It's been a turbulent time for the rental industry of late, with new rules coming into force that could make a significant impact on the market. The recent additional 3% stamp duty on second homes, for instance, has been followed by a regulation (first announced in the summer budget) that landlords won't be able to deduct 'wear and tear' from rental receipts before income tax is applicable. Some pundits believe that both of these measures will push up the price of rents; and one survey found that the stamp duty rise on second homes would discourage three-quarters of landlords from buying more properties.
In other headlines, the National Audit Office has found that The Green Deal — the government's energy-saving programme that folded last July — cost taxpayers £240million, but failed to deliver 'meaningful benefit' on energy and carbon emissions. Only 14,000 households took out Green Deal loans.
As from last month, tenants can now request consent from their landlords to make energy-saving improvements to rental properties — and landlords cannot refuse without good reason.
There is a proviso, however: making sure the work is completed with no upfront costs to the landlord is the responsibility of the tenant (although the landlord may agree to contribute).
It does, of course, make sense to ensure that a rental property is energy efficient as — quite apart from the environmental benefits — you can make considerable savings on bills. In fact, a recent survey pointed out that more than a third of tenants look for energy efficiency when selecting a rental property.
If you're thinking of making energy-saving improvements, you don't necessarily have to install an all-singing, all-dancing green boiler. Simple insulation could be the place to start. For example, if a loft is properly lagged, a semi-detached house could save as much as £140 per year (with typical installation costs of around £300, according to figures from the Energy Saving Trust). But don't be tempted to undertake any work yourself, unless you know what you're doing (and you would like all ceilings to remain intact) — and make sure any installer is a member of the National Insulation Association.
You've sold up and you're moving on. But you do want to to get to your next home with all your furniture and valuables intact — so, even though it might be the last thing on your 'to do' list, choosing a removal firm is a hugely important decision. Don't do what a couple in the West Midlands did recently and find some removal cowboys on social media, who packed everything into the back of a van — and then immediately disappeared with all their worldly possessions.
Instead, look at firms that belong to a trade body, such as the National Guild of Removers and Storers, and get quotes from a minimum of three. When you've landed on one you like, make sure the details of all costs — and what they will and won't be doing — are put in writing, and check they have insurance to cover any losses or damages.
You know the things that can add value to a property — a loft conversion, en-suite bathroom or a new kitchen, for example — but a decent view is also high on the list for most property-buyers. If the house you're interested in overlooks a lake, rustic field or the sea, you can expect that to be reflected in the asking price. No surprise, then, that views of graveyards, wind farms and pylons — especially ones that are so close you could almost reach out and touch them from an upstairs window — are rather less sought after.
Which way the property faces is also important: for example, if you like an evening drink on the patio and want some sun to go with it, you'll typically be looking for a south-facing garden. If you need information about which way a property faces, ask your estate agent for details.