The BBC’s Watchdog program recently turned its attention to private lettings. The program shed light on the various unsavory practices of some of the UK’s lettings agents. One of these practices is when agents create letting contracts which insist the tenants use certain utility companies. In return for the additional business, the utility companies are offering the agents a handsome reward.
It has been reported that one in ten tenants are being illegally stopped by their landlords or agents from switching utility suppliers.
In typical Watchdog style no one was safe from the investigation. Some well-known agency names, including large chains were among those implicated by the programme.
So what are the Rules?
At present aside from the Ombudsman there are no official regulators of lettings agencies, which means that Tenants and landlords are largely being left to fend for themselves.
Here at the Islington Company, we pride ourselves on being transparent. That’s why we will never add a ‘preferred supplier’ clause to any of our Tenancy agreements. Also part of this transparency is our belief that it’s our duty to provide Tenants and Landlords with as much information as possible regarding their rights.
So we did a little digging of our own and here’s what we found out:
The Energy regulator Ofgem says:
“Tenants should be made aware by landlords and letting agents of any tie-ins with specific suppliers and should receive appropriate details at the outset of applicable tariffs and charging details.”
“If the tenant is directly responsible for paying the gas and/or electricity bills, they have the right to choose their own energy supplier, and the landlord or letting agent should not unreasonably prevent this”
“Landlords or letting agents should not sign up tenants with preferred suppliers without the tenants’ full knowledge of, or agreement to, such arrangements.”
We also contacted Trading Standards, who said:
“The Tenant should have the choice of supplier, although they may be required to keep the landlord informed of any change and to return the account to the original supplier at the end of the tenancy.”
So there you have it. Despite what some agencies would have you believe, if you are directly responsible for paying the bills, you have the right to choose whom you pay.
Over the past 2 years we have seen a continuous increase in rental yields across a whole spectrum of properties in Islington and surrounding areas of north and east London. However since the beginning of 2012 we have witnessed an unexpected drop in rental prices and an increase in void periods, a very unusual development in prime north London locations such as Islington.
Landlords and letting agents were promised a phenomenal year in 2012. The rental sector in this part of the Great Britain was supposed to be an ultimate winner. What has happened? Is this a dreadful economic indicator? How should landlords and letting agents react?
At The Islington Company we are staying optimistic and call this an ‘Olympic effect’. It did manifest itself in an unexpected way; however there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. During the end of 2010 and certainly throughout 2011 letting agents and landlords teamed up to make life relatively difficult for tenants.
Tenants not only found themselves paying high and ever growing rental prices, but were also often 'gazumped' and asked to commit to longer than usual tenancy terms. Two year tenancy agreements almost became the norm allowing savvy letting agents and landlords to take advantage of applicants.
Hence with three months to go before our Olympics guests arrive; and with our familiar rental crowd firmly tied into their long agreements, we should not be so surprised with the current rental market.
At The Islington Company we have already noticed a change in the past few weeks. On the other hand, applicants registering now, having learned from the situation in 2011, are looking to move at the end of May/June and even planning for July.
As a landlord with an empty property on a letting agent’s books, you could always drop the price or instruct several agents. Failing that, you could let your property on a short term basis and then capitalise during the Olympic period. This time will allow you to market your property as available in August or September which is traditionally the best rental season.
Furthermore, the upside of having your property available in August or September also means that it becomes locked into this cycle; and over the years you will probably be achieving more as opposed to having your property available in April or May year after year.
With competition for properties as tough as the opening X Factor auditions, you need to have your wits about you when looking for the ideal rental opportunity.
According to the Guardian, rentals have never been fiercer. Currently, the figure quoted for the average rent in England and Wales stands at £705 – an increase for the sixth consecutive month. Stuck for solutions? Find out below how you can stay ahead of the pack.
Do Your Research
Ensure you know which areas you want to live in and most importantly if your budget stretches to it! Make a list of the properties you would like to view and check out how far away they are from not only transport links but restaurants, bars, ATM’s and even supermarkets.
Don’t Be Shy
This will probably be the only chance you have to have a good look round, so survey the home carefully. Look around, if you can, at night as this will enhance your all round opinion as well as detecting any unwanted noise. Make a thorough list of questions in advance and if you like powerful showers then why not test the water pressure to find out!
Check Out Local Area
Before viewing, check out the vicinity to get your bearings and discover if this is the right area for you. If you find bus stops shattered and local hoodlums drinking White Lightning on the corner, then maybe it’s time to get back on the Tube.
Examine the exterior and interior carefully for any noticeable signs of wear and tear. Other features to be wary of include cracked drainpipes, an unkempt garden and any significant interior damp or dilapidated décor issues.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
Ask the landlord what’s included and what is not as part of the tenancy agreement. You should be able to ask for an inventory to see in detail what you will be entitled to use whilst at the property.
For any more tips on renting property contact us at The Islington Company.
So you’ve checked out the newspapers and trawled the online ads for days (if not weeks) in search of the perfect rental.
Finances in order, check, testimonials, check, pen and paper for questions…check. Surely now it’s an easy task of signing on the dotted line?
Unfortunately this is not the case for some people in today’s rental market. Meeting all the right requirements may not be sufficient as landlords seek to grill potential occupants.
As renting becomes as trendy as Prada’s new Autumn/Winter collection, there has been a real surge in the number of people looking to rent as opposed to buying.
In fact recent reports show that it will take the average Londoner at least twenty years to get on the property ladder! That’s if you have not fallen off beforehand.
Nowadays landlords have the pick of the bunch when it comes to possible tenants and are increasingly becoming a lot fussier.
This means even before you set foot inside a potential rental space, you will need to undergo in some cases a rigorous interview to see if you cut the mustard.
Moreover, landlords may even require an additional interview to ensure that you will be able to pay the rent on time and to alleviate any worries they may have of the property ending up like the aftermath of a Sex Pistols concert.
At The Islington Company we can give you an important tip, that is to make an appointment as soon as possible with the landlord, especially if he requires you to perform an interview.
This may seem a tad extreme, but as competition is currently fierce, your dream rental might have been snapped up by the time you decide. As a lettings agency in one of the most sought after areas of London, we have done our research.
And if you do have any skeletons lurking in that closet, it’s best to be honest and upfront as there is very little that a rigorous referencing process is not going to reveal. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have your boxes packed with nowhere to go.