Signs that you could be renting to a Cannabis Farmer

October 29th, 2013 - No Comments

The latest report from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit says that there are now as many as 500,000 people growing cannabis in the UK.. So we thought we would give you some thorough advice on spotting the early signs of a cannabis farm in the property you’re renting.

Lighting 

Cannabis Farmers can’t escape the fact that an excessive amount of light is needed for farming cannabis indoors. Indoor farming relies on artificial lighting for a large percentage of the day and as a result the property is lit up like a Christmas Tree. Tenants will try to fly under the radar by blacking out their windows, so look out for curtains and blinds that never open.

Excess Heat

Having to artificially light a whole premises not only creates a lot of excess light, but it also gives off a tremendous amount of heat. In our #TenantTypes post on Cannabis farmers we say early signs can be a rooftop without any snow on it (when the neighbours are covered). However some of the more savvy commercial growers will use internal tents to trap the heat – however sometimes the police have their own way of spotting growers.

The Smell

Cannabis has a very distinct smell, and there can be approximately 4 ‘harvests’ in a 12 month period. By the end of the harvest cycle the plants begin to smell incredibly potent – and the smell can be really overpowering. This year, Crimestoppers have issued Cannabis Farm ‘scratch and sniff’ cards thousands of homes across the UK to help identify the smell.

Lack of Activity At The Property

Often these farms make the property uninhabitable for the tenants. So a clear sign that something malicious could behind closed doors is a lack of any activity at the property. So never seeing your neighbours, gardens left to overgrow, never any signs of refuse collection – these are all indicators that the property could be “empty”.

If you suspect there might be a cannabis farm at your property, please call  the police immediately. You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

 

 

Mandatory licensing for Letting Agents and Landlords under a Labour government?

October 4th, 2013 - No Comments

Mandatory licensing of all letting agents and a national register of all landlords in England would be policy under a Labour government.

The landlords register proposal was unveiled at this week’s party conference by Hilary Benn – but immediately came under fire from both the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association.

Helpland are in agreement with the NLA, when we we ask how this would benefit the majority of Landlords out there who comply with the law?

The vast majority of Landlords have no issue following the current laws, and licensing will just add more bureaucracy to the system. We would also be interested in knowing whether this would actually deter the ‘rogue’ Landlords out there who give the rest of them a bad name – what will this licensing system prevent that can’t be prevented using the existing legislation?

Finally who is going to bear the front of the costs of this scheme, how we can be sure that the costs aren’t passed onto tenants – the very people Labour are trying to protect.

Rent arrears in Merseyside increase after introduction of the bedroom tax

October 3rd, 2013 - No Comments

‘Rent arrears up £2.2m six months after bedroom tax introduced’

“Rent arrears in Merseyside have spiralled six months after the introduction of the government’s controversial bedroom tax, a survey of social landlords has found.  Twelve Merseyside housing associations have released figures showing a £2.2 million increase in arrears compared to the corresponding period last year. The data also shows empty properties have increased by 29 per cent to 1,956 and the average time it takes to re-let an empty property has jumped from 28 to 38 days – resulting in a loss of rent to landlords of £616,662 per month.”

The article above is trying to create a clear causal link between the introduction of the bedroom tax, and the increase in arrears. Without looking thoroughly into the raw data, it’s hard to draw the same conclusion. However, we can say that it seems that a lot of people are hesitant to move house for fear of being hit by the ‘bedroom tax’.

The increase in arrears could be exacerbated by the new tax, we can’t say for certain whether these people would be in arrears regardless of the tax. There are even some cases of people withholding the payment as a form of protest. It seems evident that the introduction of the bedroom tax and a rise in arrears will not be a black and white issue.

However, we do believe that for the ‘bedroom tax’ to be an effective weapon to ensure there isn’t a surplus of empty bedrooms in social housing; the government will need to consider the following:

  • There needs to be an increase in the amount of social housing available
  • There needs to be more variety in the social housing, to ensure there is adequate shelter for the elderly, for couples, and for families of varying sizes.
  • There needs to be more room for local councils to use discretion when deciding what constitutes a bedroom, in terms of size and functionality.

Immigration checks for new tenants to be scaled back

September 27th, 2013 - No Comments

“Plans to fine landlords up to £3,000 if they fail to check their tenants’ immigration status are in ‘chaos’ and will have to be dramatically scaled back, according to Government sources.”

 - Reprieve for buy-to-let landlords over migrant check fine: Ministers warn proposal risks criminalising hundreds of thousands who rent out second homes 

Under the original proposals, first-time offenders would be fined £1,000 per illegal immigrant in their property. And Landlords who had failed to make proper checks within the last three years would be sent an advisory letter and fined £3,000 per tenant. It seems that inside sources are claiming that the legislation will be watered down and reined in.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers are warning that the proposal risks criminalising many small landlords, and that they should not be treated as an extension of the Border Agency.

We couldn’t agree more, it’s unfair for the Government to try and palm immigration checks onto other members of society who aren’t qualified to do so. If this is such a political hot potato, the checking of immigration status should be left to the Government, it’s Border Agencies, and any other governmental agencies they work with – and not in the hands of Landlords.

Instead of passing laws that will be difficult to enforce (given the current performance of the Border Agency) why can’t they invest this money into strengthening our Border Control – employing more staff to perform more thorough immigration checks. If they are truly concerned about the number of illegal immigrants living in rented accommodation, they should be tackling the problem at the border.

At Helpland we believe that Landlords and Letting Agents have enough legislation to follow, without being forced to help the Government perform immigration checks.

The Rise of Illegal Subletters

September 26th, 2013 - No Comments

A few days ago we picked up on This Is Money’s article on the Rise of the ‘ghost resident’, which states that 3.3m people in rented properties are living illegally in sub-let rooms to avoid rising rents.

The article is based on survey of letting agents carried out by Direct Line, which found that: ‘as many as one in 10 rental homes may be home to unofficial tenants.’

Whilst the perpetrators describe this as a ‘victim-less crime’ we’d have to disagree. This can prove a nightmare scenario for landlords, as insurance policies and buildings cover can be invalidated if multiple occupants are living in a property but not listed on the tenancy agreement.

Recently at Helpland we have seen a large increase of instructions from landlords who have found their properties sub-let without their permission. Some tenants have paid their deposit and first month’s rent, and then unbeknownst to the landlord, have advertised the property for rent at a higher rate and portrayed themselves as the landlord to the prospective tenants.

As well as receiving rent for a property they are not entitled to, the tenants are not paying the landlord their due rent causing the landlords severe financial difficulties. We are finding that these types of tenants are aiming for a quick cash injection by not paying their rent, and withholding the landlords rent, before absconding – leaving the landlord out of pocket and with tenants living in their property who they haven’t authorised.

Our advice to landlords is to do their due diligence when taking on a new tenant:

  • SEEK LAST 3 MONTHS BANK STATEMENTS
  • PREVIOUS LANDLORDS REFERENCE
  • EMPLOYMENT REFERENCE

By thoroughly vetting your prospective tenant, you are limiting the possibly of falling victim to an illegal subletter.

Brady Maccabi Blue U10’s

September 9th, 2013 - No Comments

Brady Maccabi Blue U10’s

Helpland are pleased to announce we are proudly sponsoring the Brady Maccabi Blue U10’s this season.

They had their first fixture in the JN Maccabi Junior Football League (U10’s) this weekend, sadly losing 5-0 to HMH Negev. We’ll be following their progress closely this season, and hopefully they can net a few goals next week and win their match.

Good luck boys!
From all of us here at Helpland

Tenant Types: The Lt. Columbo

August 23rd, 2013 - No Comments

Tenant Types - The Lt. Columbo

Today’s tenant type resembles the legendary Peter Falke, they ask a lot of questions but will always leave the big one for the very last minute.

A very ‘hands-on’ tenant who always has a question to ask the Landlord or Letting Agent, they want to make the property feel like home, but they’re keen to play by the rules and not rub anyone up the wrong way. They’ll never be upfront about the question they really want to ask.

Often heard saying ‘Just one more thing…’

Tenant Types: The Professional

August 23rd, 2013 - No Comments

Tenant Types: The Professional

This edition of #TenantTypes pays tribute to a tenant we all wish we could rent to: The Professional.

The first to leave their home in the morning and the last one to get home at night. The Professional is a hardworking, very reliable tenant. They never cause a nuisance to their neighbours and are always on the go and constantly working. They keep the property nice and orderly and you’d think they’d only use it for sleeping.

Sightings of this tenant are rare, and they often pass their neighbours like ships in the night. If you’re looking to approach this tenant it would be best to provide offerings of coffee and ready-meals. Make sure you schedule in when you can talk to them. Overall, a great tenant to have.

Tenant Types: The Nightwatchman

August 22nd, 2013 - No Comments

Tenant Types - The Nightwatchman

A topical #TenantTypes for you all today as we’re in the middle of the last Ashes test. Today’s tenant is The Nightwatchman.

This tenant believes his tenure in the property is the last bastion of English Civilisation, they like where they live, and have no intention of ever moving. He is keen to ensure he stays in the property as long as possible. Partners, Lodgers, and Roommates will come and go, but this particular tenant will remain.

Great for reliable source of income, fears change.

Tenant Types: The Life of Grime

August 20th, 2013 - No Comments

Tenant Types - The Life of Grime

Today’s #TenantType is somebody you never hope to deal with. Someone who has chosen The Life of Grime.

The Life of Grimer is a tenant who has never really understood the need to keep their property clean and orderly. A few months after they’ve moved in and suddenly the premises could be mistaken for an episode of ‘A Life of Grime’ or ‘How Clean Is Your House?’ They hoard newspapers, never clean or tidy up, and as the property collects rubbish, it begins to attract vermin.

It can be nightmare scenario for Landlords and Tenants alike, but the only remedy for the situation is a complete change of lifestyle and a deep professional clean. To avoid situations like this, always carry out routine inspections and address any concerns as soon as possible.