Wednesday 31 December 2008

Don't forget the Energy Performance Certificate if you are letting out in Scotland or Northern Ireland or The Republic of Ireland

Scotland: All tenants who rent a property on or after 4 January 2009 must be provided with EPC (ie new tenancies) .An individual EPC will only be valid for a period of ten years. If major works were to be undertaken during this period, building owners may choose to update the certificate, however, this is not mandatory.
Legislation for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for all new buildings was introduced in Scotland on 1 May 2007. For existing buildings, an EPC will be required when the property is sold or rented out to new tenants. Once in place an EPC is valid for 10 years.

Who can Produce an EPC?
In Scotland, there is no specified qualification for energy assessors.The Scottish Government has entered into protocol with professional organisations/institutions whose members already have an understanding of the building/energy sectors. Only members of protocol organisations may produce EPCs for existing buildings. The Scottish Building Standards (SBS) has entered into protocols with The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, Scotland (CIBSE Scotland), The Association of Building Engineers (ABE), The Energy Institute (EI), The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), The Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association (HVCA), Building Research Establishment (BRE), National Energy Services (NES) and Elmhurst to deliver services in relation to Energy Performance Certificates.

Northern Ireland: Energy Performance Certificates will be required for all property sales and rentals by the end of December 2008. Homes and commercial - when sold, built or rented will need an energy performance certificate (EPC). Public buildings will also need to display a display energy performance certificate (DEC). This initiative is the result of European legislation - the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive - which all member states must adopt.

This law for Energy Performance Certificates in domestic rental properties came into effect in England and Wales in October 2008.

A similar scheme applies in the Republic of Ireland from the 1st January 2009 and their certificates are called Building Energy Rating - Certificates (BER).

If you are a tenant who is about to move into a property on or after the 1st January 2009, make sure you are provided with a copy of the appropriate certificate. If you are a Landlord make sure that you have the certificate and let your letting agent or tenant have a copy for all new lets with new tenants as otherwise you could be fined for breaking the law.

Insurance is one essential you can't afford to be without today

2009 is just around the next corner and what a year 2008 has been. The year has seen major changes in the economies of countries worldwide.

Many countries have gone into recession or are going into it and economists predict a "rough" time ahead for a few years.

At a time like this many people have to cut costs and unlike earlier recessions there are more "essentials" that they want to retain, for example mobile phones, satellite/cable TV and broadband internet access.

One "essential" that can be overlooked is their insurance policies.

Some insurance cover is mandatory under the law of the country for example motor vehicle insurance. If someone has a mortgage the mortgage company will usually insit as part of the mortgage deed that Building Insurance has to be taken.

Other types of insurance are also compulsory, however if you are renting or letting a property, going on holiday, are a home owner, in business you need to keep up the insurance payments. If you're not insured you could be risking losing your belongings. You might decide to stop your household insurance contents. What happens if there is burglary at your propert? No insurance no insurance pay out.
Many tenants forget their insurance. They sppend a small fortune on personal items like clothing, computers and bikes and then don't insure them. Companies like Endsleigh and HomeLet offer competitive policies.

Many companies have monthly payment schemes; however always read the "small print" if you stop paying the premium, the cover usually stops. and therefore no insurance payout.

If you are the owner of a holiday home in Spain, France Portugal and have difficulty with the language, did you know that you can get the policy written in English. are introduction agents for two providers. Intasure and Andrew Copeland Insurance Consultants who offer such policies. Insurance policy wording can be rather complicated in your natural language, but even more so in a language you are not too familiar with.
Don't forget your pets either. The ABI issued a press release just before Christmas entitled "Insurance for your pet could be the best present you buy this Christmas"
They carried out some reasearch on the subject of giving pets at Christmas and the results said that nearly a third of people would consider giving a pet as a Christmas present. Yet worryingly, many pet owners may not realise how expensive vets' bills can be should their pet have an accident or become ill.
Responsible pet ownership means looking after your animals in every way, and that includes having insurance in place. Anyone giving or receiving a pet this Christmas should look at taking out pet insurance in case the worst happens and their pet need veterinary care

Don't cut back on insurance. You never know when you might have to make a claim

Is your main residence adequately covered when you're at your holiday home?

This is what many holiday home owners were concerned about when they took their two month vacation at their second home.

The insurance provider Intasure came up with a great idea for their customers with UK main residences. Having successfully insured tens of thousands of holiday homes and second homes, many of their clients have asked if they could insure their main residence in the UK.

This product is special; firstly, because of the good quality of their overseas business, they are able to offer exceptionally competitive rates.

In addition, unlike most resident policies, there are no restictions in leaving your home unoccupied beyond the standard 30 days. This is very good for those clients who could be retired and want to spend a couple of months in their holiday home in Spain or Portugal.

What is more, the policy is extremely comprehensive; you can rent out your main residence and still be covered.

jml Insurance has been introducing the Intasure Overseas property insurance for many months now and the new product should be of great value to advertisers on their holiday homes website
Do remember with 2009 just around the corner to keep your property insured. Insurance is one essential you can't afford to be without today

Friday 19 December 2008


Cover is placed with the leading UK insurers and Lloyds of London

Rather than just approaching one insurer we will approach the whole market

Nil excess Except £250 for malicious damage by tenants

No subsidence excess

Risks in flood affected areas accepted

Underpinned properties accepted

Legal expenses free of charge

Full Accidental Damage cover

No issues with previous claims or criminal convictions

Upto £5m Public/Property Owners Liability

No risk is refused

Employers liability included when needed

Automatic loss of rent/alternate accommodation cover

Automatic uplift on larger blocks
Enhanced rates for statutory inspection cover for boilers and lifts etc


This sounds like a good idea from Neil if you want some more information contact him via this link


Monday 15 December 2008

Keep that rental property insured as economic downturn continues

The slowdown in the economy is causing the cost of living and unemployment to rise and this means that an increasing number of tenants are falling on harder times and are becoming unable to meet their financial commitments.

According to HomeLet one of the UK's major Landlord and Tenant insurance providers, in 2007 HomeLet paid out £2.7 million in Rent Guarantee claims and they are anticipating a higher figure for 2008.

Landlords who don’t take out comprehensive insurance policies to protect their rental income run the risk of incurring rental arrears and even legal fees.

Another insurance provider Let Insurance Services has also recently said that the fear that the credit crunch will lead to higher premiums may deter some landlords from covering themselves against the risk of defaulting tenants even though possession claims on rented homes are rising.

This could prove to be a false economy as the lettings market has increased, but there is rising unemployment and falling rents in some areas.

Philip Suter of has been saying for some time "Insurance is one essential you can't afford to be without today. Whether you are a Landlord or Tenant you must make sure your possessions are properly covered and you need to go to a specialist rental insurance provider for this".

Many Landlords and Tenants insurance policies can be arranged on line and costs for a landlord work out on average between 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the monthly rental income.

What a lot of Landlords don't realise of course is the fact that insurance expenditure can be offset against their income tax liability for the rental property.Many tenants of course go out and by expensive computers, ipods, cameras and televisions and might consider taking out an extended warranty, but completely forget to actually insure them and their other possessions thinking no one will ever break and steal their belongings.With some policies, a tenant can even take out cover against damage to the landlord's property so if they accidentally spill coffee or wine on the carpet or settee they can claim for this instead of loosing a large junk of their deposit at the end of the tenancy.

One provider, HomeLet also has a "Landlords Portfolio" policy. This means as there are more and more landlords with several properties, they can gain advantage of having their portfolio covered at more advantageous premium.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Lettings in South Bucks Still going strong

December 15th 2008
Although many local estate agents in South Bucks are finding business very slow on the sales side, those with Residential letting offices or our stand alone lettings agents are very busy.
From my work in a local agent in High Wycombe, I have noticed that the telephone lines are very busy, people keep on coming in through the door to look for rentals or to sign up to a letting and this is good news.
Employment levels are still good and those that could be tempted to buy are finding they are having to wait longer to save up for a mortgage as a result of the credit cruch. This means that they have to find a higher deposit than they would have done earlier in the year and need to rent till they can afford to buy.
Others are waiting to see if sale prices are going to continue to drop before going ahead to buy.
As long as property owners are asking the rental prices that an agent suggests they should let ok. In High Wycombe, Bucks like neighbouring Slough in Berks there are a lot of new build devopments and many buy-to-let investors have opted for these.
This means there is an excellent choice, however many investors decide not to furnish a property so a prospective tenant has to consider purchasing furniture. This can add to a tenant's costs as they will also have to rent a vehicle to move their belongings in an out.
As long as employment stays high then the rental market will remain strong, however as each day the media is reporting x number being made reduntant here or there then there will be a knock on effect.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's the housing market was bad as well. The negative equity situation was dramatic and many people could not sell and kept their studio apartments and small flats instead. They often let them out to cover the mortgage costs and in that era interest rates were very high unlike in 2008 where we have the lowest interest rates for over fifty years in the UK.
There was always a good market for the smaller properties as there appears to be today and it is important that Landlords who own older style property keep them modernised and up to date. Tenants quite often want to view several properties and if it is a choice between new build or one that has seen better days, when there is a large choice of property then a renter will naturally go for the better property.
At times like these both Landlords and Tenants will often want to save costs and the one cost they should never cut down on is the rental insurance for the property. For the landlord, this can usually be offeset against a tax liability on the rental and the tenant can have peace of mind (providing they take the corect policy) knowing that if they spill theit wine or coffee on the landlord's carpet they are covered.
Although the economic outlook is not good for 2009, the rental market outlook in the south Bucks area of England still is good.

Friday 12 December 2008

HomeLet Landlord & Tenant Insurance Sponsors Negotiator Award
Major UK Landlord and Tenant insurer sponsored Lettings Agency of the Year award in London.
The 2008 awards from The Negotiator Magazine took place at the London Hilton Hotel on the 11th November.

They were presented by comedian Rory Bremner who is very well known for him impersonations of politicians. The Negotiator Magazine is fortnightly magazine for estate and letting agents in the UK.

There were nine sponsors and one of them was HomeLet Insurance, a company that has been acting as an agent for since 2002 introducing their Landlord and Tenant insurance products on line.

HomeLet sponsored the "Lettings Agency of the Year" and the lettings agency category was open to firms that had a recognised lettings department, or stand alone lettings firms. The winner was Parkheath of Rickmansworth, Herts. The Parkheath team led by Jane Gardner opened seven years ago who said after the award ceremony "We are very proud of this award - and see it as a benchmark and will continue to try and better ourselves".
HomeLet's Managing Director John Boyle commented "We are delighted to support the 2008 Negotiator Awards, as it honoured the top property agents in the UK and I'm even more pleased that three of our agents were named amongst the best in the country!"

HomeLet has now built a significant business and work in partnership with over 5,000 agents across the UK. They are part of the Barbon Insurance Group.

Martin & Co another HomeLet agent collected an award as Franchisor of the year.
The event raised over £2,500 for the UK Housing charity Shelter.

Philip Suter of jml-property-insurance who has been involved with the residential letting business in the UK for over 30 years said"It is very reassuring that there is a very high standard of agents operating in the UK these days. Some of them have not been established too long, but are 100 per cent in the way they carry out their business. By using HomeLet referencing and insurance products they are looking after their clients very well".

Philip Suter is a Director of JML Property Services and is a very experienced property consultant with over 30 years work in the Residential letting business and served in the national council of ARLA. He is a Fellow of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and a Member of The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Direct Travel Insurance and Cuba

I was rather taken aback to read Simon Calder's column in Saturday 22nd November 08 Independent Traveller.

He was writing about the fact that according to Direct Travel Insurance Services, that there are now four nations that are so dangerous that they are no longer covered. The four are quoted Afghanistan, Sudan and Liberia. The fourth "dangerous country" is Cuba!

Looking into this further it would appear that Direct Travel is now owned by the US insurer AIG and consequently as far as the present the US Admiistration is concerned Cuba one of its closest neighbours is "a no go area". Trade restrictions have been in place for over 50 years now and hopefully with President Obama taking over in January 2009 things will improve.

I have just taken a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth website. They mention the "dangers" in their travel summary page (Full information here)

  • The hurricane season - "It runs from June to November. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck Cuba in August and September 2008 respectively causing considerable damage to tourism infrastructure and resulting in food shortages in many areas."

  • "Most visits to Cuba are trouble free. 255 British nationals required consular assistance in Cuba in 2006-07. The main types of incident for which they required consular assistance were for replacing lost or stolen passports (51 cases); dealing with deaths (4 cases); and hospitalisations (22 cases); dealing with arrests, for a variety of reasons (5 cases); and difficulties using debit/credit/cashpoint cards and exchanging money as US dollars are no longer legal tender in Cuba"

  • "In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three-wheel Coco-Taxis when travelling around Cuba."

  • "Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. "

  • "There is a low threat from terrorism."

  • "We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake."

Interesting no mention of the dangers like you would find in the other 3 countries on the list.

I have had annual travel insurance from Direct Travel for many years now (long before they were taken over by AIG) and in fact was off to Cuba last November. I did not cancel the trip because of the article as in fact it came out a day after we should have returned, but because we could not get a car rental for the period in question

It was probably fortunate that we did not go as had we had a claim they probably would not have paid out because we had gone to such a dangerous place! Saying that of course Cuba has thousands of European tourists visiting the country every year. If I do go in 2009, I will have to get my travel insurance from another provider.

Monday 1 December 2008

Personal safety for Letting Agent and Estate Agents

People within the industry and outside will know the stories of Suzy Lamplugh and Stephanie Slater two Estate Agents in the UK who showed the "wrong applicant around" a property.

Unforunately people who who have only joined the lettings and sales industry in the UK over the last few years are not fully aware of the risks of "meeting strangers"

Suzy Lamplugh In 1986 estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, a 25 year old estate agent disappeared after she went to meet an unknown client. So far her body has not been found. However, she has been presumed murdered and legally declared dead. Her parents, Paul and Diana Lamplugh, believed that Suzy, like most people at that time - and even now - was simply unaware of the possible dangers that individuals can face in society.

Paul and Diana founded the Trust to highlight the risks people face and to offer advice, action and support to minimise those risks. I was privilidged to hear her mother Diana speak at a meeting of ARLA The Association of Residential Letting Agents at Pall Mall. London.It was a very moving talk and memorable.

Stephanie Slater On 22nd January 1992 whilst working as an estate agent in the Great Barr area of Birmingham, UK Stephanie Slater was showing a 'prospective buyer' around a house in Turnberry Road. Unknown to her, this simple part of her day to day work would now horrifically change the rest of her life forever. Her 'client', it transpired, wasn't interested in buying the property at all; he was a murderer, kidnapper and extortionist who held her for 8 days in a coffin sealed inside a wheelie bin whilst he negotiated a ransom of £175,000 from her employers. She survived to tell her story.

After being in the business for over 25 years I know that people cut corners. They need the let or sale. They might be on commission or have targets to meet and it is all to easy to immediately go off with an applicant who has just walked into your office.It does not matter whether you are Female or Male....the same rules must apply.

Listed below are some basic ground rules

  • Arranging an appointment for an applicant to view a property - (Either accompanied viewing by agency staff or by the property owner or tenant) - Record the applicants name and address in a proper viewing record book. Take his/her contact telephone number (usually these days they will offer a mobile, but try and get a home number and work number as well). If the applicant refuses to give an address, politely explain that this is your agency's security policy and they will probably find the same situation at other agents. You are not allowed to set up an appointment without that information.
  • You should phone the applicant back to confirm the appointment.
  • Although some agents will offer to take an applicant to the property, this can be unwise. If the situation is diplomatically put - Your car is not covered by insurance for this is usually a good reason. If the applicant has come into your office, say you will go in separate cars. Take a note of the applicant's car registration number. Consider always locking your car doors when you are driving. People have often had handbags snatched at traffic lights for example.
  • If it is a member of your agency's staff that is meeting an applicant (and the applicant's telephone number) always write details in the office diary or if you run your own independent office diary (either in a physical diary book or on computer). Although details will have been recorded in a proper viewing record book they must be recorded in diary so that other members of staff are aware of the appointment.
  • Tell another colleague where you are going. If you don't return, they can at least inform the right people.
  • Think very carefully before giving out your personal mobile phone number or your home phone number.
  • If you are showing more than one applicant a property, every applicant's details must be recorded together with the time of the appointment.
  • If you are showing the same applicant more than one property all those details must be recorded in proper viewing record book and diary.
  • At the property - Put yourself in an alert frame of mind and if you have a personal alarm (a wise investment that does not cost a lot) keep it at hand in a pocket. Always let the applicant go into each room first ahead of you and where possible keep yourself between the door and the applicant (this applies at the entrance door to the property as well). Always keep your line of escape open. If you feel the applicant's behaviour appears suspicious leave the property immediately, telephone your office and if necessary the police. If you are delayed (traffic problems - applicant turning up late etc) phone into your office. Always keep car keys to hand so you can make a fast escape.
  • Because of the business you are in often involves "out of hours" appointments, it could be that there will be no one at the office. In that case try and let a colleague know the appointment is over (practically everyone now has a mobile phone) and if you can't do that let a friend, relative, partner know. Take extra care when there is no daylight and if the lighting does not work at a property do not attempt to show anyone around. Explain to the applicant if he/she says they have a torch that it is breaking Health and Safety regulations.
  • Arranging a sales or rental valuation - Ensure that all details have been recorded. You should check to see if the Owner (Vendor - Landlord) actually lives at the property. Details should be recorded in a diary. You should then follow the same guidelines as in section above.

The property world is very competitive these days, a lot more than in the 1980's and 1990's, however those working in it must always be vigilant on their account and others they working with or working for be it an employer or client. Many people in the sales side of estate agents have lost their jobs or are about to, however you should not take risks and remember the rules of personal safety. Philip Suter

Concerns about insurance for ex-offenders

In Mid November UNLOCK The National Association of Reformed Offenders issued a press statement about the problems of ex-offenders with criminal conviction and their families obtaining insurance. Philip Suter of jml Insurance (who is wrting this blog) has been acting as an introducer for Delite Insurance for several months has concerns about restrictions insurance companies appear to impose on ex offenders.
Following the UNLOCK release in November Delite Insurance Agency listed several scenarios that they had been involved in for ex offenders and their families.
Examples are: Some specialist brokers decline some former offenders on home insurance
I am currently serving an extended licence. When I was released from prison I looked for 'sympathetic' insurers. When I rang round, there was only one broker who would quote for insurance for my offence type. The others refused to state why.

The premium was about 10 times more than my premium was before conviction (over £1000!). Since I have no mortgage, I am able to choose not to have home insurance, but would obviously prefer to be insured if possible.

Your website states that most of your brokers have no exclusions. Could you please confirm that they will accept me and could you please send me a list of contact details? Thank you for providing a much needed service.
Mother rejected by insurer after 22 years, forsupporting her son after prison
My son served 2 years in prison following a sentence of 4 years and since March 2007 has been living with me. The company which manages my buildings insurance contacted me to ask if I wanted a quote for contents insurance and as I was interested they asked me some questions regarding my existing building insurance, one of which was 'has anyone living in your household been convicted of a criminal offence'.

I answered honestly and they then asked for details. I refused as I did not see the relevance but they insisted and said that they would report the conversation to their superiors.

Two days later I received a letter asking me for details of my son's conviction as it was a condition of my insurance policy. I complied and received a letter this week cancelling my insurance from 1st January 2008.

I have been paying insurance for my house with the same company since I took out my mortgage 22 years ago and have only made two small claims in all that time. My son lived with me until he was 20, he is now 24 and his conviction was his first offence but the insurance company are not concerned with the details. They have a policy and are just implementing it.
The above are just two cases. I was very concerned when I looked at some of the situations illustrated. The fact that someone with a minor criminal conviction living at his / her parent’s house could suddenly find that come the time the parent went to renew their insurance an insurance company could after many years might no longer want to cover them because of the family member.
At Delite Insurance Agency Neil Cook has commented We are here to help those gain insurance cover through our contacts when many providers cannot help at premiums that can be far lower than you would expect

Neil has gone onto say “We treat every client as a individual and can offer cover no matter what problems they have including those who live in Northern Ireland, this makes our service truly unique.

We have helped thousands of people with convictions get their lives back together not just by arranging cover after disclosure but also with positive support and advice. No longer do you have take cover after avoiding mentioning the convictions then praying nothing goes wrong.”
More information is Here