North Manchester Lettings: Advice for First-time Landlords

The decision to enter the property market as a landlord is not one to be taken lightly, but if you’ve been thinking about it for a while, there’s no time like the present to set the ball rolling on your new venture. Manchester is a great spot for property investors – one of the UK’s major cities, it is well connected to the rest of the country by road, rail and air, and has a large student population. Both these factors mean there is always a steady stream of renters looking for the perfect property. If you choose wisely and research your target rental market, you should have no trouble generating interest in you property (or properties).

This article aims to provide practical North Manchester landlord advice for those who are new to the area, or new to the property market.

Decide What Type of Tenant You Want

You might not have any firm ideas of what type of tenant you would like to rent out your property to, but it’s very helpful to know who your market is. North Manchester is popular with a wide variety of renters – including students, young professionals, families and older couples – but not all groups will want to rent the same types of property. Students have become increasingly demanding in the last couple of decades, and the traditional cramped, damp, run-down red brick terraced student properties of the past will no longer cut it. Many students prefer to live in designated student apartments with all mod cons, excellent facilities and good transport links. It’s still possible to rent private properties to groups of students, but students tend to congregate in certain areas, particularly to the south of Manchester, so are unlikely to want to live in a district that is predominantly home to families.

If you want to target families, you will need to think about the proximity of schools. North Manchester has a large number of primary and secondary schools, some more popular with parents than others. Proximity to a good school can have an impact on house prices, but you might also be able to command a higher rental fee if you are in a catchment area of a top school, so you should bear this in mind if your target renters have children.

Young professionals are likely to want a property that’s close to nightlife and shops, or at least has excellent transport links to the nearest decent nightlife. In the case of North Manchester, this is likely to mean excellent links to the city centre – so look for good train, bus or tram links, or at least somewhere that is a short and affordable taxi ride away. North Manchester’s Metrolink tram system is very popular with commuters, so properties near a tramline are always a good bet.

Don’t Over-estimate the Market

As an investor, you have the advantage that you are not part of a chain and you do not need to wait for your own property to sell before you complete. This can be a big attraction to vendors, and may allow you to drive down the price on your chosen property. Emphasise your ability to commit and proceed with the sale immediately when you make an offer, but don’t get carried away and be tempted to pay more than you can realistically afford, or more than makes sense given your likely return on investment. While North Manchester has some highly desirable areas, many districts – such as Harpurhey and Moston – are known for their affordable housing and tend to have something of a rough reputation. No matter how desirable or modern any property you purchase in areas like these, you will struggle to attract renters prepared to pay premium level rents.

Seek Professional Advice

If you have never let out a property before, you will need to ensure you fulfill all your legal obligations. There have been moves to clamp down on unscrupulous and negligent landlords in recent years, and tenants have a number of rights you will need to be aware of. If you are not entirely sure of all your responsibilities as a landlord, seek advice from a professional who can ensure you don’t fall foul of the law. There are numerous agencies with specialist knowledge of the North Manchester rental market and these can help you target the right renters for your property, and help ensure a mutually beneficial relationship for both you and your tenants.

An Introduction to Blackley for Landlords

Just three short miles from Manchester city centre, and with great public transport and road links to the north west region, Blackley is a popular spot for renters. Although the area has suffered from a somewhat sketchy reputation in the past, there are now a number of new housing developments and modern apartment blocks. These are attracting young couples and families who are priced out of the city centre but want to be close to all the amenities of Manchester. Recent Blackley property news reveals new and upcoming developments from the likes of Taylor Wimpey that are sure to enhance the area still further.

Public transport links

As with most of the areas surrounding Manchester city centre, Blackley enjoys excellent public transport links. Many bus routes connect Blackley with both the city centre and other towns and villages in the region. In addition, Manchester’s excellent Metrolink tram network serves the area, providing frequent and speedy journeys into the city for commuters. Residents can also travel further afield by tram, with towns such as Bury and Altrincham easily accessible.

Excellent road links

The M60 motorway that circles the city of Manchester passes by Blackley, and in fact borders the area to the north. Easily accessed from Blackley, the M60 links up with many of the region’s other motorways, offering straightforward commutes to towns and cities further afield.

Parks and green spaces

Blackley is home to a number of sizeable parks and green spaces, ensuring that there is plenty of scope for outdoor leisure activities. Irk Valley, Tweedale Common and Nutbank Common are all located in the area. One of the most famous local landmarks is Boggart Hole Clough, a popular park with lots of pleasant walks. The park has recently been rejuvenated thanks to heavy investment, and now boasts a number of improved leisure facilities. As well as football pitches, basketball and tennis courts, Boggart Hole Clough has a popular boating lake, a bowling green and a well-maintained athletics track. Events are held in the park throughout the year, with summer fun days taking place during the warmer months, and an impressive firework display on Bonfire Night. Those who enjoy walking will love discovering the numerous paths and trails, as well as spotting the historical stone bridge that crosses the brook running through Boggart Hole Clough.

Heaton Park, now famous as a concert venue that has hosted some of the biggest names in British music in recent years, is situated in Blackley and is home to Heaton Hall, an impressive Grade I listed mansion. Blackley Forest is another popular outdoor spot, and was one of the earliest Community Woodlands in England. Originally developed to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the forest also commemorates those who lost their lives in World War II. The forest was planted on the spot of an ancient woodland dating back at least a thousand years. The forest attracts a wide range of walkers and families, and is well served by a number of trails and paths.

Local amenities

Blackley Golf Club is situated near the M60 motorway, and celebrated its 100th birthday several years ago. The club has recently invested in improvements to its facilities, with its current clubhouse opening in 2009. In addition to its golf club, Blackley is also home to Blackley Cricket Club.

Blackley has an excellent range of shops, both small independents and large national retailers, including Asda. There is also an indoor market. Avenue Library and Learning Centre is a large, modern and well-equipped library on Victoria Avenue East. Built on the spot where Blackley Cinema once stood, the library is a hub of learning and community activity. As well as traditional lending library, the centre also offers classes and training programmes for local people.

Blackley property

Those who aren’t familiar with Blackley, and who only know of its previously rather rough reputation, are often surprised by the variety of properties available in the area. Modernised semis and detached properties, as well as new build houses, routinely sell for in excess of £300,000. At the lower end of the market, however, it’s possible to find small terraced homes going for not much more than £60,000.

The variety of properties available in Blackley make it a great choice for buy-to-let investors, who should have no problems finding a property to meet their requirements. Modern apartments that need no major work are readily available for below £100,000, and are easily let to young professionals who want a luxury property but not at city centre prices. Much of the local housing stock consists of traditional red brick terraces, generally of two, three or four bedrooms.

Landlords and the Housing and Planning Bill

The Housing and Planning Bill is set to become a cornerstone of the Conservative Government’s vision for the property and rental market from now until 2020.

This is a heavy weight piece of legislation, much of the content trailed in advance in the Conservative Manifesto and “Fixing the Foundations”, the new Government’s productivity plan – it has 145 clauses and 11 schedules.

The measures are far reaching and are intended to ease the way and encourage the building of new starter homes and self-build among many other things to do with planning and development. Local authorities, many of whom have so far resisted planning and development measures introduced under the last government, for example the conversation of redundant office space to residential, will be put under a duty to promote the supply of new homes, and to prepare reports about the actions they have taken under the starter homes duties.

However, of most interest to landlords are the measures included to tackle so called “rogue landlords”.

Banning Orders

BANNING ORDER red Rubber Stamp over a white background.

A banning order is a new concept in housing which will be an order made by the First-tier (Property) Tribunal, which has the effect of banning a person from:

  • letting housing in England;
  • engaging in letting agency work that relates to housing in England;
  • engaging in property management work that relates to housing in England;
  • or doing two or more of those things.

The regulations will be set out what explaining constitutes a banning order offence. A local housing authority in England will be able to apply for a banning order against a person who has been convicted of a banning order offence.

Before applying for a banning order, the authority will need to give that person a notice of intended proceedings, informing them that the authority is applying for a banning order, and inviting them to appeal within 28 days.

The clause in the Bill provides that in deciding whether to make a banning order and if so, what order to make, the Tribunal must consider:

  • the seriousness of the offence;
  • any previous convictions that the person has for a banning order offence;
  • whether the person is or ever was included in the database of rogue landlords and letting agents;
  • the likely effect of the banning order on the person against whom the banning order is proposed to be made and anyone else who may be affected by such an order.

A ban must last for at least six months. If the order is breached, a the local authority can impose a financial penalty up to £5,000.

A breach of a banning order does not invalidate or affect the enforceability of any provision of a tenancy or other contract. In particular, this is to ensure that a tenancy agreement cannot be found to be invalid on the basis that it was granted when a landlord or letting agent was subject to a banning order.

This provides protection for the parties to a tenancy agreement by ensuring that they do not lose their rights under the agreement as a result of the banning order.

Creating a Database of Rogue Landlords… and Letting Agents

Housing-enforcement-offic-012The Secretary of State is to be required to establish and operate a database of rogue landlords and letting agents. All local housing authorities in England will be responsible for maintaining the content of the database.

Those with banning orders made against them will be included, plus those where a local authority deems them suitable for inclusion, even if they are not in possession of a banning order. An appeal mechanism is to be available for those included in the “rogues’ database”.

Rent Repayment Orders

dab1422639385_866_90984443This provision in the Bill for Rent Repayment Orders will empower the First-tier Tribunal to make the orders to deter rogue landlords who have committed an offence, or rented housing in breach of the new banning order.

The offences will be:

  • breaches of improvement orders and prohibition notices and of licensing requirements under the Housing Act 2004,
  • violent entry under the Criminal Law Act 1977,
  • and unlawful eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

 

An order requires a landlord to repay rent paid by a tenant or to repay to a local housing authority housing benefit or universal credit which had been paid in respect of rent. For clarity, the Bill provides for definitions of a “letting agent”, “letting agency work” and “property management work”. It also describes what is meant by “English letting agency work” and “English property management work”.

Recovering Abandoned Premises in England 

camelot-UK_2012SquattedRoom-78 Abandonment of rental properties has for a long time been a very difficult situation to deal with for landlords, given the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The Bill provides that a landlord may follow course to recover possession of a property where it has been abandoned, without the need for a court order.

A private landlord will be required to give a tenant notice which brings the tenancy to an end on that day, if the tenancy relates to premises in England and certain conditions are met:

  • a certain amount of rent is unpaid (two months, if monthly, or one quarter);
  • that the landlord has given a series of warning notices;
  • and that neither the tenant or a named occupier has responded in writing to those warning notices before the date specified in the notices.

    If you require any further information on any of the details of this article, feel free to call our offices on 0161 681 3724 and we will be glad to help you.

Lettings Agency Fee’s

Since 27th May 2015 it has been a legal requirement that all letting agents must publish full details of their fees and charges. Ours can be found here for Landlords and here for tenants. Letting agents must publish full details of their fees and charges on their websites and prominently display them in all their offices where they deal face to face with customers.

However, some letting agents’ websites do not make it easy for you to see the fees they are charging. Aside from the usual, expected, costs, there may also be other hidden charges that landlords and tenants may not be aware of. The description of what each fee covers and how it is calculated must be clear so you can understand the service and costs covered.

If a letting agent doesn’t show its fees or make them clear you can contact the local council who are responsible for enforcement with fines on the agent of up to £5,000.

Amy Andrew from This is Money spoke to experts at Shelter and easyProperty to find out more about fees so landlords and tenants have the information they need to avoid being overcharged letting agent’s fees. The full article on the Daily Mail website can be read here

We carried out some local research and were surprised by what we found. We typed into google “moston letting agent” and took a look at the first 20 agents website that appeared – we ignored zoopla, on the market, rightmove etc etc and just looked at the websites for our 19 most local competitors (we were the extra one)

Of the 20 agents operating in this area a staggering 13 of them, that’s 65%, have NOT published any of their fee’s on their website, despite it being a legal requirement and them being liable for a £5000 fine.

fees1

If an agent is not publishing their fee’s, as they have been told to do, are they being lazy, ignorant or are they wilfully ignoring the law?

Whichever the three scenario’s, would you be happy leaving your property in the hands of an agent who is guilty of any of the above sins? I wouldnt!

In terms of fee’s, we could obviously only take a small sample of data, as so many agents have chosen not to publish their fees. But of the 7 local agents we found, we first looked at their Let Only Fee’s.

To make the comparisons fair we added up all the additional costs lurking around so each agent was offering for a 2 bed property at £550pcm:

  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Tenant Find
  • Tenant Referencing
  • Deposit Collections and Protection
  • Drawing Up Tenancy Agreement
  • Move in Inventory

Our fee for this basic service is £300 inc VAT below are all the fee’s we found:

fees2

As you can see fee’s range from £300 upto £660 for this single service. We didn’t inflate figures or stretch ourselves down to London to try and shock, all these agents are operating within a couple of miles of our office and these are the fee’s they are charging you just for a simple Let Only Service.

Completing the same exercise for a managed property was a little more complex, but don’t worry, we did it for you.

Sadly when looking further into FULL fee’s we lost another four of our agents, pushing our total of non compliance to the law to a whopping 85% of local agents have no published full fee’s for their landlords.

How did we lose 4 more agents to make this 85%? They were not publishing FULL fee’s, its all good saying what your setup and your commission fee are, but why aren’t the agents publishing their routine maintenance costs, gas safety, epc, electrical inspections etc? How can a landlord compare like with like, when there is so much secrecy?

Again, ask yourself why aren’t these agents publishing their fees? Is it ignorance of their legal obligations? Is it that they don’t want you to know their fees? Or is it simply that they cannot be bothered to update their website? Whatever the reason, do you want to work with these agents who are either lazy, ignorant or downright unlawful?

Our four remaining agents now went head to head with each other looking at total expected fee’s over the course of 12 months on a 2 bed property fetching £550pcm and having all its annual checks. here are our overall results:

fees4

There isnt a great difference between the 3 agents in terms of costing over the year, the difference in rates is about 9% – but thats only from the 3 agents out of 20 who actually published full rates, in accordance with the law. If we get the time to snoop around further it would be really interesting to find out what the real variety in fees is around Moston and East Manchester.

fees5

We obviously cannot publish the names of the agents who are not complying to legal requirements and any updates we receive we will endeavour to use to keep this information accurate.

What are your thoughts on this?

Are Your Agents Fee’s Misleading?

As of 27 May 2015, it became a legal requirement under the Consumer Rights Act for all agents to show their fees as VAT inclusive. This measure, I believe has been introduced to once again clamp down on those rogue agents out there who are hiding their fee’s and misleading their landlords.

I get a real bee in my bonnet about lettings agents fee’s. You may have read my previous posts on hidden fee’s, price hiking and unfair fee’s. I’m now on my hobby horse about misleading fee’s.

I think my anger around fee’s stems from a basic human quality of honesty and trust. The way I work and the way I run my business is in a very open, upfront and honest way. I can do this because i’m a small independant. I manage less than 1000 properties and the book stops at me. I don’t have shareholders to please and pay, I don’t have a board to answer to and I do what I do because I’m a landlord, a business owner and an employer. I’m not a tycoon, I’m not a millionaire and I don’t wear a suit.

I have been running Brentwood Lettings for almost 20 years, and I pride myself on the quality ad the value of service my agency offers to our landlords. We don’t, and have never, advertise prices exclusive of VAT, we don’t add commissions to our contractors rates, we don’t double dip fee’s from both the tenant and the landlord and we don’t overstate our costs.

It would be bad practise for me to point fingers directly at my local competition, but I know all of the above are happening on my doorstep, to landlords within my catchment area and they are happening week in week out and have been happening for years.

If I could get all the landlords in Manchester together in one room and have the opportunity to say one thing to them, just one thing, I wouldn’t self promote, I wouldn’t sell, I wouldn’t even tell them who I was, i’d simply ask “Why are you letting your agent rip you off?” and offer them my phone number.

 

We publish all of our fee’s so nobody is left in the dark and nobody is left wondering about charges.

Click Here to Download our fees for Let Only Services

Click here to Download Our Fees For Property Management

 

 

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Why Isn’t Your Agent Publishing Their Fees?

If you went to tesco’s and had to wait until you reached the checkout before knowing how much something cost, would you shop there? Would you trust tesco? Would you feel good about going back there? No No No?

hidden feesThen why are so many landlords dealing with agents who are not transparent about their fee’s? They tell you a fee, but don’t tell you its exclusive of VAT, or that it doesn’t cover this that and that or that there is an additional fee if you want this, or that once that fee is paid there is also x y and z to pay. NO!

I get a real bee in my bonnet about lettings agents fee’s. You may have read my previous posts on hidden fee’s, price hiking, unfair fee’s and misleading fee’s.

I think my anger around fee’s stems from a basic human quality of honesty and trust. The way I work and the way I run my business is in a very open, upfront and honest way. I can do this because i’m a small independant. I manage less than 1000 properties and the book stops at me. I don’t have shareholders to please and pay, I don’t have a board to answer to and I do what I do because I’m a landlord, a business owner and an employer. I’m not a tycoon, I’m not a millionaire and I don’t wear a suit. But I do run a good agency that looks after my clients and their properties very well.

Having run an agency for the best part of 20 years, I can see how it would, in the short term boost revenue for the agency. But taking a long term view and thinking like a business partner towards my clients, I wouldn’t want to work with someone who was being underhanded and would not place my trust in a business that was not being upfront and honest with me.

It could be because I’m northern, or because I’m working class or because I’m a landlord myself, but I believe anyone acting on behalf of your property should have your best interests in mind, and not the health of their bank balance. I don’t want to be ripped off and I want to be able to trust that my agent is working for me and not for themselves and their shareholders.

When selecting an agent in future Ask The Right Questions. You can’t compare agents on just their management fee’s (truth be told you can’t compare on just cost but that’s another post for another day), One agent may charge 15% the next 16% – whos the better agent? Nobody knows! Who’s offering the best value for money? Again, nobody knows; ask:

What do they charge for drawing up a tenancy agreement? What is their letting fee? What are the costs for an inventory? What do they charge for a gas safety certificate? What do they charge for an EPC certificate? What would they charge you to change a lightbulb? What would be the expected costs over the course of your entire first tenancy?

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, do your due diligence and stop letting the big agents rip you off.

What Hidden Fee’s Are In Your Agreement?

As an independent agent, I’m very lucky to not be bound by big company practises and habits. I get to forge my own path and I get to sleep well at night knowing that my business runs in an open, upfront and ethical manner.

It’s disappointing that over the years the sneaky practice of charging an additional commission to contractors for passing work their way has become the norm. This is not only penalising all the sole traders and small businesses who rely upon agents for their livelihood, but it is also being wholly dishonest to those who have placed trust in their business, their clients- the landlords!

Property Eye ran an article related to the current news about Foxtons, it states that agents could be adding from 5%-20% on top of their contractors bills and passing these price hikes back to their landlords.

Having run an agency for the best part of 20 years, I can see how it would, in the short term boost revenue for the agency. But taking a long term view and thinking like a business partner towards my clients, I wouldn’t want to work with someone who was being underhanded and would not place my trust in a business that was not being upfront and honest with me.

It could be because I’m northern, or because I’m working class or because I’m a landlord myself, but I believe anyone acting on behalf of your property should have your best interests in mind, and not the health of their bank balance. I don’t want to be ripped off and I want to be able to trust that my agent is working for me and not for themselves and their shareholders.

hidden feesWhen selecting an agent in future Ask The Right Questions. You can’t compare agents on just their management fee’s (truth be told you can’t compare on just cost but that’s another post for another day), One agent may charge 15% the next 16% – whos the better agent? Nobody knows! Who’s offering the best value for money? Again, nobody knows; ask:

What do they charge for drawing up a tenancy agreement? What is their letting fee? What are the costs for an inventory? What do they charge for a gas safety certificate? What do they charge for an EPC certificate? What would they charge you to change a lightbulb? What would be the expected costs over the course of your entire first tenancy?

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, do your due diligence and stop letting the big agents rip you off.

We publish all of our fee’s so nobody is left in the dark and nobody is left wondering about charges.

Click Here to Download our fees for Let Only Services

Click here to Download Our Fees For Property Management

I’m Mike Brown, the owner and managing director of Brentwood Lettings. I am a landlord, a property developer and generally someone who knows a thing or two about letting properties. I can always make myself available for a chat, feel free to call my office 0161 681 3724

 

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