Landlords are dangerous at DIY says NHS

30 May 2019

Demand for good quality rental homes continues to grow, but with the latest figures from NHS Digital revealing that there were 62,895 hospital admissions in 2017-18 related to DIY accidents such as falling from ladders, contact with non-powered hand tools and falling through floors, it is clear that a number of people, including many landlords, need to sharpen their home improvement skills while staying safe.

Jason Orme, property expert for the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, is urging people, including existing landlords, to consider the following top tips that you may wish to consider:

Don’t rush it:

With so many resources available online to show you how to do DIY, the number one reason for accidents or poor work is not the result of a lack of skill, but of trying to get everything done in a very short amount of time. When you cut corners, it’s either your safety or the quality of the job that’s at risk. If you approach DIY methodically, by taking time beforehand to do your research, anticipate what resources you need and how much time you should put aside, you minimise the chances of being caught off-guard. Regardless of the type of work that you do throughout the house, the same rule should apply to all areas.

It usually comes down to time – if you are tired at the end of a long week at work and then try to do these projects at weekends, when you have a three-hour window to finish them, inevitably you won’t be thinking about every single cut and the mini actions which go into the project, so that’s when you’re rushed. If people are quite tired physically and mentally, it becomes a strenuous activity, muscles fade and the weakness sets in. Professionals which do this day in, day out have the muscle memory and the stamina to take on board these projects. For DIYers, everything is new so there’s a higher likelihood of an accident.

Use the right equipment

Mistakes can happen when you also don’t have the right tools to hand and when you don’t use enough protective gear. Proper work trousers are a good starting point; these can be bought from DIY sheds for £30-50 and are a good investment, as they can stop the common scratches while offering you durability and comfort. Eye protection is also critical, while good ear plugs come in very handy for people who use disc and tile cutters.

I also recommend paying plenty of attention to the quality of the air which surrounds you. If you deal with adhesives and sealants, grout, cement etc. without wearing well-fitting gloves and a face mask, you might develop breathing problems or your skin could become irritated from all the dust in the air. Professional builders wear protection as a matter of course, so inexperienced people are even more required to do so. If painting in closed environments, you can get headaches if they aren’t ventilated. To avoid this, consider buying low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, available in specialist shops. You can also purchase dust-free net sanding discs, which when combined with the right tool and an extractor, will virtually eliminate dust.

Ask for help

DIY jobs, although they imply tasks that you can do yourself around the house, can benefit from an extra helping hand. Don’t hesitate to ask when you need someone at the bottom of the ladder to hold on to it, or when you need assistance in lifting something heavy off the ground. You could also benefit from a considerate, calm opinion from someone more objective than you, but be careful who you involve in the process as a lot of people or children around can actually interfere with your focus and do you a disservice.

If alone on a ladder, take your time and make sure it’s at the right angle. When climbing it, don’t overstretch yourself without extending it, as the chances are quite high for an incident to occur. Better still, if you’re using it constantly, consider investing in a ladder that’s flexible and can adapt to your needs without putting you in danger.

Spatial planning

It’s not just about having the right tools – you also need to have the right space to work in, where everything is organised and within easy reach. Especially when working in tight areas such as a bathroom, some people tend to leave everything in there and then struggle to manoeuvre, and this is when things can go wrong. Remove everything that’s unnecessary at the start of a new task – from storage solutions to untangling cords and decluttering tips, you have all the information a click away.

If you set your mind to deal with the basics and allow as much time for this part as you do for watching DIY tutorials, you are a step closer to completing your projects in time and in one piece.

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Former London mayor to take part in major landlord debate

30 May 2019

Ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone will take part in the Future of the UK Housing Market Debate at the National Landlord Investment Show in London next month, organisers of the show have confirmed.

The debate, which will kick-off the show that takes place at the London Olympia Conference Centre on 13 June, will be chaired by journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil

The Future of the UK Housing Market Debate, which will take place from 10am until 11.15am, will be followed by Women in Property Seminar, from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, and the UK Development Hot-Spot Debate, which will take place 3.30pm – 4.30pm.

The show will also feature a series of other expert property panel discussions, which are free to attend for visitors that register their interest online and are on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition to the property panels, there will also be a number of additional complimentary seminar sessions, covering the entire spectrum of buy-to-let, as well as over 100 exhibitors.

Registration is complimentary. Click here for more information.

National LIS will take place on the following dates in 2019:

13th June – London Olympia

8th October – Manchester United Football Club

5th November – London Olympia

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Landlords Beware: Accidental Landlord Punished More for Harmless Error Than Criminals Are Punished For Assaulting Police Officers!

27 May 2019

Sometimes the law seems grotesque, says ex-deputy chief constable – Tom Wood.

A friend who made an honest mistake as a new landlord received a greater punishment that a criminal who assaulted a police officer, writes Tom Wood.

I was reminded of the famous verse from The Crocodile Song when I attended a recent sitting of the First Tier Housing and Property Tribunal for Scotland.

In a long police career, I have been in most of Scotland’s courts, even given evidence in a couple of employment tribunals but this was a first. I was there to support a young friend, one of our accidental landlords who had recently taken over the management of an old family flat and who, in their naivety, had transgressed against the letter of the law.

But I was also interested to see the workings of one of the largely hidden parts of our justice system. We hear very little of the work of our various tribunals as they grind out the administration of our increasingly complex justice system, mostly behind closed doors. So I was looking forward to the hearing, confident that my friend’s error was minor and that any penalty would be proportionate.

The transgression was uncontested; as a registered landlord my friend had failed to lodge a tenants rental deposit in an approved scheme within the statutory time, this being contrary to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2011. An oversight by a new landlord, the mistake had been quickly rectified with no loss to the tenant.

The tenancy deposit scheme was introduced to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords unfairly retaining deposits, fair enough. But since any penalty awarded is paid directly to the aggrieved tenant and there is no jeopardy for vexatious complaints, the legislation is also a gift to malice and opportunism.

Anyway, the hearing started well, a smart office in Edinburgh, helpful staff, a prompt start and a personable single legal member sitting to adjudicate. The process was explained in a friendly informal manner, not a wig or gown in sight, and since the facts of the case were simple and uncontested, the hearing was brief followed by a five-minute recess to consider what penalty, if any, was appropriate.

For their oversight, which I emphasise brought no detriment whatsoever to the tenant, my friend was penalised a sum of over£600. To put this in context, in the same week a criminal was fined £500 for assaulting a police officer to his injury and in Hawick a man was fined £425 for the possession of cocaine and cannabis.

An appeal is, of course, permitted and I would strongly recommend it, but I doubt my friend will pursue it. Bruised by their one and only brush with the justice system, I suspect they want nothing more to do with it.

And I am left with a question. Is this the balance of justice we want carried out in our name, is it fair and proportionate that an administrative error be punished more severely that crimes involving violence or drugs? But perhaps we also share responsibility, perhaps we should pay more attention, look more closely at the standards of justice meted out by our legal tribunals. In the meantime, the accidental landlords, the one without the legal back-up of big property companies, should beware. From my observation, the Housing and Property Tribunal is heavy-handed, the scales of justice weighted against you.

The application of the law is meant to be fair and proportionate in all cases. What I witnessed was arguably fair within the letter of the law but it was grotesquely disproportionate. We should pay more heed and not be taken in by their friendly grin.

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Flurry of new laws and regulations to come, whoever is Prime Minister

28 May 2019

The head of the Property Redress Scheme is urging agents to prepare for yet more regulation and legislation changes likely to be introduced over the rest of 2019.

Sean Hooker – head of redress at the PRS – says: “With so much change and with the increasing risk of being fined or even closed down, agents will need to ensure they have all their ducks in a row. The market is changing and the consumer is becoming more aware of their rights.”

And he adds: “Ultimately the majority of property professionals will comply, make the necessary changes and will embrace the new landscape as part of a trusted and safe sector, providing quality services to their customers.

Hooker says a string of measures have already been introduced this year, including the (Homes) Fitness for Human Habitation Act in March, the mandatory Client Money Protection scheme membership in April and next week’s upcoming ban on letting agent fees to tenants and cap on security and holding deposits.

But there’s more to come – and although Hooker’s comments were made ahead of this week’s political developments at Westminster, these measures are likely to go ahead even if there is a change of Prime Minister.

In the PRS annual report, Hooker predicts that the government will:

  • introduce specific reforms on leasehold later this year, and ban leases on houses;
  • implement a provision in the Estate Agency Act 1979 to ensure all estate agents will require mandatory qualifications, and extend this to letting agents and property managers;
  • introduce regulation to the sector and a code of conduct to govern property professionals;
  • ask the industry to adopt voluntary transparency relating to estate agents referral fees received for recommending other commercial services, otherwise they will look to ban these;
  • look at bringing in other changes to the home buying process;
  • introduce mandatory electrical safety checks on all rental properties and extend the requirement for CO monitors in every property, not only those with solid fuel burners;
  • set up a Housing Complaint Resolution Service, where a consumer can direct their complaint and it will direct them to the appropriate scheme. There will be a common complaints code and increased cooperation and data sharing amongst the schemes;
  • introduce landlord redress to bring landlords in line with agents;
  • set up a New Build Homes Ombudsman for consumers of new, off plan and refurbished buildings. “Again this will be a challenge and there are currently no timescales” says Hooker.

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Housing Minister announces boost for families and high streets as planning red tape is axed

25 May 2019

If only!

Makes temporary permitted development permanent (much to the annoyance of planning departments – which in itself is a minor win!). Also appears to bring in PD for shop to office conversion (but not shop to residential).

The government press release which follows is very thin on substance – we have requested detail from their press office and will bring this to you as soon as we can – Ed.

Thousands of homeowners will be able to extend their properties quickly and easily without the need for a full planning application.

Thousands of homeowners will be able to extend their properties quickly and easily without the need for a full planning application, under rules made permanent today (25 May 2019).

In a wide-reaching package of reforms, rights allowing larger home extensions have been made permanent, following its introduction in 2013.

In addition, restrictive planning rules have also been axed, which will ensure business owners can respond quickly to changing trends on the high street.

Today’s news gives homeowners certainty to make plans to extend their homes this summer without a full planning application, while providing consideration of the impact on neighbours.

Under the rules, homeowners can put a single-storey rear extension on their property of up to 6 metres for terraced or semi-detached homes, or 8 metres for detached homes.

Over 110,000 extensions have been completed since 2014 under the previously temporary rules. Today’s announcement will mean more families can ensure their homes meet their specific needs.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP said: These measures will help families extend their properties without battling through time-consuming red tape.

By making this permitted development right permanent, it will mean families can grow without being forced to move.

This is part of a package of reforms to build more, better, faster and make the housing market work – and sits alongside our drive to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s.

This step will make it easier for families to build outwards rather than go through the arduous process of moving to a larger home.

As part of the reforms, permitted development rights will also give business owners on the high street greater flexibility as they respond to changing trends in customer spending.

Shops will now be able to change to office space without the need for a full planning application, bringing skilled professionals and their disposable income back to the high street and help support neighbouring traders by increasing local footfall.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: This fantastic news joins our £675 million Future High Streets Fund and our High Streets Task Force in ensuring our country’s high streets are fit to thrive not just now, but in the years to come.

Giving greater certainty to property owners and the wider industry, it will also help businesses adjust to the changing needs of the consumer.

The move builds upon changes to the law which allow business owners to change the use of buildings from takeaways to new homes without undergoing a full planning application.

To help deliver a greater mix of uses on the high street, the changes also allow the temporary change of use from high street uses such shops, offices, and betting shops to certain community uses such as a library or public hall.

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