Sunday, 22 August 2010

My plans they are a-changing

I may have to make "over-optimistic" my middle name. When I headed back to the UK at the beginning of July, I sincerely believed that 6 or 7 weeks would be enough to sort out my flat (my life?), rent it out and head back to Madrid.

When I got back to my flat, I realised that I may have been wearing rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. My poor flat revealed itself in all its shabbiness. I'd been away 16 months, with only a couple of brief trips back, both of which were filled with stuff that didn't really allow me to stand back and take a good look at my (or rather the mortgage company's) little piece of Brighton.

This time was different. Andy, and his belongings, were gone, leaving me to see the somewhat dilapidated truth. My flat was tired, a little sad looking and full of, well, tat!

A visit from a local rental agent brought it home with a bang. He seemed optimistic that I'd be able to rent it out pretty quickly provided a few things were dealt with. And then began the list:

New living room carpet (yes, I can't disagree with him there)
Replace cracked sash window panes (at least he didn't suggest replacing the entire windows and sash mechanisms)
Fire door to the kitchen (to comply with Health and Safety regulations)
Decent Chubb lock to my front door.
Replacement locks on all windows (not essential but certainly recommended)

On top of that, I'd already discovered that these days, in order to rent a property out and eliminate the risk of being sued by a tenant, landlords have to have certain checks done:

Gas safety certificate for boiler and gas hob (£35)
Energy efficiency certificate (£32)
Electrical safety certificate - check of all sockets and any electrical items to be left in the flat (£150!!)

All soft furnishings have to have the label showing that they're fire retardant still attached. Sofa - check. Mattress - yup. Futon mattress - nope. Throw cushions - a couple, yes, the rest, no. Plus the various bits of painting that I already knew I needed to do.

By the time I'd found all this out, there was only about five weeks left til my supposed return to Madrid and I was faced with this daunting list and not enough time or money to do it.

Cue slight panic followed by total rethink! In order to do everything necessary to the flat, I need money. Having pretty much gone through all the cash I brought back from Spain (which amounted to a paltry £400), the proceeds of two car boot sales and even spent (in advance) my payments for some CDs/DVDs that I've sent off to a company that buys them, as well as some audio typing work I've done, I don't have anywhere near enough to cover the costs of sorting the flat out.

So I had to bite the bullet and accept that I'll have to hang on here long enough to get a job, earn enough to do the work on the flat, and have enough to cover rent/deposit in Madrid.

The upshot is - I'm staying right here until early January. Being more inclined to boil my head in oil than return to the Civil Service (despite only being on a career break), I'm now job hunting. I've registered with temp agencies and am scanning Gumtree, the Friday-Ad and anywhere else I can think of for four months' earning potential. If anyone knows of a job going in central Brighton, let me know!!


  1. Wow. Now you'll have to live vicariously through those of us living in (or going back to) Madrid.
    That must have been a difficult realization, having to stay longer than expected.
    Best of luck to you, though, and I hope to see you in January as a happy and at least partially established resident of Madrid.

  2. You also need to do...
    a) Ensure that the mortgage company agree to you letting the property. Best Option for you will be a 'Right to Let' clause as this will allow you to return to UK and use it ase your main residence again. Companies are usually more agreeable to this type of codicil.
    b) Ensure that your building and content insurance allows you to let. Normally, 'hotel' insurance is required.
    c) If you let to strangers (especially through an agent) then the rental is declarable to HMRC.
    d) Find a tenant who will take the property 'as is'. Modification/Repairs etc. prior to first letting are not reclaimable as a tax expense.

    1. Don't get caught with fees for renewals (or extensions to first contract). The Foxton's High Court ruling makes it clear that agents can only charge for renewals/extensions etc. if you agree to it when the contract between you and the agent (not between you and the tenant) is first signed. I don't know what the going rates are in Brighton but in London I pay
    7% of 1st year rent for a 'find a tenant' service
    10% of 1st year rent for a 'fully managed property' service
    0% for second and subsequent years
    2. Suggest you go to for free and useful advice

  3. Thanks Jeremy. Contacting the mortgage provider and the freeholder are on my very long "To Do" list! Fingers crossed. I have a great quote for landlord's insurance already.

    I did have a local independent agent round, whose charges didn't seem astronomical. £125 to register, then 7% + VAT for partially managed (if I remember rightly). There was a renewal fee but it only applied to the tenant, not the landlord.

    However, if things pan out as they appear to be, I won't need an agent. I've been put in contact with a local lady who has already been round to see the place and loves it. A friend in London is renting her place out and did it all herself, using a contract that she downloaded from a sort of "DIY landlord" website. The protected deposit scheme is open to anyone, whether you have an agent or not and apparently I can get an insurance policy that covers me for at least three months' rent if the tenant defaults.

    It's a learning curve but I'm going to really try and do it myself. The rent I'll be charging is reasonable but if I then take off agent's fees and bloody tax, there won't be much left over!

    Thanks for the website hint - I'll have a look.

  4. WHen I mentioned insurance I was talking about Building and Contents Insurance. IMHO insurance to cover 3 months default rent is probably not worth it. It can easily take a year to evict a non-paying tenant (if they know the system). The law is definitely on the side of the tenant.

    £125 to register, then 7% + VAT for partially managed is a good deal. I must mention it to my agent.

    Make sure you have a full and complete inventory of the property. Don't forget to list the items and areas of walls/doors/floors/windows etc. that are in good condition as well. Video evidence of the whole flat would be a good supporting document.

    If you rent to a single person, make sure that there is a clause in the contract to cover an increase in rent if someone joins them. Basically, dilapidation increases the more people there are in the flat. I put in a clause that says that they can have friend(s) and relative(s) stay for a maximum of 14 consecutive nights without any increase in rent. This allows the tenant to have people to stay for a visit but makes it clear that the intent of the contract is that there is a specified number of tenants.

    Don't know what your specific fugures are but a good guideline is that the rent you charge should assume that 2 months in the year the property could be unoccupied.

    Rent > Total Costs / 10

    where total costs include but not limited to agent fees, mortgage, insurance, ground rents etc. and also the fixed charge part of Gas/Water/Electricity during the two months voidage. Plus, of course, any money you want for yourself.

  5. Buildings insurance is part of the monthly fee I pay to the property managers. Think Direct Line said to get landlords' insurance on top of own contents insurance, which I already have obviously.

    Am gradually making inventory though till some stuff has gone to mum's new garage, I won't know exactly what I'm leaving. Will video too!

    Blimey, if anyone managed to have visitors here for longer than 14 days, given the lack of space, I'd be amazed, but yes, contract will say rent goes up if more than one person living here. Not that I'll know, of course!

    Am working on the actual rental amount, though I had to give the prospective tenant a ballpark figure already.

    My brain hurts!

  6. I agree it is difficult to monitor occupancy. Do you know someone else in the building that would help or does your 'partially managed' contract include monitoring every 2 months (say)?

    The reason I mentioned it in the first place is that, as you know, Brighton is a university town and students will sleep anywhere they can.

  7. I vaguely know the next door neighbours, but occupancy in this building changes so often, it's hard to keep track. I think I'm the only person who's been here more than a year, if you don't count the very strange elderly couple in the other half of the house (the guy I call "Pokey-boobs" and his wife).

    I don't know if the rental agent set-up included monitoring but since I'm almost certainly not going to be using them, it doesn't really matter!

    The girl I'm hoping will move in is a mature student who seems very sensible and reliable.