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INTERIOR MOTIVES: START YOUR 2023 IN STYLE WITH OUR GUIDE TO THE LATEST HOME DECOR TRENDS

What are your big plans this year? Fitness, wealth, travel, something else? Change is always in the air when January arrives.

We’re entering 2023 on the back of quite a ride. Lockdowns, Brexit, empty shelves, four prime ministers, working from home, strikes, inflation, and geopolitical turmoil – it’s all been very real.  

With so much external upheaval, it’s no wonder that interior design is seeking to satisfy a desire to feel more in control, something we can all achieve at home with a strong sense of personal style.

As well as giving your rooms a fresh new look, new decor trends can help you add thousands to your home by reflecting what buyers see in glossy magazines and designer showroom displays.

If you’ve been waiting for life beyond cottagecore, farmhouse, Scandi and neutral tones, we’ve got some good news. This year is set for a return to decadence and bold statements through nostalgic glamour, luxurious finishes and vibrant colours.

So for this week’s blog, we’ve pulled together the latest words from the world of interiors to bring you the home decor trends for 2023.

ADD SOME VERVE WITH CURVES

You might remember from our 2022 design trends blog that home accessories were taking on more organic forms. Well, that shapely trend continues this year with softer edges to sharply square furniture for a more relaxed and sumptuous style.

  • Expect to see evolutions of classic designs to sink into and curl up – if you already own a velvet chesterfield, your work is done!
  • Look out for more oval and circular dining tables on cylinder legs or tulip bases for convivial and conversational mealtimes.
  • Get a quick fix with timeless curved accessories like mushroom lamps, arched mirrors, round rugs and circular cushions.

Quick tip if you’re thinking of moving: check if you can make any planned furniture replacements now. By creating a head-turning and current look for your photos and viewings, you’ll add extra saleability to your home.

MAKE AN OLD STATEMENT

The furniture industry didn’t escape supply chain issues last year, and delivery delays saw more people turn to vintage. The result was two new trends that, instead of upcycling and repurposing, celebrate an item’s age, imperfections, and original use. 

  • Meet flawsome design and newstalgia – the art of cleaning, repairing and resurrecting an item to extend the life it was made for.
  • Vintage furniture adds soul, heritage and history to any interior, whether you’re matching the period of your home, or mixing up your styles. 
  • People find joy and comfort in the handmade nature, skilful craftsmanship and solid materials of beautiful things from the past.

A single statement piece like a sideboard, chest of drawers or glass display cabinet gives instant character to a plain wall, and a top designer tip for mixing modern with old is to add just one vintage period to any given room. This helps you achieve a purposeful and striking contrast where your choices shine with a cohesive style.

POP THE CORK & GO OUT ON THE TILES

Sustainable, planet-friendly and feel-good materials are now firmly in our mindsets to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in landfill or the oceans. The big comeback story of 2023 is cork, although not as we know it, while textured ceramics are also set for a revival. 

  • Cork has quietly reinvented itself into a serious alternative to hardwood flooring. Completely sustainable, soft and quiet underfoot, non-slip, and a natural insulator, it also comes in a range of finishes, like the beautiful Camada Corka from The Colour Floor Company in the picture.
  • Hand-made, natural stone and textured tiles bring a stylish and naturalistic look to bathrooms and kitchens – even updating a splashback or a fascia below a breakfast bar can make a whole room feel like new.
  • No need or no desire for renovations, builders and dust? Add accessories like ceramic or cork planters, trivets, table mats and coasters for a warm injection of 2023 style.

As well as being an environmentally conscious choice, introducing natural, durable and sustainable materials into your home creates a sense of longevity for years of enjoyment – it’s also a great selling point for buyers!

MIX MAXIMALISM, MARBLE & MUTED METALS

You’ve probably heard of Avant Garde, but what about Avant Basic? The trend took social media by storm last year with extravagant images of colourful art, fashion and design. For 2023, it’s making its way into homes.

Top marks if you’re detecting a nod to 1920s glamour, and you’ll see plenty of it this year, including:

  • Marble, for its luxurious, timeless and expensive qualities, from the large expanses of table tops and kitchen counters, to accessories like lamp bases, bowls and vases.
  • Muted metals like gold, brass and polished nickel, plus hot new entrant aluminium for its endless recyclability. Think taps, handles, table legs and picture frames.
  • Maximalist designs on wallpaper, rugs, curtains and textiles with vibrant and busy floral motifs on darker backgrounds for a decadent take on nature.

A dash of opulence can go a long way in any home, particularly if you’re styling yours to sell. Just remember that too much glitz can turn into bling – sometimes less is more.

CREATE COLOURFUL SCENES

2022 began with a move away from cooler tones, and 2023 is taking that further. The warm pinks, greens and lilacs of flower-filled meadows are making their mark on home decor, with online searches for colourful living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms up by as much as 200%.

  • Pantone’s 2023 Colour of the Year is Viva Magenta, a vibrant pinky red. Possibly too much for an entire room, but a striking choice for a memorable and photo-friendly chimney breast, alcove, or feature wall.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, Wild Wonder from Dulux is a sandy shade inspired by harvested crops that looks smashing with black metal, white walls and bare wood. 
  • Farrow & Ball’s dynamic colour duo includes the warming Templeton Pink from Winston Churchill’s refurbished former mansion, and the gently green Eddy, inspired by the currents of wild water swimming.

Of course, you don’t need to repaint your rooms to inject some colour; you can use furniture and accessories instead. Try IKEA’s tactile Svartpoppel cushion covers, Whistler dining chairs from John Lewis, or Wayfair’s shaggy gold rug to be instantly on-trend.

Are you feeling inspired?

However ready and confident you are to update your decor, designers often advise evolution over revolution. Introducing one or two elements of a new trend to complement your existing style can create a fresh new feel without feeling faddy or dating too soon.

And if you’re preparing your home to sell, why not get in touch to see what buyers are looking for in Leeds? Give us a call on 01363 777 999 or email us at property@helmores.com – we’re here to help you make the best move.

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BUY-TO-LET OR PENSIONS: WHICH HAS THE PROFIT, FREEDOM, AND SECURITY THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?

“Being a landlord might still pay better than a pension” – that was the arresting headline in The Telegraph that caught our attention recently.

Pensions have certainly been squeezed, with workplace pension pots shrinking and inflation eating into returns. Meanwhile, buy-to-let is regularly portrayed in the press as no longer viable, despite research from Hamptons revealing that the average rental yield of 6% is 50% higher than the 4% of pensions.

So who and what do you listen to if you want to start planning for your future?

There’s no replacement for hearing things straight from the horse’s mouth, so we’ve gathered some thoughts from our landlords on why they choose buy-to-let. We’ve also included some useful facts that don’t always make the headlines so you can see what feels right for you.

This week’s blog doesn’t constitute financial advice, and you should speak to an expert before choosing a pension or investment. But if you’re on the fence about becoming a landlord or whether to expand or offload your lettings portfolio, we hope you find some clarity to start 2023.

MORE TENANTS ARE CHASING FEWER HOMES

It’s no secret that rents are soaring, with rises of 20% and more in some areas last year accompanied by record-high demand. For several reasons, the rental market is unlikely to cool down any time soon because:

  • many landlords who focused on short-term yields have sold up, creating a huge shortage of rental property and massive competition among tenants
  • economic uncertainty and interest rate rises have convinced more buyers to keep renting for longer, fuelling further demand
  • nowhere near enough new housing is being built or planned, and the chances of anything changing significantly in the foreseeable future look pretty slim.

In short, the rental market needs more homes, and the door is wide open for private landlords to fill the gap. And when you provide high-quality accommodation, you can be sure of constant demand while generating the highest possible rent from the best tenants.

YOUR MONEY NEEDS TO GROW AFTER YOU RETIRE

We’ve all seen how higher inflation can reduce the value of your savings. If you want to maintain a rewarding and comfortable lifestyle in later life, your money needs to keep working to stay ahead of the cost of living.

Some very basic things to remember about income in retirement include:

  • When your pension reaches its maturity date, it’s decision time again. You could leave it alone if you don’t need it, take a cash lump sum (the first 25% is tax-free), or convert it to other investments like shares or annuities.
  • If you feel the stock market is too risky at that stage of life, you could buy an annuity for a guaranteed annual income if rates are good at the time, although you may get back less than you pay in, depending on how long you live.
  • Rental properties carry on working for you as long as you own them, and you can keep expanding your portfolio during your retirement by refinancing to release tax-free equity and fund the purchase of more properties.

Many landlords view a private pension and buy-to-let as the perfect combination. They see their pension as the pot with its sturdy foundation, and their rental properties as the plant with no limits on how high or how long it can grow.

DOES BEING A LANDLORD BUY YOU MORE FREEDOM?

Long-term planning is essential for future financial freedom, but should that mean waiting until you retire to live the life you want? The debate rages over instant gratification versus long-term planning, but there’s no reason why you can’t have both with a mixed investment strategy.

  • Once you start a pension, your funds are locked away until you are at least 55, and the Government has confirmed plans to raise that age to 57 in 2028. 
  • Pensions start paying out after they mature, while buy-to-let gives you rent from the day your tenant moves in and can free up other income to boost your private pension.
  • You control the direction of your lettings portfolio, while your pension or annuity provider makes all the decisions about managing your funds.

For landlords, part of the attraction of buy-to-let is the direct control it gives them, while also providing a balance between planning for retirement and enjoying life now.

IS BUY-TO-LET STILL PROFITABLE?

You can hardly move for stories gleefully announcing the collapse of buy-to-let as something that no longer works, so why are so many landlords still successful?

The answer is pretty simple, so let’s take a look beyond the headlines to understand the bigger picture.

  • Press stories rarely mention that buy-to-let income keeps increasing over time – rents have risen by an average of 30% since 2008, turning a 6% yield on a property bought then, into 8% now.
  • Being smart with how you buy and hold rental properties can significantly increase your tax allowances and profit.
  • Buying unmodernised homes and upgrading them to contemporary standards is a proven rinse-and-repeat formula that creates more equity faster to expand your portfolio.

Given all of the above, it’s perfectly possible to build a sustainable buy-to-let business of one or more homes that becomes more profitable over time. Still not convinced? Then take a look at our previous blog on the buy, revamp, rent, and repeat formula.

WHAT SECURITY DOES BUY-TO-LET OFFER?

Security is a massive consideration for retirement, and the standout feature of buy-to-let for many landlords is that property is a tangible asset that can’t simply disappear overnight, or ever.

Some of the factors that make rental property a secure investment include:

  • Regardless of economic ups and downs, having a home is everyone’s first priority,
  • While pensions are managed by highly-experienced fund managers, they’re also invested in stocks and shares that follow the often sudden turns of the stock market.
  • Even in periods when property prices stagnate or fall, rents typically rise as buyers become tenants, which increases competition and pushes up yields.

Whatever the sentiment and realities of the economy, rental homes are always in demand, which is probably why the phrase “as safe as houses” exists.

Could buy-to-let be right for your future?

With the turmoil of the last year or so, having all your eggs in one basket probably isn’t the answer when planning for your retirement. 

There are so many options out there, and speaking to an expert is a great first step. So if you’d like to talk about making buy-to-let part of your strategy, call us on 0113 460 2416 or email us at info@silverspringlettings.co.uk for a chat about the rental market in Leeds and to see if it’s right for you.

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STAYING IN AT CHRISTMAS: OUR YULETIDE GUIDE TO ENJOYING THE FESTIVE SEASON AT HOME

Survived the work Christmas party – tick.

Aced the Christmas shopping – tick.

Overindulged at Christmas dinner – tick.

Now you’ve successfully completed every yuletide tradition, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

If the scrum of the sales and drizzly days aren’t tempting you outside, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the time between Christmas and New Year indoors.

Whether you want to make more space, restyle your rooms, catch up on culture or simply shut off, our blog this week is packed with ideas for fabulous festive fun without ever leaving the house.

CLEAR THE CLUTTER

After all the excitement of Christmas Day, now is a great time of year to treat your home to a cleansing clearout. Instead of squeezing more into straining cupboards and hoarding things you never use, how about creating the space to savour the things you really love?

  • Picture how you’d like a room to look before doing anything drastic – the goal is to have the home you love, so it’s worth giving it some thought.
  • Take it one drawer or cupboard at a time, and you’ll soon start feeling lighter and freer. Make the task more enjoyable with some uplifting background music.
  • Use Marie Kondo’s mantra to decide what to keep by holding each item close to see if it sparks joy. If not, thank it for its service and say your goodbyes.

Charity shops thrive on relieving you of the things you don’t want, so there’s no need to feel guilty about giving things away.

START 2023 WITH A NEW LOOK

Whether you’re decorating to sell or simply updating a room or two, why not get inspired by 2023’s interior style trends? We’ll do a full deep-dive in our dedicated January article, but here are some key looks for next year to give you a head start.

  • Curves are in, from organic-shaped furniture to wavy stripes on textiles, ceramics, and wallpaper – just don’t take it too far!
  • Cork and aluminium are two of the most sustainable materials out there, and they’re set to be big in 2023.
  • Embrace flawsome design and newstalgia: restoring, repurposing, and rejoicing in old furniture and accessories in line with kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.

Nothing beats eBay and Gumtree for sustainability, so if you’re looking to change up your furniture, nab a stylish bargain as people make space for their new acquisitions from the January sales. What’s more, you can do it all from the comfort of the couch.

CATCH UP ON THE BEST OF 2022

Pick up any newspaper or magazine this month, and you’re bound to come across a Best Of 2022 list. Keeping up with it all can be a challenge in the course of a working week, but with a longer break, why not discover some of what you missed?

  • When did you last get lost in a good book? Whether you like to curl up with Kindle, listen to audio or turn actual paper pages, Sara Cox’s Between The Covers is full of reading inspiration from celebrity guests.

With some wise picks and commitment to the task, you’ll be the go-to cultural guru when everyone returns to work. More than that, you’ll have the best small talk for the coffee machine or Zoom!

DISCOVER OR REKINDLE A TALENT

Is there anything you’ve wanted to try for as long as you can remember? We’ve all got something, and our regular weekly routines can relegate personal passions to second place. But can you think of a better time of year to make a fresh start?

  • Maybe art was your thing at school, but it’s since disappeared from your life. Try an online drawing or painting course from Skillshare or Udemy.
  • Ever since Tom Daly was snapped with his needles at the Olympics, crafting at home has become cool. Knit, sew or crochet – start with a cushion cover or scarf and see where it goes!
  • If you dream of being handy around the home and a DIY wiz, you’ll find YouTube tutorials for every odd job you can imagine.
  • Making food and enjoying it with those you love is about as wholesome as it gets, so grab yourself a copy of Delia’s How to Cook to begin your culinary journey.
  • Make a song and dance by joining a local choir, theatre group, or class to nurture your inner performer.

Having a passion adds spice to life and is food for the soul. Whatever you choose, always remember the most important thing: you don’t have to be perfect to enjoy it.

DISCONNECT & RECONNECT

Sometimes, getting back to basics is just what we need, and the festive break can provide some valuable extra time to rediscover the simple things in life

  • Pick up the phone or make a video date with friends and family near and far to catch up on life and share the gossip.
  • Invite your friends for an old-school games night of cards, board games, or, dare we say it, charades!
  • Give your body and brain some love by downloading an app for yoga, fitness, or mindfulness to relax and recharge.

Alternatively, and if you want to be a true revolutionary, instead of filling every moment of the festive break, how about finding the time to do nothing at all? Treat yourself to turning the phone off, having a long lie-in, or daydreaming on the couch – you deserve it!

How are you spending your Christmas at home?

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, and whoever you’re with, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day and wish you health and happiness for 2023 and beyond.

And if moving is on the cards next year, we’d love to help you on your way. Call us on 0113 460 2416 or drop us a line at hello@silverspringsales.co.uk for a friendly chat about your plans

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CHRISTMAS LANDLORD TIPS: WINTER PROTECTION AND PLANNING THE FUTURE OF YOUR PORTFOLIO

The big day is less than a week away, and we hope you’ll have the chance to take some well-earned time off. 

As well as the usual overspending, overeating and overindulging, the festive break gives landlords a chance to review their business and think about what comes next. And if you can limit your intake of mulled wine and eggnog, you can do it all with a clear head!

Christmas provides all sorts of opportunities, including:

  • filing your tax return long before the deadline
  • strengthening relationships with your tenants
  • ensuring your rental home survives winter in one piece
  • checking and improving vacant properties
  • planning the future of your portfolio.

As luck would have it, all of these are covered in this week’s blog. So make yourself a cuppa, find a cosy corner where you won’t be disturbed, and let’s dive in.

TICK OFF YOUR TAX RETURN

Everyone knows the self-assessment deadline for filing your tax return is January 31st, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until 11pm on the day to start filing your tax return! Instead, use the Christmas holidays to get your paperwork together in a relaxed and organised fashion.

  • If you’re filing your own return online, make sure you have your Government Gateway code (it can take up to 10 days to get one if you’re enrolling for the first time), then sign in to be sure your login details work.
  • Break up the tasks into manageable chunks to avoid getting overwhelmed – an hour a day can soon mount up without intruding on your time off.
  • Gather all your receipts and invoices together before starting the filing process including paper copies, email order confirmations and online statements.
  • Check the Government’s website to ensure you claim all your allowances, as there may be more than you realise.

We go into a lot more detail around allowances to claim, efficient expenditure and easier accounting in our earlier blog on Landlord Tax Tips, so why not take a look?

SHARE SEASON’S GREETINGS

Christmas is the perfect time of year to get in touch and reconnect, so drop your tenants a quick text or Whatsapp with some friendly seasonal greetings. You could even attach a digital card to avoid the traditional postal delays.

  • Ask in your message if everything’s running smoothly or if something needs attending to, no matter how small.
  • Add that you’ve sent your tenants an email with some winter tips on keeping their home safe and secure in case they’ll be away (more on that in the next section).
  • If you’ve got a great relationship with your tenants and hope to keep them for the longer term, show your appreciation with a bottle of wine or box of chocolates.

Small gestures really do go a long way, and wishing your tenants the best for the Christmas season is an easy win that strengthens your relationship by showing that you care.

CHECK WHO’S HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Many tenants go away over the festive break, from short visits to family and friends to a proper winter holiday. Regardless of how long they’re gone, your property must stay safe and protected to maintain insurance cover and all-round peace of mind. 

So whether or not you know your tenant’s plans, email them a helpful checklist of things to tick off in case they leave, including:

  • locking up doors, windows, side gates and sheds, and setting the alarm
  • where to turn the water off, and, if your property is prone to frozen pipes over a lengthy cold spell, how to drain down the system
  • emptying the mailbox to avoid the post sticking out for days on end
  • asking a friend or relative to pop round once or twice if your tenant will be away for more than a few days
  • letting you know if they’ll be gone for more than 14 consecutive days in case your insurance providers need to be told.

These might seem obvious, but things can easily get overlooked in the excitement of going away, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry, particularly during the winter months.

COMPLETE A CHRISTMAS CHECK-UP

If you’re between tenants over the festive season, it’s the perfect time to visit your property, check that all is well, and even give it some love. Once you’ve looked outside for slipped tiles and blocked gutters and drains, it’s time to head on in.

  • Test that everything works, from the boiler, heating and hot water to any appliances, light fittings and locks.
  • Look for leaks from above, mouldy sealant or ceilings around showers and baths, and pools of water under sinks, water tanks and radiators.
  • Pick up a bargain in the January sales to replace outdated appliances – tenants love a shiny new label to peel off after moving in.
  • Brighten up any dowdy decoration – nothing beats freshly painted walls for a feel of an exciting new start.
  • Fit easy draft exclusion measures to windows, letterboxes and under doors, then fill any holes or cracks around window frames, skirting and between floorboards.

Do you want to go deeper in making your rental property irresistible to tenants? Then take a look at our previous blog on styling a rental home without using furniture for many more expert tips.

PLAN FOR PEACE & PROSPERITY

Is your rental home a magnet for the best tenants in the area, or could it perform better with some well-chosen improvements? Perhaps you’d even like to expand your buy-to-let business?

Whether you’re acquiring a new property or upgrading an existing one, the key to success is optimising the rental income and raising the sales value with a wildly popular home. So look for the following opportunities to reap the full potential of your investments.

  • Install powerful energy-saving measures, from insulating walls, floors and lofts to replacing drafty old windows with modern double glazing.
  • Attract higher-earning tenants by replacing outdated kitchens and bathrooms, or upgrading old carpets to stylish timber floors.
  • Remodel the interior, convert a loft, or add an extension to update the design, increase the number of bedrooms, or appeal to an upscale audience.

When you’re carrying out major work, balancing expenditure with cash flow is essential. So make a plan for what you want to do, then set aside some of the rent each month to build up a fund. You can even complete the work in phases to avoid raiding your savings.

To make improvements now, check if you can release enough equity from your rental home to cover the cost of the work. Alternatively, and the cheapest option if you’re disciplined enough, find a credit card with a 0% interest offer to spread the payments over a couple of years.


Is your rental property ready for Christmas and beyond?

If you’re a landlord in Leeds,  we’d love to help you optimise your lettings portfolio for a profitable 2023 and beyond, so call us on 0113 460 2416 or email us at info@silverspringlettings.co.uk for a friendly and expert chat.

All that remains is to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year that brings you everything you’re hoping for, and perhaps even more!

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LANDLORD LEGAL ERRORS: ARE YOU ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF LETTINGS LAW?

Every landlord needs to follow around 170 different pieces of lettings legislation, so you’re not alone if you’re feeling flummoxed by so many rules and regulations.

Even though we let and manage rental homes every day, we still need to set aside time to keep track of changes to the law and landlords’ responsibilities. And to make sure we get everything right and done on time, we need watertight systems, reminders and checks.

Does this mean that being a landlord is difficult or unprofitable? No, but it can be time-consuming when there’s so much to know and do. You can also be fined or taken to court if you get things wrong.

Some of the biggest misunderstandings we see among landlords and tenants are also some of the most important. So our blog this week covers what you can, can’t, must and mustn’t do, to keep you on the right side of the law for smooth and successful tenancies.

 

BLANKET BANS ON CHILDREN AND PETS

Contrary to popular belief, you can decline tenants with children or pets. However, they’re often the tenants who stay the longest, which means fewer changeovers, void periods and fees for you.

But that doesn’t mean you should accept just anyone, and there are times when it’s right to refuse politely, including when:

  • a pet is unsuitable due to its size or the amenities of your property (for instance, large dogs aren’t suitable for small homes with no outside space)
  • a tenant’s work or lifestyle arrangements mean their pet(s) being left alone for overly long periods, which could lead to damage to your property or noise disturbance
  • a family is too large for the accommodation (i.e. two parents with two children are clearly not a good fit for a one-bedroom home).

We find that asking the right questions and using our experience and intuition weeds out the best tenants. Then we add clauses to tenancy agreements that cover children and pets to clarify how tenants should return a property, which protects our landlords and gives them peace of mind.

 

REFERENCING, FEES AND DEPOSITS

The Tenant Fees Act made landlords responsible for the costs of referencing, credit checks, creating tenancy agreements and preparing inventories. However, there is still some confusion among landlords and tenants over any exceptions and what is mandatory or optional. So let’s clear that up.

  • There’s no legal requirement for references and credit checks, but skimping on them is a false economy. They’re essential to gauge a tenant’s stability and ability to pay the rent, and you’ll need them to qualify for rent guarantee insurance (a sensible precaution right now).
  • Holding deposits up to 1 week’s rent can be held for 15 days. They must be returned as either payment towards the rent or security deposit, or refunded if the tenancy doesn’t proceed (unless the tenant withdraws or gives misleading information, which makes them unsuitable).
  • You can take a security deposit of up to 5 weeks’ rent (6 weeks for rents over £50,000 a year) which you must protect in a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days, and tell your tenants where. If you don’t, you could be ordered to return it and even repay up to 3 times the original amount. You could also limit your ability to regain possession of your property.
  • You can charge your tenant up to £50 each time (unless you can prove your expenses were higher) for adding a pet or new name to the agreement during the tenancy, but not for any additional referencing and credit checks.
  • You’re also allowed to charge your tenants for lost keys, and to add interest at 3% plus the Bank of England base rate to rent payments over two weeks late.

Crucially, you can only charge any of these costs if you set them out clearly in the tenancy agreement. Penalties for illegally charging tenants start at £5,000 for a first offence, rising to £30,000 and possible criminal prosecution if the offence is repeated within five years.

 

MAINTENANCE & MID-TERM INSPECTIONS

Inspecting your rental property during a tenancy and keeping on top of maintenance is an essential part of having an excellent relationship with your tenant and keeping your repair costs down. However, there are some rules to remember and boxes to tick.

  • Unless it’s an emergency, you cannot enter your rental property without your tenant’s permission, even if you’ve given 24 hours’ notice.
  • Keep an eye on the expiry dates of safety checks and certificates for electricity, gas, smoke alarms and energy performance – make sure they’re renewed on time to avoid a hefty penalty.
  • You are legally responsible for maintaining the structure of your property, so check for damp, mould, blocked gutters, slipped roof tiles, cracked render, rotting woodwork and tell-tale signs of leaks on ceilings, under sinks and next to boilers and water tanks.

It’s really worth getting all of these right, because the knock-on effects of getting them wrong can be substantial, from deteriorating relations with your tenant, to large repair bills that could have been avoided by spotting problems early on, to legal costs, financial penalties and even prison.

 

HANDLING ARREARS & DISPUTES

At some point in your life as a landlord, you’ll probably have to deal with missed rent payments or some sort of disagreement. It pains us to say it, but most landlords lose disputes because they didn’t set their tenancies up correctly in the first place, or because they handled things in the wrong way.

Here’s how to do it right.

  • Stay calm. Although the situation may be frustrating, letting your temper get the better of you rarely gets the result you want. And it’s illegal to threaten or harass your tenant.
  • Get onto arrears right away, in a firm but fair manner. If your tenant can’t pay everything back at once but wants to stay, agree a payment plan they can stick to.
  • Make sure you start the tenancy with a professionally prepared and signed inventory with photographs – without one, you’re almost guaranteed to lose any dispute or claim.

A big reason why landlords use managing agents is to keep a degree of separation and perspective in the event of arrears and disputes. Give us a call on 0113 460 2416 if you’d like us to manage your rental property for you, or take a look at our article on deposit disputes to find out more about winning them.

 

GETTING YOUR PROPERTY BACK

Different rules for different parts of the UK affect the way landlords can regain possession of their properties. The law is broadly similar for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not for Scotland, so it’s essential to understand the rules wherever you own rental homes.

There are lengthy government pages covering tenancy law in Scotland and the rest of the UK, but here are some of the main points for regaining possession of your property:

  • Don’t be tempted to change the locks, no matter how difficult or behind with the rent your tenants are. This is a serious offence, and you must go through the correct legal channels.
  • You can service a Section 21 notice in England, Northern Ireland and Wales without giving a reason, subject to at least four months of the tenancy having run, and not before the minimum fixed period ends.
  • If you haven’t protected the tenant’s security deposit, or if the local authority has served notice on you for repairs, you’re not allowed to serve a Section 21 notice.
  • In Scotland, Section 21 notices have been abolished, and you can’t serve notice without reason if your tenants aren’t at fault. However, you can regain possession if you wish to refurbish the property, move in, or sell.
  • Where your tenants are seriously behind with their rent, engaging in anti-social behaviour, or otherwise breaching their agreement, you can serve a Section 8 Notice (known as a Notice to Leave in Scotland), even during the initial fixed term.

On a final note, regardless of whether any eviction bans are in place, going through the courts to regain pattern possession of your property is a lengthy process. The onus is very much on landlords to supply perfect paperwork, and the courts tend to side with tenants when notice is incorrectly served.

 

Are you on the right side of lettings law?

With so much to know and ever-changing rules, even the most knowledgeable landlords can still make mistakes. So if you’re a landlord in Leeds and you want to be sure you’re on the right side of lettings law, why not get in touch?

Give us a call on 0113 460 2416 or email us at info@silverspringlettings.co.uk – we’re here to help and to keep your rental homes legal, let and loved.

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THINKING OF INVESTING? WHY BEING A LANDLORD IS A SOLID PLAN FOR YOUR FUTURE

How do you feel about becoming a landlord?

 

If you’re planning your long-term financial security, you have plenty of options to choose from. Savings, shares, pensions, property… they all have their pros and cons, and people choose one or more for multiple reasons.

 

We have many different types of landlords as clients. Some of them own just one property, while some have large portfolios. But regardless of whether they’re private individuals or limited companies, they share some common motivations for owning rental homes.

 

Freedom, stability, feeling in charge, retirement planning and financial security for their families are all in there, and so is the feelgood factor in nurturing their passion for property and providing comfortable homes that people to live in for many years.

 

So in this week’s blog, we’re diving deeper into how our clients choose to become landlords and why they enjoy it, so you can decide if you’d like to start and grow your own lettings portfolio.

 

A PHYSICAL, VISIBLE ASSET

For many of our landlords, the fact that property is something they can see and touch is enough to make it their investment of choice. As well as taking comfort in that physical quality, they also feel that being a landlord is one of the safest investment options, for a number of reasons:

 

  • Homes can’t be wiped out overnight like companies can – buildings stay where they are.
  • House prices aren’t as prone to wild fluctuations like the stock market and crypto.
  • Having a home is everyone’s top priority and will never go out of fashion.

With more rental homes needed and never enough being built, it’s hard to see the private rented sector and landlords having anything other than a very assured future.

 

THE JOY OF FEELING IN CHARGE

When many of our landlords bought their first investment property, they already had an existing career, often working for someone else. For them, buying a rental home was a first-step in feeling in charge of their own destiny without being answerable to anyone else.

Some of the things they recommend about being a landlord include:

  • having a business that’s all about their passion for property, which makes it genuinely interesting and rewarding
  • getting all the legwork and legalwork done by a managing agent to find the best tenants, keep their property in line with the law, and deal with maintenance and repairs
  • being able to start landlord life as a non-time-consuming side hustle, then having the choice of turning it into an active role or simply receiving a passive income.

There are very few investment strategies that give you such direct control over how your assets are managed and perform, and it’s this freedom that appeals so much to our clients.

 

FINANCIAL & FUTURE FLEXIBILITY

Unless you’re a substantial shareholder, you don’t have much immediate sway over how a company operates. As a landlord it’s a very different story, and you can future-proof your income by follwing market trends and putting the equity in your rental homes to work.

Among the many ways our landlords leverage their properties, you can:

  • seek out homes with future potential to convert a loft space or extend the building
  • reconfigure or renovate an interior to take advantage of changing local demographics
  • refinance to get a more competitive mortgage deal or to release equity for improvements, business expansion or lifestyle purchases.

If you’d like to make the most of the rental market in Leeds, we’re here to help you stay on top of changing tenant demand so you can create popular and profitable lettings.

 

INCOME & SECURITY INTO RETIREMENT

There are no two ways about it: later life is coming for us all, and even a small lettings portfolio can give you a valuable feeling of security in retirement. For our clients, being a landlord has some of the following advantages to build financial security after they stop working:

 

  • A buy-to-let business can still run, expand and produce income into your retirement with very little work or managing of people.
  • Rental homes can become a source of pure income long before you stop working, unlike private pensions.
  • Property prices and rents consistently out-perform savings accounts and ISAs, and you can build substantial equity to release even after you retire while the capital value continues to increase.

According to the English Private Landlord Survey 2021, planning for retirement is the main reason why people become landlords, with more than half saying that owning rental property was mainly about a pension investment. So why not join them?

 

A LEGACY FOR YOUR FAMILY

Like many of our landlord clients, you might want to ensure a solid financial future, increased opportunities and an easier life for your children when they become adults.

There are many ways that owning rental homes can help you provide your family with financial security and give your children a head start, including:

  • buying property as a limited company, then making family members shareholders so they’re not faced with a huge inheritance tax bill later on
  • giving your children or other family members a valuable vocation and useful business experience to set them up for life
  • having ready-made properties for your children to move into when they leave home.

If you’d like to know more about using rental homes to create a secure financial future for your family, our previous blog on doing it for the kids is full of expert tips.

 

What’s your next step?

If you’d like to know more about becoming a landlord or you’d like to buy a rental home in Leeds, why not get in touch?

We’d love to help get off to a flying start and build a successful portfolio, so call us on 0113 460 2416 or info@silverspringlettings.co.uk.  Everything starts with a friendly chat!

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LETTING UP: COULD RISING INFLATION SPELL GOOD NEWS FOR LANDLORDS?

Everyone’s talking about inflation right now, and usually in negative terms.

The current climate of rising prices is affecting us all, from filling up the car to doing the weekly shop. There’s also plenty of news about tenants and buyers feeling the squeeze, but what about landlords?

Reduced tax allowances and rising interest rates are affecting monthly profits, and you might be wondering whether buy-to-let is still a viable business.

While today is nothing like when inflation hit 25% in the 1970s, or when mortgage rates breached 15% in the 1990s, those numbers aren’t very useful for making decisions now.

Nonetheless, there are some lessons to learn from previous times of uncertainty, not least that growing your business and income can be far more profitable than simply cutting your losses.

As a landlord, you want your rental portfolio to thrive and give you a passive income into retirement, regardless of economic ups and downs. With that in mind, this week’s blog explores how rising inflation can work to your advantage.

 

HOW DOES INFLATION AFFECT OUR DAILY LIVES?

None of us minds our income increasing, and we all accept that prices don’t stay the same forever. So inflation in itself isn’t a bad thing, unless it reduces our spending power.

The current energy and fuel crisis is making everything more expensive to produce and transport. Meanwhile, supply chain issues, the worldwide grain shortage and high consumer demand are pushing up the price of goods and services.

This all boils down to the pound in your pocket being worth less each day, and that cash isn’t king right now. Your money needs to work harder to be worth the same or more, which means finding assets that have a history of high performance.

Even with the Bank of England raising interest rates to cool the economy, savings accounts currently only pay around half the rate of inflation. So investors look elsewhere to grow their wealth, and that’s why landlords choose the safety and proven track record of property.

 

HOW DOES INFLATION AFFECT MORTGAGES & DEBT?

If you have a cheap buy-to-let mortgage ending soon, or you’re looking to get a mortgage on a  rental property, rising interest rates mean smaller loan-to-value offers. That’s because stress tests by lenders require the monthly rental income to be 145% of the mortgage repayment.

However, what often gets missed, is how inflation causes the value of capital debt to drop in real terms over time. Most buy-to-let mortgages are interest-only, and here’s what happens to a £200,000 interest-only mortgage over its first ten years at different inflation rates:

  • At 0% inflation, the debt still has the same value in real terms of £200,000
  • At the Bank of England’s target inflation rate of 2%, the value of the debt in real terms drops to £164,070
  • At today’s 10% inflation rate, the value of the debt in real terms falls to just £77,109

This shrinking of the debt in real terms is made even more profitable by the inflation-beating history of house prices. And while interest rates are no longer at historic lows, they’re still way below inflation and cheaper than they’ve been for most of the last 70 years.

 

HOW DOES INFLATION AFFECT PROPERTY PRICES AND RENTS?

You don’t need to be an economist to know that property prices have left the Consumer Price Index trailing in their wake. There’s simply no longer a connection, and the demand of the last couple of years has seen record rises.

However, any reported fall in prices causes buyers to hesitate, and October’s small drop was accompanied by Rightmove and Zoopla reporting reduced demand. And whenever fewer people are looking to buy, one thing’s for sure: more tenants looking for a home to rent.

History tells us how this plays out:

  • Landlords have less competition when looking for rental homes to buy.
  • Sellers become more flexible on price.
  • The simple rule of supply and demand pushes rents and yields higher.

Before you ask: no, we haven’t forgotten the increased cost of living. So if your rental property will be empty soon, or you wish to expand your portfolio, take a look at our previous blog on how to attract high-earning professional tenants  with plenty of disposable income.

 

HOW DOES INFLATION AFFECT SAVINGS AND INVESTMENTS?

As properties fell in value during the recessions of the 1990s and 2000s, landlords swooped in to scoop them up. That’s because bricks and mortar is a unique type of investment – what other asset lets you tweak and upgrade as the market evolves and is always in demand?

If you’re wondering where to put your money, here are some of the differences between savings, shares and property:

 

  • Savings accounts are ideal for a rainy-day safety net, but your money will reduce in value if the interest rate is lower than the rate of inflation, like now.
  • Shares can offer exhilarating returns in times of high inflation, but they are extremely volatile, and companies can be wiped out alarmingly fast if the economy dips.
  • Property can fluctuate in value, but it’s far less volatile than the stock market: it can’t simply disappear overnight, and having a home is everybody’s priority number one.

For every investor, it’s a matter of weighing up what feels right for you between risk, return and stability. Most of our landlords invest in property because of the way it balances all three.

 

HOW DOES INFLATION AFFECT LANDLORDS’ COSTS?

Everything gets more expensive when inflation increases, from labour and services to goods and materials. So it’s a wise precaution to review your rental property for any upcoming expenses to see if you can deal with them now before the costs go up.

Things to look out for include:

  • minor repairs that could turn into bigger and costlier problems
  • essential maintenance works and safety checks for gas, electricity and smoke alarms
  • plans for upgrades, including appliances, fittings, redecoration or refurbishment
  • insurance policies for the building, your contents, legal cover and rent protection.

Depending on your property and plans, the savings can seriously mount up by taking a proactive approach and getting ahead of further price rises.

 

What’s your next step?

Regardless of economic climates, demand for rental homes consistently exceeds supply and assures their status as long-term investments.

If you’re a landlord in Leeds and you’d like some advice on the best homes to invest in or the best upgrades to make, why not get in touch? Call us on 0113 460 2416 or email us at info@silverspringlettings.co.uk– we’d love to help you build a valuable, sustainable and profitable portfolio.

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Three Nightmarish Buy-to-Let Scenarios and How to Avoid Them

You’ll see plenty of ghosts and ghouls trick-or-treating tonight, but here are three frightening scenarios that haunt landlords all year round.

 

Being a landlord can sometimes be unpredictable – but the experience is much less scary if you have a good letting agent on your side. Read on to find out why.

 

Late night emergency

Picture this: It’s past midnight, a full moon is in the sky, and you’re safe and warm in your bed. Then the phone rings. And your cosy evening turns into a fright night.

 

It’s your tenant calling. She’s in tears because burglars have forced their way into your property. She’s lost valuable belongings, and the property is now unsecured. You’re needed ASAP.

 

No matter how organised or diligent a landlord is, things can go wrong. And when they do, the landlord has a duty of care to rectify the situation promptly.

 

But what happens if you’re on holiday or away on business when the emergency occurs? If you have a letting agent managing the property, you can relax – they’ll deal with it. If you don’t, you’ll have to stop whatever you’re doing and take charge.

 

Red tape horror show

Did you know that there are more than 200 laws that apply to landlords in the UK, covering everything from energy ratings and gas safety to evictions and deposits?

 

Spend a day or two trying to familiarise yourself with all these regulations and you’ll wind up feeling like a zombie. But you must get to grips with all this red tape, because if you fail to follow the law, you could face a heavy fine or jail.

 

The alternative is to entrust the job to a letting agent who will be up to speed on all the relevant rules and regulations.

 

Neighbour from hell 

No doubt you reference check your tenants (if you don’t, what are you thinking?). But unfortunately, a landlord can’t do the same thing with the neighbours.

 

What happens if a ghoulish person moves into a neighbouring property and makes your tenant’s life hell? If this happens, your tenant will likely turn to you for help.

 

These situations can be time-consuming and emotionally draining (especially if you need to involve the authorities) and are best handled by a pro.

 

If you use a letting agent, they’ll help your tenant if problems arise at the property.

 

From all of us here at Silverspring Lettings, have a Happy Halloween.

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RENTAL RECOVERY: WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN YOUR TENANT PAYS THE RENT LATE OR LEAVES WITH ARREARS?

Arrears – a dreaded word among landlords and, for anyone with even a mildly British temperament, an often uncomfortable situation to discuss and resolve.

We’re fortunate enough to have very few tenants behind with their rent, but we also know the current economic climate could throw anyone’s finances off course.

As the cost of living crisis bites, household budgets are getting squeezed, and rent arrears are more of a threat. It may never affect you, but if your tenants do stop paying their rent, you need to act quickly to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.

With that in mind, this week’s blog contains everything you need to protect yourself from the start, find solutions to financial hiccups, and recover what you’re owed.

 

START BY PROTECTING YOURSELF

The best way to prevent rent arrears from building up and causing you financial woe is to set your tenancies up correctly and securely. This includes:

  • Proper referencing – we can’t stress how important this is, yet we still meet plenty of landlords who accepted a tenant without checking their status. Not to make light of it, but in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Huge.”
  • Face-to-face viewings – never rent to anyone you haven’t met in person or who hasn’t been inside your property.
  • Rent guarantee insurance – this offers invaluable security right now for a relatively small monthly c Typical policies cover lost rent for 6 to 12 months, together with the legal fees involved in regaining possession. As long as you have satisfactory tenant references, cover is available for new and existing tenancies.

 

GETTING YOUR LATE RENT PAID

It’s good practice to check your bank statements religiously on the first working day after the rent is due. A missed payment doesn’t automatically mean your tenant has gone rogue: it could be nothing more than a personal oversight, bank error, or short-term financial glitch.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to act immediately and stop one month’s late rent from turning into two or more. Follow this simple three-step process to get your rent up to date asap:

  • Start with a gentle-but-firm reminder text or email asking your tenant to check with their bank if the payment has gone out, or if they know why the rent wasn’t
  • Follow up with a phone call if you receive no response or rent within 24 hours, then with a formal letter if you’ve not heard back after several days. Usually, this works.
  • Make a plan – ideally, your tenant will get their rent up to date right away, but if they don’t have the funds right now, can you settle on a payment plan over a few months?

Whether it’s a one-off thing or your tenant is prone to paying a few days late, knowing that you’re on the case can be all they need to pay on time and avoid the embarrassment of being chased up.

 

DEALING WITH UNPAID ARREARS

Tenants can fall into arrears for any number of reasons. A relationship break-up, losing their job, becoming ill or simply having trouble with the increased cost of living can quickly put anyone into financial difficulty.

Although these conversations can be uncomfortable (a big reason why landlords use managing agents), the first step is to get total clarity on your tenant’s situation. A compassionate nudge around their finances could lead to a solution they may not see on their own.

  • Ask your tenant if they’ve considered using a budget planner to identify any short-term cost savings (things like Netflix, gym memberships, coffees, and takeaways can all mount up, but they can also free up useful cash when suspended).
  • Explore whether a member of your tenant’s family could step in with financial assistance (or even become a guarantor) if your tenant wants to stay.
  • Encourage your tenant to speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they’re entitled to financial support from the Government.

If your tenant says they can’t afford to live at your property anymore, remember that you can use their security deposit to make up some or all of the unpaid rent. For tenants who don’t respond to your attempts to get in touch, it’s time to move on to the next step.

 

GETTING YOUR PROPERTY BACK

Sometimes you have no choice but to take back possession of your rental property. Perhaps your tenants need you to evict them so they can get local authority housing, or they could simply be refusing to pay what they owe.

Depending on the circumstances, letting your tenants out of their contract might be the easiest route, so you can re-let your property and start earning income again. You’ll also create a path for your tenants to pay you back by moving somewhere cheaper or with family.

Otherwise, if your property is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you could serve the following:

  • a Section 8 notice after the arrears hit two months for rent paid monthly (or eight weeks for rent paid weekly), bearing in mind that the process can be over a year with the current court backlog;
  • a Section 21 ‘no fault’ notice if the tenancy is beyond its original term, then seek accelerated possession (which doesn’t need a court hearing) if your tenants refuse to leave after the two-month notice period.

In Scotland, there’s currently a limited ban on evictions, but you can still apply for an eviction order to enforce after the ban subsides. However, the ban doesn’t apply if:

 

  • your tenant is six months or more in arrears
  • you intend to move into or sell your rental property to alleviate financial hardship
  • your tenant is no longer living there.

 

Remember: if you do need to start legal proceedings, it’s vital to serve notice in the correct way to avoid being dismissed by the court and having to start again.

 

RECOVERING UNPAID RENT FROM TENANTS WHO’VE LEFT

Regaining possession of your rental property is one thing, but recouping any unpaid rent is a different process. Ideally, your tenants will start paying you back after they leave, but if that’s not the case and you wish to claim through the County Court, here are some things to note:

  • You need your tenant’s new address to include on the claim form. If you don’t have it, you can apply to the court to serve papers at their work.
  • At this point, the threat of a County Court Judgement (CCJ) can push tenants to pay you back and avoid a poor credit rating that will damage their chances of renting or buying a home for years.
  • If you go to court and win, it doesn’t necessarily mean your tenant will have the money to pay you what they owe.
  • You could then apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order to take the money out of their income, but the courts tend to set very low monthly payments.

Given this lengthy legal obstacle course, it’ll probably come as no surprise that many landlords choose to simply move on without chasing unpaid rent. It’s far from ideal, but at least they have their property back and producing income.

 

What’s your next step?

If you’d like some advice on getting your tenants back on track with their rent, or if you’re looking for a managing agent in Leeds to take care of this sort of thing (and more!) for you, why not get in touch?

Call us on 0113 460 2416 or email us at info@silverspringlettings.co.uk for some landlord love.

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Six DIY Tips That Will Save You Money on Your Energy Bills

With winter around the corner, there’s still time to make changes at home to minimise your energy usage and save on your bills.

 

There’s no getting around it: we’ll all be paying more for our energy this winter. But by making a few simple changes at home, you can trim back your energy usage.

 

While much of the energy-saving advice that has been dished out so far relates to behavioural change – things like using your boiler less and turning off the lights – there are also some DIY measures that can help.

 

And the good news is that these energy efficiency changes will also cut your carbon footprint and save you money for years to come.

 

Six energy-saving DIY tips

  • Install a water-efficient shower head in your bathroom. This step could reduce your hot water consumption by up to 50%, meaning you use less energy and water. Win-win.

 

  • If you haven’t already replaced standard bulbs with LEDs, now’s the time. LEDs use 75% less energy than old-fashioned bulbs.

 

  • Bleed your radiators. It’s best to do this at least once a year to ensure no air is trapped inside, as these air bubbles stop radiators from working efficiently.

 

  • Install thermostatic radiator valves on all your radiators so that you can adjust the temperature in each room. This is especially useful if you work from home and only need one or two rooms to be warm during the day.

 

  • Insulate your hot water tank by fitting a cylinder jacket (these are widely available at DIY stores). British Gas suggests that without one, your hot water cylinder could lose up to 75% of its heat.

 

  • Stop warm air escaping under doors by investing in a few draught excluders (like the ones your granny used to have). Other draughtproofing products on the market include self-adhesive foam strips that you apply around windows and letterbox brush strips that stop the heat from escaping from your letterbox.

 

For more information and support

Several grants and one-off payments have been made available to assist those struggling with bills. To ensure you’re claiming all you’re entitled to, visit citizensadvice.org.uk.

 

From all of us here at Silverspring Lettings, thanks for reading.