80% of the market value rents are just a few of the highlights of the average landlords year.

Never can the industries that are linked to the housing sector have been overwhelmed with so many seismic changes that are happening at the moment. Never can so many experts from one industry have such varying views.

The cuts to Local Housing Allowance have seen charities and local authority politicians suggest that London will witness a massive exodus as tens of thousands of tenants in the inner boroughs of London are forced to up sticks as they can no longer afford the rent on their home.

The very same cuts have seen experts from charities as well as Local Authority politicians say the cuts will force rogue landlords to stop charging extortionate rents and bring back a touch of sanity to the London rental market.

Landlords and tenants who have not really been asked their opinions wonder and wait. It is true that many Landlords around the capital have vowed not to lower their rents at all. That is possibly a knee jerk reaction that is quite natural when they feel they are being attacked. Tenants know that if they are on Housing Benefit then their next 12 months may be bumpy, but those in low income employment also know that the dirty jobs still have to be done by someone.

It is rumoured that councils are already block booking bed and breakfast accommodation in boroughs of London for next year when the cuts come into effect. The whole industry is in flux!

Many commentators think that the situation could be overcome in double quick time if only the banks would loosen their purse strings. Although industry experts say the days of 100% mortgages have gone forever, both residential landlords who are looking to extend their portfolios and young professional couples and families who are desperate to either get on the ladder or move up it, are just waiting for the chance to buy properties that don’t demand unreal deposits.

Behind these are builders keen to build and insurers eager to sell landlord insurance or home insurance to the new homeowners. Of course there are even more allied trades waiting for the chance to get back to new builds and renovation projects. It is fair to say the industry waits on the banks.

Alarms need to be maintained to work correctly

Homeowners do not have to rely simply upon observation skills to identify dangers within the home. Thanks to technology, anyone can instead depend on different types of alarms as a way of alerting them to dangers in and around the home. From fire alarms to a burglar alarm, there are different ways that a family can be safe.

It is highly recommended that all households install a few smoke alarms around the home to make sure that they are adequately alerted to any fire emergency. The bigger the home, the more fire alarms should be installed. There should be a smoke alarm outside each bedroom as well as alarms on all house levels. For maximum safety, have the alarms connected so that if one alarm goes off, they will all go off. Because smoke rises, it is always best to install the smoke alarms on the ceiling or as high on the wall as possible. If the property is privately rented then the landlord will have all smoke alarms checked yearly as part of his commitment to provide safe housing for tenants.

To make sure that the alarm works properly, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as these guidelines can vary ever so slightly from one alarm to another. Having a smoke alarm without a battery is pointless and will do nothing to keep occupants safe. To ensure that a smoke alarm remains working perfectly, always check your batteries monthly. It takes no effort to test a smoke alarm. Maybe decide on a date to check the alarms and mark it on the calendar as a reminder of this important monthly task. Regardless of whether smoke alarm batteries are working or not, always change them once a year. To make sure this is not forgotten, always change the batteries at the same time of year, maybe do this on the same day that the clocks go back or forward. Make battery replacement part of a yearly routine.

As for a home security company system, it will not be any good if it is not activated. To make sure that the security alarm protects the property while away from it; always activate it every time you leave the house. If it is something that is often forgotten, write a note and tape it in the car as a reminder to go back and activate it. It is a good idea to reset all the alarm codes and re-key all locks each year. By following these safety procedures, it will ensure that any lost keys will be useless and that anyone who may have the codes for the security system will have no access to the home. Both security and smoke alarms may well mean that landlord insurance can be purchased more cheaply.

Damaged drywall can be easily fixed

Everyone will know how easy it is to accidentally put a hole in drywall; it could be from a door handle, maybe something falling over, or even from children playing. Happily drywall is fairly easy to fix, especially if it is a small hole, It is something that even a novice DIY person can tackle and save paying for a tradesman. If the hole is quite big i.e. anything bigger than 12 inches, it is probably better to replace the whole sheet of drywall rather than making a large patch. Whether the property is rented from a landlord who has good landlord insurance or it is your own property, a hole in the drywall does not mean having to panic.

In the past when there was a hole in drywall, a contractor would arrive, square up the hole and then put in some wooden braces which would support a new square of drywall. However times have moved on and now there are aluminium patches, which will go over the hole without the need to square it up. This aluminium patch is strong enough to fix larger holes, yet it is also thin enough to be covered over with a layer of drywall joint compound. They work in the same way as traditional drywall tape works, where a layer of drywall joint compound is put over the mesh, left to dry, and then 24 hours later a second coat is put on with a larger trowel. The area is then sanded down.

Cracks can quite often occur when the property starts to settle, so it is not that strange to find cracks in a drywall in new and old houses. A crack is very easy to fix by taking a utility knife and make a v-shaped channel along the length of the crack. Fill the crack with some drywall joint compound and then apply some mesh tape over the top (unlike a hole where the aluminium patch works well, it is highly recommended that mesh tape is used for cracks). Once the tape is applied, cover it with some drywall joint compound and feather out the ends. When it has dried, keep feathering it out on the second application and when it has dried, sand it to a smooth finish.

The most common reason for fixing the drywall is filling in old screw holes or nail holes from pictures which have been attached to the wall. Again fixing this is very easy.  Take the end of a trowel and tap in the edges of the hole and create a small crater. If the drywall is loose, screw in a new fastener just underneath the hole, then spackle and trowel over the hole, making sure it is filled completely. Wait until it has dried then sand until smooth.

Easy ways to achieve a smaller footprint

Each person can do many things to slow down the effects of global warming. This collective impact of many people all working together will make a difference. There are simple ways to save energy. For example cutting down on waste and buying energy efficient products can help preserve the planet from further warming.

Recycle as much as possible. At the moment there is too much consumer waste ending up in landfills that could be reused. Most of us are now recycling plastic, glass, paper and cans, but not everyone knows that they can recycle other products. For example, electronic items, carpets and furniture can all be recycled.

More and more property owners in the private sector are renting their fully furnished houses complete with as many items as possible that will help to reduce a carbon footprint. They have landlord insurance for protection but they also care about the planet. Cutting down on a carbon footprint should not be seen as a threat to lifestyle. Basically it is about trying to cut down energy usage and as energy is not going to get any cheaper it will be a case of saving money directly whilst helping to save the world. Of the 12 tonnes that it is estimated to be the average person’s footprint; about 6 tonnes comes from around the house or choices in how travel is made. Improving the footprint does not necessarily mean giving anything up.

Use bags for life; they have become popular over the last few years. The number of plastic bags a person will use during the year will really add up. Buy energy efficient appliances; buying these will make a huge difference to a carbon footprint. Become a lover of local food by only eating food grown within 100 miles of the home. This will not be possible for everyone and it will not work everywhere all year-round. By only eating foods that are grown locally, it helps the local economy and cuts back on the amount of fuel that is needed to bring the food to the supermarket. If it is possible, plant and grow fruit and vegetables as this is one of the most cost-effective ways to eat, and nothing is more local than home grown, just remember to use organic or natural fertilizers and pesticides.

Living in the 21st century has brought many comforts. Where our forefathers would have walked many miles to reach their destination, we can easily jump into many types of carbon-emitting vehicles and get across the country in no time at all. Where candles were once used as lighting we now use many climate-destroying lighting options. Yes, these ‘modern comforts’ have made life a lot easier for everyone, but there is now a need to change over to eco-friendly solutions.

Do not ignore a water damaged wall

Having water damage to the plaster in the home can look very unsightly. Not to mention that once the plaster gets wet there will be an increased potential for mould problems in the future. Repairing the plaster that has been damaged can be easy if the correct materials are used. The cost of this depends on the size of the damaged area but normally the job will not be too expensive.

When the plaster gets wet the water will activate the lime, causing bubbling on the surface. The damage could be small with just surface bubbling or it can involve the whole plaster coat. The problems often start as the plaster dries, then the putty coat may form a rock hard shell. Always inform the landlord if the property is privately rented as they will have landlord insurance and will want to look after the property.

To repair plaster damage, all of the loose wall material must be removed by scraping the area using a putty knife. This will include all the bubbles and peeling paint. Then draw a square around the water damaged area using a pencil and a carpenter’s square making sure that a couple of inches extra on all sides of the damage is allowed, this will make sure all the damaged plaster is repaired. Cut out and remove all the plaster within the affected area with a utility knife. This could need doing a few times to remove all the plaster, doing this will insure the job will be completed better. Place a fan by the open area on the wall and run until the wall surface feels completely dry. If the wall is not completely dry moisture may get trapped in the wall and this could cause mould problems in the future. Smooth some joint compound into the area using steady and even strokes with the trowel. Make sure that there are no low or high areas and definitely no air pockets. Then let the compound dry for a full 24 hours.

Finally sand the area lightly with some drywall sandpaper which will smooth out the ridges or high spots that could have appeared during the 24 hours drying process. Use a damp cloth to remove any drywall dust that was made from sanding and re-paint the area.

Woodworms can cause a hole lot of trouble

There are a few words that a property owner with landlord insurance will not want to hear. One of them is woodworm. When a problem has been diagnosed as woodworm, it is normal to think of a lot of worms eating the wood. In fact they are not a worm at all they are insects that bore into wood, causing damage to furniture and flooring.

It is very unlikely to see a wood boring insect in the home, because the adults will lay their eggs on wood and the larvae will then bore into the wood and stay for years before boring out of the wood again. Signs that they are there are small holes in the wood and very occasionally the dust as they emerge from the wood. These holes are in fact exit holes meaning that the beetle has emerged from and left the wood after spending time tunnelling through it as a grub. The most common woodworm is the furniture beetle. This beetle attacks softwood leaving 1-2mm exit holes. It prefers damp, rather than dry wood and the grub will head for plywood and then stay there for longer than any other type of wood. Any damp floorboards, loft timbers and old furniture are all good targets for the beetle. Woodworms work slowly, so it is a good idea to not rush out as soon as it is suspected they are in the home. Get the home properly surveyed by three or four firms who will go through with the best treatments with you and give a quote. They will not only check the infestation, they will be able to tell how much damage has already been done.

When the holes are first noticed the first thing to do is establish if the woodworm holes are a result of a past infestation that has been successfully treated, or if it is a new problem that will need treating. If it is an active infestation there will be will some fresh wood dust and holes. There are a number of DIY treatments that can be used on furniture infested by the furniture beetle. If it is going to be a DIY job, fluid will need injecting into a few holes with a special injector and, as an extra precaution, there is also an insecticidal polish to use. Remember to keep your tenant fully informed on the matter as they are the ones living in the property.

Trying a DIY method to cure the problem will not always work because a lot of the most effective insecticides can only be obtained by certified professionals. Some are very toxic and potentially damaging to the environment. It may be very tempting to go for a blanket treatment, but this is not the greenest choice. A safe and highly effective treatment is borax, this is available as a crystalline powder, which is dissolved as a 15% solution in water and then is applied to the timber that is affected. There are no health hazards with this treatment, and borax will inhibit fungal growth and kill the woodworm.

A phone extension can make life easier

As long as there is a working master phone socket in the home, which has been installed by a service provider, it is possible to connect extra phone points in different rooms around the house to the master socket. With the help of a kit which is available to buy in DIY stores, phone retailers or any electrical store this is a job most landlords can accomplish on their own. If the master socket is a very old one, it may need replacing with an updated version that will accept the new plugs. As a safety measure the master socket should be less than 50m (which is more than enough for the average home) away from the first extension socket. Also, the furthest extension socket should be no more than 100m away from the master socket. Other safety measures to consider are; never fit an extension in a bathroom and phone wiring should be kept at least 2in/5cms away from any other electrical wiring. Landlords will be aware that landlord insurance is always a good thing to have when jobs like this are undertaken.

To install the first extension socket, cut  the phone wire long enough to go from the master socket to the first extension socket, remember to leave about leaving 3in excess as it is better to have too much instead of not enough. Plan the route for the wire to go from the master socket to the extension socket. There will be a converter on one end of the cable and this should be placed by the master socket, ready for it to be connected later.

The next job is to fix the cable wire along the skirting board, securing it with little tacks at regular intervals. Take the extension socket and unscrew the face-plate. Push out the little tab that is covering the entry hole for the cable. Position the extension box against the wall and with a pencil mark where the screw holes will be going, then drill the holes and place plugs into them. The box will be screwed to the wall after it has been wired because doing it this way is much easier.

The wire in the cable must now be exposed, it will need stripping 1 1/4in from the end with a sharp knife, then separate the colour coded conductors. These conductors will be connected to the phone extension box by pushing the conductors into brass blade terminals. The conductors will need to be connected as follows. Terminal 1- Green conductor with white rings. Terminal 2- Blue with white rings. Terminal 3- Orange with white rings. Next going from bottom upwards, the white connector with orange rings will go into terminal 4, white with blue rings will go into Terminal 5 and finally the white with green rings goes into Terminal 6. Sometimes there will only be four conductors, if this is the case then leave terminals 1 and 6 empty.

Now fix the extension box to the wall and fix the face-plate onto it, plug the converter into the master socket.     And the extension is ready to use.