Change to gas safety regulations come into force 31 Dec

There’s only 10 days to go before new regulations come into force which could affect all landlords with gas central heating in their rented properties. Read this now to avoid problems.

Landlords have an obligation to provide heating that is working and safe. If the heating breaks down or isn’t repairable, the result is unhappy tenants, even if you provide temporary heaters.
New regulations coming into force at the end of the year mean that it’s possible that gas safety engineers won’t be able to approve a boiler for use. This is because they must be able to check not only the boiler but the flue in its entirety. If they cannot gain access to the flue to check this, they won’t be able to issue a Gas Safety Certificate, and will have to shut down the system in the meantime. Result: unhappy tenants complaining to landlords.

What can landlords do to protect themselves and their tenants from this unhappy outcome?

If you’re not sure if the entire flue is visible and checkable, get an engineer out to have a look. Fit inspection hatches if there’s the least bit of doubt, as an engineer will be obliged to turn the system off if he cannot inspect the flue in its entirety.

For more information and frequently asked questions, visit the Gas Safety Register website at http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/advice/flues_in_voids.aspx

Room Rents up – especially in London

According to the SpareRoom Rental Index, released this week, room rents across the country have risen 7% since last year. The rise was not consistent across the country though, with some areas showing small falls in rents. The index takes into account rents advertised for double rooms in shared houses and flats, inclusive of bills, across all town and cities in the UK.

The towns with the biggest annual increases are concentrated in the South East, where Kingston upon Thames recorded a 56% increase. East Central London postcodes also saw a large jump, up 17% on last year’s rents. All areas of London have generally seen rent rises, whilst cities in other parts of the country have experienced falling rents – Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool saw room rents fall by 1%, whilst Belfast recorded a fall of 4%. Rents were close to flat in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, which is an indicator that supply is close to outstripping demand.

The latest figures released by SpareRoom incorporate rents for the last three months (Sep-Nov 2012) and are available to download free at www.spareroom.co.uk/rentalindex.

Sharing is the new normal

Today’s release of National Census figures from 2011 reveals that sharing has become a more common way of life in England and Wales.

Households that fall into the “other” category – not single people living alone, or a single family together – make up 8% of households, up from 6% ten years ago. This doesn’t include “other households” with people over 65 living together, which would refer to those in a care home or hospice.

The statistics reveal where flatsharers are likely to be living. In London, house-sharing is at double the national average (15%). Inner London has the highest concentration of house-sharers, at 18% and the borough of Tower Hamlets is revealed to be the top borough for house-sharing – 21% of households are sharers. This accolade is joint with the Borough of Brent in outer London where the same percentage of households (21%) are made up of people sharing.

That London comes top for sharing is not surprising, given the pressures on London housing stock, the cost of living, and the relentless rise of rents.

The region with the lowest proportion of sharers is the North East, where only 5% of households are living with non family members.

The Census figures do not cover Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Introducing SpareRoom’s flatshare agony aunt

Have you got a problem with your flatmate(s) that needs sorting out? Let us help with advice from SpareRoom’s new resident flatshare agony aunt Oonagh O’Hagan.

Oonagh is the author of the brilliant ‘I Lick My Cheese and Other Notes: from the Frontline of Flatsharing’, a book described by Esquire as:

“…a collection of nasty notes and petty Post-its that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever shared a flat with a borderline OCD sufferer, or found an unidentified pube in their toothbrush and been moved to action”

If you’ve got a flatmate dilemma, chances are Oonagh’s heard worse (there’s a challenge if we ever heard one!). Email us with your horror stories, your nightmare flatmates or just those embarrassing niggles you don’t know how to handle. Every week we’ll pick the best (or at least most entertaining) and give you Oonagh’s top tips on what to do.

Just email agonyaunt@spareroom.co.uk

7 tips for renting safely over winter

We asked shared house insurance experts Endsleigh what they recommend flatsharers do to protect themselves and their possessions over the Christmas period. Here’s their 7 top tips for flatsharers:

1) If you’re going away for more than a few days over winter, turn the water off or keep the heating on in the property to prevent pipes from freezing.
 
2) Check the condition of the locks on doors and windows, and ask the landlord to repair/replace any damaged/broken ones as burglaries increase during the winter months.
 
3) Don’t leave Christmas lights or candles unattended – Christmas lights can catch fire!                                    
 
4) Don’t keep large amount of cash in the property and position valuable items/Christmas presents away from windows/doors.
 
5) Don’t leave keys near doors or windows and make sure you lock everything even if popping out for 5 minutes, it takes very little time for an opportunist to get in and steal belongings.
 
6) If you are going away for a while, arrange for someone to keep an eye on post/packages at the property.  Parcels/post left outside the property will either get stolen, or build up, which is a clear indication that no one is home.
 
7) Ask the landlord when the boiler was last serviced and request, that if not done within the last year, for a service to be completed to prevent any winter breakdowns.
 
And just in case anything does go wrong, make sure you know your landlord’s/letting agent’s emergency contact details, and keep them to hand in case of a burst pipe/break in or other winter emergency!