Advice on Choosing a Good Removal Firm
This three-minute read gives you a few ideas to consider when choosing your removal firm
Getting the right people to help you move home is so important. This means your estate agent, your conveyancer, and the people that will do the physical heavy lifting. Choosing the right removal firm will make a big difference, not only on moving day itself, but before, and after, your move.
Reviews and recommendations
A good place to start looking for a removal firm you can trust is to ask people you know. This could be friends, family, or your property move team, like your estate agent and conveyancer.
After you’ve been signposted to a few companies, it’s time to do some research for yourself. People move home infrequently so it’s always a good idea to check for recent reviews.
If property professionals have themselves used a particular company when moving home, it’s normally a pretty good sign that they’re the best.
Do your research
You’ve looked at the reviews on the company website, social media pages, and an independent review site, like Google Reviews or Trustpilot. There’s a few bad ones but mostly positive. Should you just leave it at that and book with them? Of course, you could but there are a few more recommended steps to take.
- Ask the company for some previous customers’ contact details. You can then have a real-life conversation with someone to explore the service they received. If the company decline, that’s a red flag.
- Ask the company what their insurance policy is. Ask them to send you a copy. This is standard practice so if they have any objections, you know this is another red flag.
Check the Ts & Cs
It’s easy for someone to ping you a quote: “That’ll be £5,000 for your move”. What should also be attached are their terms & conditions. It’s important that you get these to look through and that you actually read them.
The British Association of Removers have a set that are good. Even better companies will adapt them to their own requirements.
When it comes to arranging a moving date, exchanges and completions can be a moveable feast. One removal firm we spoke to described it as ‘like juggling jelly’. Find out how good the removal firm is at communicating. What methods will they use? Email, phone, text, social media? You need to know that they will keep lines of communication open throughout, what can be, a tense time.
Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. It helps if the firm has a clear, concise website and if the staff and offices are presented tidily. Check their vehicles are clean and in good condition.
Did you know? Many insurers will be able to extend your existing contents cover. This means that when the movers are in your home, you’ll have extra cover. It’s always worth taking a ‘belt and braces’ approach.
From all of us here at Alexander Charles & Browne, stay safe and be kind.
Kindness is Contagious So Share the Love This Week
In this two-minute read, we look at how a simple random act of kindness can start a tsunami of positive vibes.
Many people are going through a dark time right now, but there is a way you could make at least one person’s day a little brighter.
As this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, why not surprise and delight someone with a small, generous gesture?
It doesn’t have to be a grand affair; even a small effort could leave someone buzzing for the rest of the day.
And don’t forget that kindness is contagious, so your good deed could well inspire the recipient to follow suit with their own act of goodwill – triggering a wave of altruism.
Here are nine things you could do for Random Acts of Kindness Week.
1) Leave flowers or a box of chocolates on your neighbour’s doorstep (preferably choose a neighbour who lives alone or is having a tough time right now).
2) Sign up to volunteer with a local charity, food bank, or care home.
3) Send a card to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
4) Donate money to a local charity and follow up with an email to the charity’s head thanking them for their contribution to the community.
5) Call a friend who you haven’t spoken to for a while. Let them do the talking while you do the listening.
6) Feeling generous? If you need to catch public transport for work, leave an envelope containing a £5/£10/£20 note on the seat when you leave. Write a short message on the envelope to entice a curious stranger to open it.
7) Surprise your partner by doing a chore around the house that they usually do.
8) Make a home-cooked meal and deliver it to a friend, neighbour or family member who might really appreciate some comfort food.
9) Support a local business by leaving them a glowing review online. Your positive words could help them attract customers and boost their sales during this challenging economic period.
We’ll leave you with this quote from the one and only Jackie Chan (because we all need a little more Jackie Chan in our lives right now): “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.”
From all of us here at Alexander Charles & Browne, stay safe and be kind.
How People Can Protect Their Mental Health This Winter
A Top Ten of Uplifting Songs
In this 60-second speed read, we share ten tunes to put a spring in your step despite what’s going on in the world.
1 – Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
2 – Dancing Queen – Abba
3 – Good Vibration – The Beach Boys
4 – Uptown Girl – Billy Joel
5 – Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
6 – I’m a Believer – The Monkees
7 – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
8 – Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
9 – I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
10 – Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
We’ve all got one song or playlist which makes us feel better about things. What’s yours?
Thanks for reading and stay safe.
Four Reasons Why We Should Do Our Bit for Small Businesses
In this three-minute read, we look at the crucial role small businesses play in bringing prosperity and personality to our high streets.
Small businesses have played a vital part in helping our community to get through the pandemic, so it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling a lot of love for local firms right now.
A new survey has found 59% of Brits say they support local businesses now more than they did pre-Covid-19.
The research, commissioned by American Express and Small Business Saturday UK, highlights the significant contribution small businesses have made in 2020.
It’s not been easy to keep calm and carry on amid lockdowns and tier restrictions, and for many small firms, it has taken sweat and tears to keep the wolves from the door.
But the good news is that many of these local enterprises are still standing, and you can do your bit for them on Small Business Saturday (5 December).
On this date, people across the country are being urged to purchase goods and/or services from local businesses. (If you can’t do it in person, you could do it online).
Last year, some 17.6 million people backed the cause by choosing to shop small on Small Business Saturday, spending about £800 million. Organisers are hoping for similar success – albeit in more challenging circumstances – this year.
Here are four reasons why you should back small businesses on Saturday, 5 December – and the rest of the year too.
Personality – Independent businesses bring vibrancy and creativity to villages and towns. Without them, high streets are sterile and non-descript. By supporting local firms, you’ll be ensuring our shopping areas have energy and sparkle.
Better customer service – Often, small businesses offer better customer service than their larger competitors. This is because the owner is never far away from the action – unlike a big chain, where the boss is in a swanky HQ hundreds of miles away.
Prosperity – Small businesses employ local people and draw on the services of other local firms such as accountants, builders, and cleaners. They keep the wheels of the local economy turning.
Say thank you – Most small business owners are decent people who are proud of their local community. Over the past nine months, small businesses have helped out in all sorts of ways, such as delivering essentials to the homes of the vulnerable, pivoting to make PPE, or donating to food banks. A little bit of recognition can go a long way.
2020 has been tough on all of us, and now, more than ever, we need to work together as a community. At Alexander Charles & Browne we’re committed to supporting the people and communities we serve.
How People Can Protect Their Mental Health This Winter
In this important two-minute read, we look at six ways people can look after their mental health and that of their loved ones as we head into winter.
In early November, a week after the clocks went back, there was a spike in the UK’s highest levels of acute loneliness during the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A BBC report claimed that the longer, darker evenings had led to 8% of adults saying they were feeling “always, or often lonely”. This is a staggering 4.2 million people across Britain.
Now, more than ever before, it’s essential to note how we’re feeling mentally as well as physically.
With mindfulness in mind, here are six ideas from the Mental Health Foundation to improve your mental wellbeing over the winter months.
- Get Help – If you are struggling with debt or feeling down, seek professional support and guidance.
- Routines Work – Lockdowns play havoc with our schedules, so aim to create a simplified one that works for you. Try to build at least twenty minutes of exercise into your day.
- Good Sleep Matters – A very important but overlooked aspect of good mental health is getting quality sleep. Try reading a book instead of watching the telly before bedtime.
- Look for the Positives – Since the Pandemic hit, many things we took for granted have been temporarily stopped. But new ideas and events have emerged like online book clubs and Zoom pub quizzes. Many people are also finding a new purpose by volunteering in their local communities.
- Stay Connected – There may be restrictions around meeting people, but that doesn’t need to stop us staying in touch with friends and family. Pick up the phone and call or text someone you like/love today.
- Make Friends with Winter – The Scandinavians have become experts over the centuries in coping with long, dark winters. Their approach is to make your home as comfortable as possible and enjoy the time indoors to read, cook, reflect, and relax.
At Alexander Charles & Browne we see the big picture. And we know our community cares about more than just property, so we love sharing articles like this and hope they help you or someone you care about.
Thanks for reading and let’s look out for each other this winter.
PS: The Mental Health Foundation has published some handy articles providing advice and support for people who need it. Visit: www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Planning to Sell Your Home in 2021? Then Read This Before Your Christmas Decorations Go Up
In this three-minute read, we look at why people planning to sell in 2021 should act now to take advantage of the traditional surge in interest from serious buyers.
If you’re contemplating putting your home on the market next year, there’s one thing you can do right now to maximise your chances of getting a great deal.
Before you get carried away in a giddy rush of festive fever and adorn your house in flashing lights and sparkly tinsel, take a deep breath and pause for just a moment.
You may be planning to kickstart the sale of your home in January – once the silly season is over – but there’s a good reason why you shouldn’t wait.
The reason is that traffic on property portals skyrockets on the days between Christmas and New Year.
Pageviews on Rightmove, for example, typically increase by around 230% between Christmas Day and 2 January.
What drives this surge in interest?
As well as being a time of celebration, Christmas is a time of contemplation; one when many people make major life decisions.
Some folks decide – after hosting family on Christmas Day – that their home is too small and they need something with more room.
Others finally get around to having a frank discussion with elderly loved ones about downsizing.
The festive season is also a time when couples commit to finding a “forever home” together, or sadly decide it’s time to go separate ways.
Whatever their reasons for moving, buyers at this time of year tend to be highly motivated. Smart sellers can take advantage of this by making sure that their property is online in all its glory before Christmas Eve.
We suggest that you instruct an agent now so that you have plenty of time to get the photography, copy, floorplans and Energy Performance Certificate sorted in time.
No tinsel, baubles or flashing lights just yet.
This brings us back to our recommendation that people who are planning to sell next year hold off on putting the Christmas decorations up. There are two good reasons for doing this and both centre around marketing photos.
The key to good property photography is getting rid of clutter. Property photos aren’t family snaps. You don’t want buyers mulling over your penchant for flashing reindeer or how many presents you have under the tree. Having lots of personal items on show is a big no-no.
If your property doesn’t sell before Christmas, the photos will look dated if they feature wreaths, presents, and Christmas cards.
So, there we have it, get the photos done first and then go for broke. Deck your hall with boughs of holly and bling up your Christmas tree, relaxed in the knowledge that you’ve taken the right steps to ensure a prosperous New Year.
Here at Alexander Charles & Browne, we want to help make your plans for 2021 a reality. Get in touch now for expert advice on how to make those dreams come true.
Celebrating World Kindness Day
Today is World Kindness Day, and we couldn’t think of a better chance to show our appreciation for our community’s good neighbours. A 90-second speed read.
Friday the 13th is usually viewed with suspicion given its ‘unlucky for some’ label.
But this year’s vintage is a time to celebrate and cast aside any superstitions and celebrate World Kindness Day.
And 2020 is certainly the year where kindness and community spirit were needed like never before.
World Kindness Day started in Tokyo in 1998 and has since grown into a global movement of doing nice things for others.
At Alexander Charles & Browne, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the kindness and care of the good neighbours who make each other’s lives that much better.
The experience of lockdowns and restrictions this year has highlighted the value of generosity, compassion, and community spirit.
So, let’s hear it for our local heroes, AKA good neighbours.
Here are three simple things you can do to let your neighbours know how much they mean to you.
- Send a text to them, something along the lines of ‘Today is World Kindness Day, and you sprang to mind because you are a very kind and considerate neighbour’.
- Pop a note or card through their door, thanking them for being such a good person to live near.
- Tag them in this post, letting them know why you think they are fab.
The importance of having good neighbours is a huge plus point for people seeking a new home.
The Value of Good Neighbours
According to a survey featured in an article on the Ideal Home website, the majority of people who were asked about the importance of having good neighbours said they would gladly pay 1 to 3 per cent above the asking price to guarantee they got on with the locals.
So, it seems like the Czech proverb we discovered while researching this article is correct:
‘A good neighbour adds value to your property.’
We want all our clients, neighbours, and members of the community to know that we remain here to help the good people in any way we can.
Government Announces New Rule on Evictions During Lockdown 2
In this two-minute read, we look at the new rules on eviction enforcement during the latest lockdown.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a ban on bailiffs carrying out eviction enforcement during the lockdown in all but the most serious of cases.
While the courts are continuing to hear eviction cases, under the new rules announced last week as England returned to lockdown, bailiff enforcement action cannot be implemented until January 11, 2021, “at the earliest”.
Mr Jenrick says the move protects those who have found themselves in financial difficulty through no fault of their own “while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases”.
He adds: “We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.”
There are a few exceptions to the enforcement ban. The bailiffs can act on cases of illegal occupation, fraud, anti-social behaviour, eviction of domestic abuse perpetrators in social housing and where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant.
The government says it also intends to introduce an exemption for extreme pre-Covid rent arrears.
Uncertainty and case backlog
The latest announcement from the government adds another layer of complexity to the legal landscape when it comes to evictions.
This year landlords have had to contend with an eviction ban and an extension to the eviction notice period.
To further complicate matters, courts in England are currently working through an unprecedented backlog of cases caused by the first lockdown and eviction ban.
As a result, any landlord considering eviction proceedings should prepare for nightmarish delays (and bear in mind that even in the pre-COVID-19 era, the process took months).
That’s why here at Alexander Charles & Browne we advise landlords to view eviction as the absolute last resort.
There are several ways to avoid the tenant-landlord relationship breaking down to the extent that eviction is the only answer.
By investing time and effort into managing your tenant relationship, and by being thorough with reference checks, record-keeping and inspections, many issues can be resolved without legal action.
And if a dispute does occur, expert negotiation and communication can mean a finding a solution without the lawyers getting involved.
Investing in a professional letting agent can save you as a landlord time, money, and stress. As the nation continues to navigate its way through the uncertainties of the pandemic, having an expert on your side who can look out for your best interests will help you sleep well at night.
Thanks for reading
How will the new lockdown impact the property
In this two-minute read, we look at what the announcement on Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson means to home sellers and buyers.
On Saturday we received confirmation England will go into lockdown from Thursday, November 5 until at least December 2.
So, how will this affect people in the process of moving or thinking about selling
Well, firstly it’s good news from a property moving perspective because the Housing Minister Robert Jenrick confirmed in a tweet on Saturday evening that the market was still very much open for business.
‘Can I still move home?’
‘Yes – the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance.’
The Minister’s tweet linked to an information guide about the new lockdown which you can find at the bottom of this article.
At Alexander Charles & Browne, we continue to work hard for our sellers and buyers in a Covid-19 secure way, while strictly following the regulations laid out by the Government.
Yes we Can
We can still conduct safety first viewings using PPE, hand sanitisers and social distancing.
We will continue to push hard to progress any sales that are currently going through.
And we will keep everyone we work with updated about any changes that may happen.
Here for YOU
We appreciate this is an anxious time for many of our clients and that’s why we want you to contact us if you have any questions, concerns or need to get a better understanding of what’s happening.
As we were in the first lockdown, we are 100 per cent committed and focussed on doing the right things for our clients, our colleagues, and our community.
Thanks for reading
Ten Ways People can Avoid Cringeworthy Property Photos
In this three-minute read, we look at the dos and don’ts of photography when it comes to marketing a property.
When selling or letting a property, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting the imagery right.
As most buyers and renters spend hours scrolling through property portals before arranging viewings, first impressions are crucial.
So why then do so many people get it wrong? Such is the volume of bad estate agency photos out there, that there are entire websites dedicated to mocking dodgy property pics (check out Terrible Estate Agency Photos).
To avoid becoming an object of ridicule, here is a list of what NOT to include in your marketing photos.
- Grandpa, grandma or any other family member. Property photos that include people always look a bit creepy. It’s never okay, even if the person is sitting in the background or giving a friendly wave.
- Boarded up windows and doors. If windows and doors are badly damaged or boarded up, replace them – or at the very least don’t photograph them.
- Doll collections. Whenever we see lots of dolls in a room (and yes, we have seen this in property photos) we immediately think of Chucky from Child’s Play (he still gives us nightmares). Dolls, along with mannequins and skeletons, belong on horror film sets only.
- Bathrooms covered in mould. Always give your home a good scrub before it goes on the market. People don’t want to view a property that comes with a health warning.
- Outdoor items left indoors. Lawn mowers, quad bikes and trampolines all belong outside. If for some reason you keep them inside, understand that this is not normal. Remove them from the premises before taking marketing photographs.
- Animals. All creatures great and small should be left out of property photos. They only serve as a distraction and make people wonder if the house smells.
- Badly photoshopped images. Don’t be tempted to digitally add a dining table or a sofa to a photo of an unfurnished room. It never looks convincing; the furniture always looks like it is levitating ever so slightly off the floor. Other no-no’s include adding sunsets or wildlife to images of the back garden.
- Mirror images. When taking pictures of a room that has a mirror, a photographer can inadvertently capture their own reflection. This is too Alfred Hitchcock for our liking. Photographers should always position themselves carefully to avoid making a cameo appearance in the photo.
- Intimate portraits of your lover/husband/wife. So, you’ve been to life drawing classes and are rather proud of that racy charcoal sketch you did of your beloved. We love your creativity but please keep such personal items out of sight.
- Broken furniture piled high. People will be put off by the thought of having to fork out for a skip (or two) to remove your junk.
These are the most extreme examples of property photo fails, but the principle stands for all property marketing imagery. Make sure every room is clutter-free and clean and plan the shots.
Ideally get a professional to take the photographs for you. They’ll understand how to make the best use of light and to make rooms look spacious and airy.
Here at Alexander Charles & Browne we get the picture. We’re experts at showing homes at their best and always use professional property photos.
A Ten-Point Checklist for Landlords
A Ten-Point Checklist for Landlords
In this three-minute read, we look at the ten most important things a landlord needs to succeed.
If you’re contemplating becoming a landlord, here’s a helpful checklist explaining what it takes to let a property.
You may wonder why a checklist is necessary. After all, how hard can it be? You buy a property, find a tenant, and boom, you’ve got the whole landlord game figured out. Wrong!
The private rental sector is subject to so many rules and regulations that even experienced landlords get caught out and make costly mistakes.
Here’s what you need to know.
1 Legal matters – There are at least 175 laws that apply to landlords in the UK, covering everything from evictions to electrical checks. You need to be on top of all of them. Claiming ignorance (or that the dog ate your tenancy agreement) won’t get you off the hook if you get caught out.
2 Record keeping – It’s vital to maintain a clear paper trail so that if you get into a dispute, you have evidence to support your case. If you’re the kind of person who files important paperwork down the back of the sofa, consider getting someone to do it for you.
3 Vigilance – No matter how nice your tenant seems to be, regular inspections are a must as they allow you to nip problems in the bud. Lax landlords run the risk of discovering that their property has been sub-let, trashed in a series of all-night parties or, holy smoke, turned into a cannabis farm.
4 Take out insurance – We’re not talking about standard home and contents insurance, but specific landlord insurance. (It’s usually a condition of buy-to-let mortgages.) Various policies are available, ranging from top-tier versions that cover almost every eventuality, to no-frills options.
5 People management – Dealing with people is a major part of being a landlord. Most tenants are reliable and honest, but some, unfortunately, can be infuriating. If a tenant falls into the latter category, you need to remain cool-headed when dealing with them. Good landlords make business decisions, not emotional ones.
6 Maintenance – Routine maintenance stops minor issues becoming major structural problems. It helps to have a network of reliable tradespeople who you can call on when you need work done.
7 Tenant selection – Invest time at the beginning of a tenancy to find the right tenant. Never rush the process when it comes to reference and credit checks.
8 Tax implications – The tax rules covering rental properties have been significantly reformed in recent years. It’s worth getting advice from an expert to ensure you understand what you need to pay and what you can claim back.
9 Understand the market – Successful landlords understand the lie of the land, so that when it comes to setting the rent, they are bang on the money. Getting the price right means your property won’t be sitting empty for long periods.
10 Back-up – Good landlords don’t blunder their way through – they have back-up in the form of a reputable letting agent. If you want support dealing with complicated legislation, handling problematic tenants and managing day-to-day admin and maintenance, get yourself a good letting agent. Remember, mistakes can be costly.
Here at Alexander Charles & Browne, we can help you to become a successful landlord and to see healthy returns on your property investment.
Landlords ‘Still Discriminating’ Against DSS Renters
Despite a recent landmark ruling stating that landlords are not permitted to discriminate against private renters in England receiving benefits, many people are now saying that that they’re still finding it hard to secure accommodation.
Speaking to the Guardian, chief executive of Shelter Polly Neate said that hundreds of people have been in touch with the housing charity since the ruling raised concerns about the issues surrounding DSS.
“The recent court judgment was an incredibly important step forward, but Shelter has been fighting No DSS for nearly two years and will continue to do so until these discriminatory practices are stamped out for good. All landlords and letting agents should know that if they keep acting unlawfully, they could face legal action and hefty fines,” she said.
Last month, a court ruled that the no DSS rule breached equality rules, after a disabled single mother found herself homeless when she was refused the chance to rent a private property because she was on benefits.
‘No DSS’ has been seen in property listings for years, making it clear that those in receipt of benefits wouldn’t be considered for tenancies – a practice decried by welfare charities, arguing that it should be relegated to the history books.
There are numerous reasons why some landlords have chosen not to rent to those on benefits over the years, such as the fact that insurance policies and mortgages were invalid if a tenant was receiving government support.
But times have changed and many mortgage providers have now loosened restrictions relating to this demographic – and property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove have now banned the phrase ‘no DSS’.
Looking for letting agents in Forest Hill? Get in touch with us today.
Landlords - Six Simple Steps to Rental Success
In this two-minute read, we look at seven fundamental steps landlords need to take to put themselves and their rental properties on the path to success.
Being a landlord can be challenging, complicated and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
By following these quick tips below, you’ll make your life easier and your properties more profitable.
1 Picking a Letting Agent. Look for professionalism, integrity, value for money and a proven track record of serving local landlords
2) Marketing Magic. How, where, and when your property is marketed adds significantly to its chances of success. At Alexander Charles & Browne, we use several different platforms, tactics, and techniques to attract the largest possible audience for your property.
3) The 3 Ps. If you want to attract quality tenants at the best price, your property must be clean, well maintained and nicely presented. Remember the 3Ps as they are worth repeating – presentation, presentation, presentation.
4) Dealing with offers. Once quality tenants have been found, and the rental price agreed, we will carry out all the necessary work. This includes gathering references, creating tenancy agreements, collecting the initial deposit and rent, and arranging for a thorough check-in and inventory to take place.
5) Moving in and on. Once all the above has been carried out and is in order, you/we can release the keys to your new tenant. By establishing excellent communication during the moving in process we lay the foundations for good future relations.
6) Hassle-Free Property Management. We offer different tiers of service, from let only where we will find you a quality tenant and carry out all the preparatory work, right through to full property management.
When you decide to have your property fully managed, it means we take responsibility for most things that need doing and sorting out.
This includes collecting rents, arranging safety checks, property inspections and making sure maintenance and repairs are carried out by skilled local professionals. we’ll keep you the right side of the mountain of rental regulations and laws affecting rented property.
Thanks for reading, and if you are a landlord looking to have their life made easier and rental property more profitable, please get in touch with us today.
Please call the lettings team on 0208 613 0775 or email email@example.com
The court ruling that all landlords in need to know about “No DSS” court ruling
The court ruling that all landlords in need to know about “No DSS” court ruling
In this three-minute read, we look at what a recent court ruling that found a “no DSS” letting ban was unlawful means for landlords.
A disabled mum-of-two emerged victorious from York County Court earlier this month after winning a case that sent ripples through the lettings industry.
The woman, who was on housing benefit, had been blocked from renting a property by a blanket “no DSS” lettings policy.
The court heard the woman, who had a part-time job, good references from two previous landlords and a reliable guarantor, had been treated unfairly. The judge agreed and awarded her £3,500 in damages and costs.
The ruling is significant because, despite lots of rumblings over “no DSS”, it is the first time a judge has ruled it is unlawful and discriminatory.
Homeless charity Shelter says the case sends a clear warning to landlords “that they risk legal action if they continue to bar housing benefit tenants from renting”.
Now some legal eagles have noted that as the ruling was made in a county court, it is not binding on other courts. But we think this is splitting hairs.
Even before the York court case, some tenants had won out-of-court settlements after challenging adverts which openly banned benefit claimants.
The direction of traffic is clear: blanket bans that take no account of an individual’s circumstances are increasingly risky. A one-size-fits-all approach can leave a landlord exposed to the threat of legal action and one big headache.
Push to end “no DSS”
The term “no DSS” has been used in property listings for years to make it clear benefit recipients will not be considered for a tenancy.
It’s loathed by welfare charities who argue it should be a relic of the past. (History buffs take note, the DSS – the Department for Social Security – ceased to exist back in 2001!).
There are many reasons why historically some landlords have not rented to people on benefits. One is that some mortgages and insurance policies were invalidated if the tenant was on benefits.
But things have changed. Many lenders, including the Co-operative, Nationwide and NatWest, have loosened buy-to-let mortgage restrictions that relate to benefits tenants. And the phrase “no DSS” has been banned by property portals Zoopla and Rightmove.
Finding the right tenant for your property
Understandably, a landlord wants to find a reliable and respectful tenant.
But slapping “no DSS” at the end of a property listing can be like hitting a walnut with a sledgehammer.
Landlords need a more nuanced strategy which considers applicants on a case by case basis.
This legwork might take a little more time, and involve more admin, but in the long run, it is worth it. This is where we come into our own as experienced, ethical letting agents.
Who – other than a lawyer, of course – wants to get caught up in a legal dispute over the fine-print of the Equality Act 2010? We can think of about 5,000 other things we’d rather do with our time.
If you’d like more advice about how to find a good tenant and protect your investment, contact us.
We’ll take the stress out of the rental process and give you back time to focus on other priorities you have.
At Alexander Charles & Browne we’re here to help landlords navigate the lettings market. If you have any questions about the issues raised in this article, please get in touch.
Free Advice for First-Time Buyers 06/07/2020
There’s a first time for everything, and in this 3-minute easy-read, we share advice on making your property buying a successful one.
Do you remember when you rode a bike without support for the first time?
Or when you learned to swim?
And who can forget the moment when the driving examiner turns and says ‘congratulations, you’ve passed.’
You also never forget your first love or the first home you buy.
That’s why at Alexander Charles & Browne we do all we can to make it an experience you remember fondly.
Because after all, your home is where some of your most magical memories are made.
But it can be a daunting first step entering the World of estate agent speak.
Fear not friends, as we’ve come up with a jargon buster to take the mystique out of buying your first place.
For the record, we don’t like or use the terms, below.
Vendor – No, it’s not a Harry Potter character. It’s the person selling a place.
The ‘applicant’ – This is you, the fresh-faced person buying the place, NOT a device for applying cream.
Sole agent – This has nothing to do with shoes or fish from Dover. It simply means the only agency selling the place.
Chain free – In theory (and in practice) any property that is sold without being involved in a chain should be an easier place to buy. This is due to fewer people, mortgage providers, agents, solicitors, and surveyors being involved.
Mortgage Offer – The confirmation you get from your mortgage provider saying you have the funds approved to buy the property. Having this in place puts you in an excellent position when making an offer.
Subject to Contract – You’ve made an offer, it’s been accepted, but there are still a few contractual hurdles to leap over first.
Conveyancing – The legal stuff that needs doing when you are buying a place. Solicitor jargon is another thing altogether.
Stamp Duty – The bad news is it’s a Government tax slapped on when you buy a home. The good news is there is relief offered to first-time buyers. Get in touch with us, and we can work out what you could be eligible for.
Exchange – The solicitors are happy. The agents are relieved, but most importantly, you’re delighted and the transfer of contracts means it’s now VERY unlikely the home will not become yours. This is the cue for a sigh of relief and perhaps a cheeky little celebratory drink.
Completion – This is D-Day when it comes to buying your first home. It simply means all the legalities and finances have been completed successfully. You will know your ‘completion day’ in advance as you’ll need to pack, arrange removals, and get super excited.
The first evening in your new home should be memorable. We’ll provide the champagne (and take away menus), so you can take a break from unpacking and celebrate in style.
We’ve 25 years of giving people in London and Kent straight-talking property advice.
And we have a dedicated advice service for first-time buyers where you can book in a 20-minute chat to go over any questions you have or jargon you need decoding.
Thanks for reading.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 03/07/2020
Small businesses are hurting – let’s show them some love
In this three-minute read, we share some ideas on how you can help your local shops and businesses through these difficult times.
One of the most remarkable things about the Covid-19 crisis is the way communities in have pulled together.
People have stepped up and supported their neighbours, the vulnerable and the NHS.
As we enter a new phase of this pandemic – let’s dare to call it post-lockdown (touch wood) – we mustn’t lose that sense of community spirit.
Yes, we may be weary, we may be yearning for a relaxing holiday in the sun, but the fight isn’t over yet – not by a long shot.
Along with stamping out the virus, we need to get our stalled economy moving again.
To do this, we need to redirect all the positive energy we’ve seen over the past few months towards helping our local economy.
High street blues
Even before Covid-19 the UK’s 7,000 high streets were suffering. High rents and competition from online retailers and out-of-town megastores meant many shops and pubs were closing their doors.
At the start of 2020, there were 50,000 fewer high street shops than there were a decade ago.
As retail guru, Mary Portas put it: “We’ve sacrificed community for convenience.”
Well now is the time to start to fix that by supporting family-run and independent businesses.
Don’t forget service providers
While local shops, bars and pubs are a vital part of the community, the local economy is much broader than that. Think about the solicitors, physiotherapists, beauty therapists and independent estate agents who also contribute to the local economy and employ people.
We need your support too.
It’s your call
Recovery and regeneration won’t happen by itself. Do you want our shopping areas to be vibrant and welcoming? Or riddled with yobs and boarded up shops?
If we want our local businesses to thrive, we must all start using them more.
Here are three simple ways we can help our local economy
– Pause before you jump online. Often our initial reaction, when we need something, is to turn to Google or ask Alexa. But what if your first reaction was to think locally? Before you make that online order, why not take a walk up to the shops and see if you can purchase it then and there. No waiting.
– If a local shop, tradesperson, or service provider impresses you, shout about it. Tell your friends and neighbours and mention it on Facebook or digital community platforms such as Nextdoor. Word of mouth recommendations are incredibly powerful.
– Contact your council. If your high street, shopping area or town centre feels down at heel, get writing. Ask your local councillors what they’re doing to help the local area. Point out that in some places, such as Rotherham in Yorkshire and Deptford in London, work has been taking place for years to encourage regeneration. If your council isn’t being proactive, speak up and put positive pressure on them.
Remember, miracles don’t happen overnight. Change takes time and requires commitment.
The next few months will be challenging for us all.
But it’s worth remembering the words of Manchester United’s young star and social justice campaigner Marcus Rashford when he said: “Look at what we can do when we come together.”
At Alexander Charles & Browne we’re proud to be part of the local community and supporters of local businesses.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 26/06/2020
Five reasons to be cheerful
Architects have designed a floating chicken farm. Yes, really. The three-storey creation will nestle on a concrete pontoon in a Rotterdam waterway, in The Netherlands. It will house 7,000 hens, an egg processing plant, and a cress farm.
So, what do the neighbours think?
As the chicken farm will go next to an existing floating dairy, we don’t expect them to have any beef with the plans
New figures from the Zoopla Property Index show house prices are on an upward trajectory.
Zoopla found house prices were up 2.4% year on year in May. It also predicts property prices in the next quarter will grow by between 2 and 3%.
Micro homes for rough sleepers
Six “micro homes” have been built on church land in Cambridge as part of an innovative project to help the homeless.
As well as getting a roof over their heads, rough sleepers who move into the self-contained pods will receive counselling and support.
The micro-homes, which are easy to relocate, will stay on their present site for three years.
After this time, they could be moved to a new location. Let’s hope we see more being done to help the homeless.
New research from Rightmove shows that Whitby in Yorkshire is the most in-demand seaside location in the UK – up in popularity by almost 5% in a year. The figures are based on inquiries for properties available for sale in the area.
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, was second, followed by Troon in Ayrshire, Scotland.
The most expensive seaside destination though remains Sandbanks, in Poole, where the average cost of a home is £1,243,364.
We want you to know that we are optimistic about the future and determined to continue to serve our community.
Whatever your property needs are, we’re here to help.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 12/06/2020
Here’s some good news
Here’s a two-minute dose of good news to lift your mood this Feelgood Friday.
The number of Brits cycling has skyrocketed. New official figures reveal a 100% increase in people cycling on weekdays and a whopping 200% rise on weekends during lockdown. The trend has been welcomed by environmentalists, fitness campaigners and bike shops – where sales have gone through the roof. Such is the demand that bike stocks are running low, prompting some to say, “bikes are the new toilet paper”. Not one of our favourite expressions, but we know what they mean.
Toy story volunteers!
You could be forgiven for thinking the nation’s little people have spent the whole of lockdown glued to screens. But new market analysis from a data collection company called NPD shows strong demand in recent months for old fashioned toys. Demand for puzzles and jigsaws rose by 43%. Meanwhile, outdoor toys, like sandpits and waterslides, were a hit in May when the glorious sunny weather arrived, creating a 31% spike in sales. Building sets like Lego increased by 17%. (Figures cover January 1 to May 23 this year, compared to the same period in 2019).
Two resourceful brothers have invented a mobile handwashing unit to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in Ghana. Richard Kwarteng Aning and his brother Jude Osei built the Solar Wash from an old barrel and items bought at their local market. The nifty solar-powered basin has a sensor-triggered soap dispenser (so no need to touch anything) and an alarm to ensure you wash your hands for 25 seconds before rinsing. Solar Wash units will be rolled out to communities in Ghanaian cities so people with limited access to freshwater can keep their hands clean.
A yellow Labrador called K9 Raider is in the running to be named America’s top dog. K9 Raider is a Courtroom Therapy Dog who sits with young victims of serious crime when they give evidence. He provides a calming presence during what can be a traumatic experience. Another frontrunner in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards 2020 is Dolly Pawton, a Labrador who can detect when her owner’s blood pressure or heart rate drop and raise the alarm. Then there’s MacKenzie, a Chihuahua born with a cleft palate who now spends her time cuddling up to young, abandoned animals at a New York shelter.
We want our community to know we are here to help you as life slowly gets back to normal.
We wish you all a safe, happy, and enjoyable weekend.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 05/06/2020
Five reasons to be cheerful
Mystery man cleans up
A mystery man in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, has washed the windows of some 700 properties – for free! The Eastern Daily Press reports that the window cleaner, known only as “Scott”, wants to do his bit to aid the recovery of the local economy. He hopes that by keeping the area spic and span small business can “bounce back quickly when this is all over”.
Let’s cheer our volunteers!
This week is Volunteers’ Week, a chance to celebrate the 20 million people in the UK who give up their time to help others. This year has been particularly challenging for volunteers due to lockdown and social distancing rules, but that hasn’t stopped them doing good work. Volunteers at London’s Slipstreamers Cycling Club, for example, have devised a range of virtual spinning workouts to keep their young charges active until they can get back out on the track again. Then, of course, there are the tens of thousands of NHS volunteers who have helped alleviate pressure on our health service. You’re all heroes.
Everyone needs good neighbours
It’s official: Pemberton Road in Winstanley, Wigan, has the UK’s nicest neighbours. This week it was named Britain’s Friendliest Street in an online poll. Despite being a long and busy thoroughfare, Pemberton Road has bucket-loads of community spirit. During the lockdown, residents pulled together to ensure anyone who was self-isolating was kept stocked up on essentials. The road also has its own quiz master, who organises regular brain teasers to keep people occupied, and a videographer, who compiled a video of neighbours dancing to the Madness song Our House to keep spirits up.
Two young brothers in Derby have made more than 100 cushions for key workers. Ronnie and Reggie Cockroft, aged ten and seven, wanted to do something special for NHS staff and supermarket workers who have been putting in long hours during the pandemic. Their mission is made even more special because Reggie was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy. The boys’ family credit the NHS with saving Reggie’s life.
Radio Ga Ga
While some sectors have struggled in the pandemic, radio has enjoyed a resurgence. The BBC has recorded an 18% increase in listeners during the pandemic. Meanwhile, many of the nation’s 300 community stations have also thrived, with people seeking out local news and the chance to interact with their community while in lockdown.
We want our community to know we are here to help you as we were in the past, as we are in the present and as we will be in the future.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 29/05/2020
In this two-minute read, we look around the UK and the World to see what’s been bringing a smile to people’s faces.
Taking the biscuit
If you’re looking for an excuse to raid the biscuit tin, we’ve got one. Today is National Biscuit Day, a chance to celebrate the humble hobnob, bless the bourbon, and commend the custard cream. Dedicating an entire day to biscuits may seem a little over the top to some, but let’s be honest few food items inspire as much loyalty in the UK. Do you dip or dunk? Is a Jaffa Cake really a biscuit? These questions have divided Brits for decades. But did you know that in the US scones are called biscuits? Now, that’s crackers.
High street big names re-open
As lockdown eases, many favourite high street names are getting back to business, with more to follow in the coming days. Matalan, Dunelm and Poundland have re-opened many shops, albeit with strict social distancing rules. KFC’s 500 stores are now open for drive-through and delivery, while McDonald’s continues its phased re-opening, with all 975 outlets to be back in action by next week.
Check out the bride
A woman who had to postpone her wedding due to Covid-19 has walked down the aisle – a supermarket aisle. Staff at Asda in Leckwith, Cardiff, treated colleague Mandy Hamling to a special in-store ceremony to cheer her up about working on what should have been her big day. Checkout worker Mandy, 42, was presented with a veil, sash and flowers and walked down the aisle to Chapel of Love. To top things off, there was also a wedding cake and confetti. The only thing missing was Mandy’s fiancé Michael, but we’re sure he’ll turn up for the real event which is due to take place next year.
Dabirul Makes it a Double Century
Congratulations to 100-year-old Dabirul Choudhury, an East Londoner who followed in the footsteps of Colonel Sir Tom Moore by walking 100 laps of his garden. Dabirul completed the feat in his 80-metre garden in Bow while also fasting to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Dabirul’s goal was to raise £1,000 to help victims of Covid-19 – a target he smashed by raising more than £220,000.
A hairdresser in the US who was struggling to make split ends meet (sorry!) was thrilled when a customer gave her a whopping $2,500 tip. Illsia Novotny, a hairstylist at Floyds Barbershop, Denver, was unable to work for two months due to lockdown. The shop had only recently re-opened when the mystery customer came in for a trim. He must have been delighted with the haircut because on top of tipping Illsia, he gave the shop’s receptionist $500, the general manager $1,000 and a further $1,800 to be shared between the rest of the staff.
We’d love to hear what’s been happening this week that’s left you feeling good?
Thanks for reading. Stay safe, stay sensible and be kind to each other.
It's a Feelgood Friday Time 22/05/2020
Let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the joyous, upbeat, and downright quirky stories that made us smile this week.
The Knitting Nana
A nimble-fingered Norfolk Nana is raising funds for the NHS. Margaret Seaman, 91, is knitting a woollen tribute to the Nightingale hospitals set up to provide care during the Covid-19 crisis.
Once complete, Knittingale Hospital will have an A&E department, X-ray room and four wards along with staff and patients. Margaret spends up to 12 hours a day working on the project, which has already raised £2,700.
Encouraging news on the search for a Covid-19 vaccine. US company Moderna reports that early results from human trials of its vaccine have been positive. Meanwhile, scientists at Oxford University who are developing their own vaccine say that they are making good progress. There’s still a way to go before we have a vaccine, but these are two reasons to be optimistic.
Oh, What A Knight!
Congratulations to Colonel Tom Moore who received a knighthood for his spectacular fundraising efforts. The 100-year-old war veteran won our hearts when he completed 100 laps of his Bedfordshire garden, a feat that raised £39 million for the NHS.
Since then Captain Tom has become Colonel Tom, recorded a hit song with Michael Ball and been named an honorary member of the England cricket team. Howzat!
A Rottweiler in the US called Loki has been helping to lift spirits in his hometown of Baltimore. Loki is a “therapy dogtor” who usually visits sick patients in hospitals. When lockdown meant he could no longer make his usual rounds, he switched to delivering special care kits to nurses on the Covid-19 frontline. The packages contain goodies like moisturiser (to soothe skin irritated by wearing tight-fitting personal protective equipment), coffee and tea. So far Loki – wearing his special face mask of course – and owner Caroline have helped deliver 4,500 packages to four hospitals. That’s pawsome. (Sorry).
Online property portal Rightmove has reported a surge in traffic following the re-opening of the English property market. The number of enquiries to the website hit a whopping 5.2 million the day after restrictions on moving home were eased. Rightmove bosses say this shows “clear signs of returning momentum” in the market.
We want our community to know we are there for them during these challenging times.
And we would love to know what’s making you feel good this Friday?
Thanks for reading. Stay safe, stay sensible and be kind to each other.
Home movers given the green light
In this three-minute read, we look in more depth at the Government guidelines released last week which kick-started the property market.
On Wednesday last week, it was officially announced estate agents in England could go back to work as part of the Government’s phased relaxation of the lockdown.
And we’re open again but only because we are fully ready to do so thanks to preparing in advance.
Some agencies have rushed blindly out of the traps, unprepared and dived straight back in.
When Elvis Presley sang “….Only fools rush in’ he could have been singing about certain sections of the property industry.
And just like the King of Rock and Roll that’s not our approach either.
We took our time under lockdown to ensure we have enough Personal Protective Equipment, we have also stocked up on santisers, social distancing signs and prepared our Be Clean Be Safe protocols and policies.
We’re definitely not foolishly rushing in.
The key parts of the Government’s advice for people looking to move or purchase a home are summarised below. We want to reassure home sellers and buyers we will be following these guidelines thoroughly.
- BUYERS: Initial viewings should be carried out virtually wherever this is possible, and estate agents should help you to do this.
- BUYERS: All physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household, and open house viewings should not take place.
- BUYERS: When physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands regularly, and bring your own hand sanitiser. The number of people on a viewing should be minimised to those from your household that have to be there. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
- SELLERS: If people are being shown around your current home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
- SELLERS: As most people choose to, we recommend you leave your property while viewings are taking place to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- EVERYONE: Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
- MOVERS: When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance.
- MOVERS: If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your estate agent, landlord or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.
In addition to these and our other measures we have also created a Safe Homes Hotline where we will answer any questions you have about how we are protecting people.
We’re expecting a very busy few months as buyers and sellers who have been put on hold by lockdown are now released.
Property portals reported record numbers of people visiting their sites in the 24 hours after lockdown, and we look set for a busy summer, especially as overseas holidays look unlikely to happen.
And we are ready, and looking forward to serving our clients safely, sensibly and successfully.
Thanks for reading.
To read the full document visit:
SAFETY FIRST at Alexander Charles & Browne
I hope this letter finds you safe and well and adapting to the ‘new normal’ we’re all living in right now.
On Wednesday 13 May estate agents were given the green light to get back to work and get the property market in England moving again.
While this is excellent news for the many people who were wanting to buy and sell before lockdown, we are proceeding with measured caution rather than simply rushing back in.
And I wanted to let homeowners know what we are doing to follow the Government’s guidelines around safely and responsibly selling properties.
We’ve created our Be Clean- Be Safe policy which is attached.
We will be doing all we can to protect people’s health and wellbeing.
- To reduce the number of physical viewing
- We are verifying all potential buyers to ensure they are in a strong position to buy.
- Verified potential buyers will be shown video tours of all properties before a physical viewing can be arranged.
- We have stocked up on PPE, hand sanitizer and keys disinfectant.
- We are conducting a brief health questionnaire with all sellers and potential buyers to see if they have had COVID-19 or any recent related symptoms.
- We will be strictly adhering to our Be Clean – Be Safe policy during any physical viewings of a property.
We will add more measures as when the Government guidelines are updated.
If you are thinking of putting your property on the market or just curious about its value post the first phase of lockdown, please get in contact with us.
We’re here to help people get moving again safely.
11 Dartmouth Road Forest Hill
London SE23 3HN
Buying: 0208 613 0775
Letting: 0208 613 0775