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A Third of Rented Properties are Hazardous

by Alison Feemantle

Almost a third of all properties in the private rented sector have major safety hazards according to data released in a Government survey of housing stock in the UK.

The annual English Housing Survey reveals that 28.2% of homes in the private rented sector have what is known as a category 1 hazard.  This is compared to 14.5% of local authority properties, 10.8% of housing association properties and 21.5% of owner-occupied accommodation.

A category 1 hazard is classified by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and includes any hazard that could cause death, permanent loss of consciousness, lung cancer, the loss of hand and foot, heart attacks, 80% burn injuries, eye disorders and poisoning.

Under the Housing Act 2004, these hazards obligate a local authority to vacate a property of all tenants and to arrange immediate repair and making safe of these hazards.  The most hazardous type of property is flat conversions, with 37.7% having at least one category 1 hazard.  Older properties can also pose more dangers especially those built before 1919.

A total of almost 5 million properties in the UK have such hazards with the most common hazards being those which could cause slips and falls.  Baths, stairs, and showers with inadequate or poorly installed grab rails and handles were the most likely areas to cause issues.

Newspapers recently published a story about how an 85 year old man in Hackney, East London, became stuck in his bath with no heating or food for five days.  Luckily he was able to reach his sink to drink water, but even this suggested the bathroom was too small and not fit for purpose.  The man was only rescued when friends became worried about his whereabouts.

The second largest hazard listed was excess cold and this is especially a problem for those aged 60 or over.  A healthy indoor temperature as at around 21C, but many properties were found to have inadequate heating leading to a serious risk to health.,

The report said: “The percentage rise in deaths in winter is greater in dwellings with low energy efficiency ratings. There is a gradient of risk with age of the property, the risk being greatest in dwellings built before 1850, and lowest in the more energy efficient dwellings built after 1980.”

Other category 1 hazards included biocides, asbestos, lead and radiation, carbon monoxide, and electrical and fire hazards.  Of course, occupier behaviour can also play a major part in the risk these hazards pose and certainly was a factor in over 80% of fires in rented accommodation last year.  However, there were also 2000 fires in the same year associated with faulty wiring and cabling, issues that can be avoided.

All landlords have a duty to protect their tenants and a vested interest in protecting their property investment.  Any category 1 hazards need to be dealt with immediately with tenants vacating the premises if necessary whilst any other reported hazards should be assessed and dealt with as soon as possible or at the very least made safe.

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Rental Gold – Renting Out Your Property During the London Olympics

by Sarah Halloran

Holiday rentals aren’t just reserved to country cottages and beachside retreats.  If you have a property in London or the surrounding area then you could be in for some rental property opportunities during the Olympic 2012 season.  Thousands of tourists will be hitting our shores and with hotel rooms at a minimum or those that are left available at premium prices, these people will be looking for somewhere to stay.

If you have a flat or house available in Stratford or close to the Olympic Village then it could be a “nice little earner” for you next year.

But will your mortgage lender allow you to rent out your home or the rooms within?  Will you need special insurance?  What will demand be like?

Online holiday rental website predicts that many homeowners will use their website in order to cash in on the 2012 visitors.  Potentially, renting during this period could generate an average of £4500 over the 16 day-long event.  1 million visitors are predicted to visit from overseas destinations alone and this doesn’t factor in those travelling from other parts of the UK.

Let’s take a look at the mortgage issues when renting out your home to tourists.  A spokesman from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), said: ‘If borrowers want to make any changes to their mortgage, because they want to rent out their property short term for example, they need to contact their lender to discuss the request as their contract is unlikely to cover this. ‘They would also need to contact their insurer as they would potentially not be covered in the event of a claim.’

One mortgage lender, Lloyds TSB said they would allow their customers to rent out rooms within their property or their whole property subject to a number of conditions.

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB, said: ‘If customers do wish to offer accommodation at the time of the Olympics, they can rent a maximum of two rooms to a maximum of two lodgers.  In this circumstance, we do ask that the customer let us know. In order to rent out their entire property to a tenant rather than a lodger, we require that this is done as an “assured short hold tenancy”, which protects the tenant, the homeowner, and the lender; the minimum legal time from for this arrangement, however, is six months. Customers should speak to their lender and consult legal advice if they are unsure of what action to take.’

Every mortgage lender is different so it’s important to contact your lender way ahead of time so that the necessary paperwork and arrangements can be made.  This will also ensure you have ample time to advertise your property for rent.

You will also need to arrange additional insurance. You’ll need to let your insurer know of your intentions as most standard buildings insurance won’t cover letting out your home and therefore won’t cover any loss or damage resulting from such an arrangement.  Even those living in flats and covered by their landlord’s insurance policy will need to seek additional advice and assistance.  It’s the worst case scenario, but if your house burns down and you don’t have the relevant insurance, your insurer will probably refuse to pay out.  Direct Line is one insurer launching temporary cover for its home insurance policies to ensure customers are clear on what is and is not covered if they do decide to rent their home out to Olympic tourists.

There is also the subject of tax.  If you want to rent a room whilst you stay in the property you can earn £4,250 tax-free.  However, if you are also cooking dinners, handling laundry or providing any other service then this will be seen as running a business and you will be subject to paying tax.  If the Inland Revenue suspects you are not declaring rental income whey may launch an inquiry and this can lead to substantial penalty charges.

If you think your property has good rental potential then this could be a great way of making some money in 2012.  Make sure you let all relevant parties know and choose a good website for advertising your rental property.

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Tenants and Landlords Urged to Be ‘Gas Safe’ This Winter

by Sarah Halloran

As the winter months approach, we’ll all be reaching for the heating controls to turn up the heat.  This week marked Gas Safety Week, a drive to remind the public about the importance of safety measures and checks where gas is concerned.

So, what can landlords and tenants do to ensure they keep safe this winter?  The HAS Gas Safety Statistics 09/10 reported that a total of 10 people died due to gas related accidents and incidents across the UK last year and that a further 330 needed hospital treatment.  With that statistic in mind, it hits home how important it is to carry out regular checks and that applies to tenants, landlords and homeowners.  Landlords and building owners are legally responsible to arrange annual safety checks and necessary maintenance and should ensure all works are completed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

If you are a tenant and think you might have a problem with a gas appliance, get onto your landlord immediately.  They have a legal obligation to arrange emergency assistance and should provide assurances that the matter is in hand as quickly as possible.

These checks will help to ensure that pipes, appliances and flues are in a safe condition, all gas equipment is safe prior to letting, and that gas safety records are maintained for the property.  Checks also ensure that potential problems are spotted and rectified before a major incident can occur.  Leaking gas and unsafe appliances are a very real hazard and can kill it not attended to immediately.

Paul Johnston, chief executive at Gas Safe Register said: “Every year, far too many people suffer from preventable gas related accidents, such as gas leaks, explosions, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If maintained and installed properly, gas appliances are safe. If neglected, gas appliances can kill.”

It’s so important that you use Gas Safe registered engineers.  These industry experts have undergone rigorous training and assessment and have the skills and expertise to spot problems and deal with them safely and completely.  Before you employ any engineer it is essential that you check their ID and you can also check them out on the Gas Safe website.

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