Do you need an EPC?

Advertising a property to let has got more complicated over the years with the burden of regulation growing ever bigger.
From 9th January 2013 regulations concerning EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) have changed, meaning that a landlord will have to have commissioned an EPC before marketing their property and obtained within 7 days of it going on the market. If you don’t get one within that time, you have a further 21 days to get one, provided you’re able to demonstrate you’re making every reasonable effort to get hold of one. Even if you’ve got an agent working for you, it’s still the landlord’s responsibility that an EPC is procured in a timely fashion, and made available to prospective tenants free of charge. The asset rating (energy efficient rating) on the EPC must be stated on any advertisement of the property in commercial media, including newspapers, magazines, the internet and any other written material describing the property.

What about shared housing? Do I still need an EPC?

This is where there is a crucial difference between renting out a whole property and renting by the room. If the space you are advertising is not self-contained, then you do not need to provide an EPC. Where individual rooms in a building are rented out, and there are shared facilities eg a kitchen or bathroom, an EPC is not required. This is because an EPC is only required on the rental of a building or part of a building that’s rented out separately. Renting a room does not fit the requirements.

A crucial difference

We feature both houses let on a room by room basis as well as whole properties suitable for sharing on SpareRoom. The latter, which will be distinguished as not available by the room, and let on a joint and several contract to a group of sharers, will need an EPC.

If in doubt, consult the Government regulations.

Safe as houses

The internet is full of scams and spam but SpareRoom isn’t. Here’s what we do to keep you protected while you rent your rooms. (Originally published in Multi-letters issue 9, Jan-Feb 2013)

The Internet has been the saviour of flatsharing in may ways. Not only does it allow people to search for rooms quickly and easily, without needing to be in the area they’re moving to, it also makes it easier for landlords offering rooms to target people searching in their area. However, there has always been a darker side to the Internet and property sites attract just as many scams and fraudsters as other websites. Some sites don’t have the resources (or, frankly, the desire) to combat fraudulent activity, as keeping things secure all adds to running costs (quite significantly if it’s done properly). at SpareRoom security is a core element of what we do – if our users are happy they’ll come back and recommend us. That’s the bottom line.

So how do we keep scams at bay and keep our users safe and happy?

Spareroom has staff dedicated to the task of keeping scams and spam off the site and commits a substantial chunk of our resources to preventing fraud. All our customer services staff are trained in spotting scams. The operation is headed up by Jim Craft. Jim is Spareroom’s security expert. Along with a dedicated team of ad checkers Jim monitors the site constantly to make sure no scam listings creep in and, in the very rare instance where one does, that it’s dealt with quickly and effectively.

People + technology = security

Spareroom has a sophisticated system of automated filters in place that check every single ad, photo and video that comes in, which is no mean feat when you consider that Spareroom has over 68,000 live ads as I write this. We then manually go through these listings for any signs of scams or fraudulent activity. With 8 years under our belts running Spareroom (and 13 with our sister site we’re getting good at spotting the signs.

A wider security team of 3 million

We also let users help us as, after all, they’ll spend far longer between them on the site than we can – there are over 3 million of them and not quite so many of us! every listing has a ‘report this ad’ link so users can let us know if they spot anything suspect. even if it turns out to be fine it’s always worth us having a look.

Keeping your email safe

We also don’t publish anyone’s email address directly on the site. This achieves two main things. Firstly, it stops automated programs from scanning the site for email addresses they can ‘harvest’ and add to spam mailing lists and, secondly, we can monitor any communications made by fraudulent advertisers once we’ve spotted their ad. This means we can alert anyone to be on the look- out if we think someone has been trying to con them.

What you can do to protect yourself

There are, of course, things you can be on the look out for to make sure you don’t fall victim to a scam. Here are our top 3 tips specifically for landlords renting out property.
1) If it looks too good to be true it probably is
If someone says they’ll take your room and pay up front without having seen it then warning bells should be sounding. There are genuine reasons why some tenants can’t view a room first but you should be extra cautious if this is the case.
2) Read all emails and messages carefully
People write messages in a hurry so it’s not unusual to see spelling mistakes in them, but you should keep an eye out for inconsistencies and errors in emails. The obvious thing is the sender including details that don’t seem quite right. Scammers send out 1,000s of emails a day so they’re probably using a template to start with.
Be on the lookout specifically for language mentioning ‘final asking price’ or someone wanting to ‘buy your item’.
3) Trust your instincts
Your instincts have been honed over a lifetime of experience so, if you have a nagging doubt about something, chances are you’re probably right. If you’re an experienced landlord you’ll probably have reliable gut feelings about people – trust them.

Jim says, “Don’t forget, by using a reputable site such as Spareroom you’re already drastically decreasing your chances of running into scams or spam. If you’re in any doubt at any point then get in touch via the ‘report this ad’ link or via the number on the site and we’ll look into it for you”.

It’s also important to remember that the scammers we keep off Spareroom will surface elsewhere and not all other websites are as scrupulous as we are in weeding them out.

Don’t have a deposit? There is help available.

For young people it can be hard to rent privately, even in shared accommodation. Rents are rising in areas of high demand and limited supply, and you need to come up with a deposit as well as rent in advance. If you haven’t got a job or received your first pay check yet, it’s going to be tough to put a roof over your head as well.

We’ve discovered that there are some sources of help available, primarily for young people who are vulnerable, disabled or at risk of becoming homeless. Crisis, the homelessness charity, has a handy search facility where you can find schemes in your local area willing to offer support. This is often in the form of deposit loans, rent advances or deposit guarantees – this latter where a charity will guarantee they’ll pay the landlord, rather than you having to find the cash.

Search the Crisis access scheme database

Please note that Crisis does not provide deposits or rent in advance to access private sector rented accommodation.

The Crisis Private Rented Sector Access Development programme, which provides housing help for single people at risk of homelessness, has been boosted by a cash injection of £1.2m, announced by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, today. This welcome additional funding will help more young vulnerable people find the accommodation they desperately need, and often struggle to afford even if they’re in paid work.