Blog

Management

In this section we will discuss the ongoing tasks that make up property management.

Property Management Dashboard

In general, you will be using various modules in the Property Management Dashboard to monitor pending actions and then acting accordingly. So it might be worthwhile to familiarise yourself with the Dashboard first.

Event Dates

The Event Dates module lists all overdue and upcoming events across the portfolio. The number on the right represents due events, and the number on the right represents overdue events.

Arrears

Arrears will show all money owed. By default it shows money owed by tenants. Clicking “Contact” will switch it to show money owed by landlords and vendors.

The module is segmented into groups depending on the age of the arrears. You can click into each group to bring up the constituents of that list, allowing you to quickly receipt money in or send a chase letter.

Tenancy

The Tenancy module shows all rental progressions. The drop-down on the top-left toggles between New Lettings (IE, lets that have been agreed but not yet finalised), Vacating Properties and Tenancy Renewals.

Landlords/Suppliers to Pay

This section shows you money held that is able to be transferred to a landlord or supplier. Clicking in brings up a list allowing us to make payment. Some landlords want to be paid at the end of the month, however you generally want to pay landlords as soon as you’re able to.

Works Orders

This section tracks outstanding works orders. By default it shows you “Priority” Works Orders – these are orders in which no supplier has been informed about yet. To see all works orders, click “Status” at the top to switch it.

Charges and Funds

This section lists anomalous charges and monies.

“Vacated Tenancy Charges” are active charges that are associated with tenancies that have ended or are due to end. Specifically, if a tenancy is to end of the 1st of November, and there is a charge that is due to become active on the 2nd of November, it will show here. Most likely you will want to delete all of these charges and keep this number close to zero. But you must also remember that sometimes people change their mind about vacating, so it’s better to delete the charges only when vacant possession is guaranteed.

“Monies Held” should consist only of two types of funds: Holding deposits and “last months’ rent”.

“Expired Charges” are charges which had an expiry date. These are usually charges that were generated for contractual tenancies which were not renewed. In this case, they will need to be deleted. If the tenant is still in situ, the tenancy will have to be switched to a periodic tenancy – Alto will then generate a new charge. You will still need to delete the old charge.

“Outstanding Refunds” are refunds that have been initiated but not finalised. You might do this if, for example, you have initiated the refund of a deposit on DPS, but you don’t know when the funds will clear. So you would initiate a refund, wait for the funds to clear, THEN finalise. In the interim period, the refund will show here, which is a nice reminder to check the status.

“Unallocated Credits”… imply that something has gone wrong. You don’t want any amount of money to show here.

Deposits

The Deposits module shows any unregistered deposits, or deposits that need to be refunded. If a deposit is going into dispute, you will need to put a “dispute date” in the deposit section of the tenancy for it to show in this section of the dashboard. But realistically we don’t know when disputes will be adjudicated, and so can’t really put a date on it.

Certificates

It is important that we don’t allow gas certificates, EPCs, EICRs etc. expire. However, some landlords prefer to get these certificates done themselves, so check with someone higher up before instructing anyone.

EPCs

Instructing the EPC

We currently use EnergyCert Plus for EPCs. They are instructed via Works Orders.

Uploading the EPC

Once the energy assessment is complete, Energycert Plus will email to us. Save it in the property folder on Sharepoint and enter the new EPC into the property’s Media section.

Updating the Management Date

Update the Management Date. In this instance, click the current date, click “Complete”, then enter the new due date under “Reschedule for”. The new due date will be 10 years from when the current EPC was issued.

Add the Charges

Return to the Works Order and change its status to “Complete Invoicing Received” and enter the cost of the EPC. As of the time of writing, this is £45.

Next, go to the Property and add a further charge for arranging the EPC (£25). This will technically be an “Administration Fee”, but make sure to change the description to EPC Arrangement Fee.

Inspections

One of the most important parts of management is carrying out regular inspections. This is one of the main things we are paid for.

The Property Management Dashboard contains an entry called “Inspections”.

Booking the Inspections

The first step should be to make contact with the tenant. Try calling them or sending them an SMS.

If you get no response, send them Inspection Letter 1 (an Ad Hoc Letter). This letter informs them that an inspection is due and that they should contact the office to arrange. We want it to show on the timeline, so if you select Email or Print & Email, remember that it won’t be logged unless you send the cover email.

If you still get no response, you can send them Inspection Letter 2 (an Ad Hoc Letter). This letter informs the tenant that due to a lack of response, we will be entering the property with the key at a certain time. As such it does require a tiny bit of manual editing:

Enter the time and date of the inspection here. I recommend you give a few days worth of notice, preferably a week. The idea behind this letter isn’t to enable us to visit the property with the key – we want to jolt the tenant into contacting us to arrange a convenient time for them.

Remember to book the time and date of the inspection on both the Alto calendar and our Outlook calendar.

The Inspection

Cristian should do this bit innit.

Telling Alto the Inspection Has Been Carried Out

Bring up the list of inspections by clicking the Inspections section of the Event Dates in the Property Management Dashboard.

Click the date column of the inspection in question.

In the next box, click “Complete” and next to “Reschedule for”, enter the date of the next inspection. It will normally be six months into the future, however if there were issues found that need closer monitoring, you can place it three months into the future instead.

Dealing With Any Issues Found

Before you do anything else, prepare a list of issues. Order them by severity, with the most severe at the top. Split the list based on who is responsible for rectifying the issue.

Now identify solutions to the issues. Of course, we can’t incur expenses for our landlord client without good reason. But we must also be smart.

For issues that we can get free quotes for, we should immediately instruct a contractor to get us those quotes. There’s no point asking the landlord for permission at this early stage. See WORKS ORDERS.

For emergencies that are causing damage to the property or are a health risk, you may immediately instruct a contractor (see WORKS ORDERS).

Reporting the Inspection to the Landlord

Firstly, download the inspection report from Smarter Inventories and save it to the folder of the inspection in Sharepoint. Upload it to Alto under the Tenancy Documents.

Email this to the Landlord through Alto (by clicking “Email” when you hover over the file in Alto).

In the covering email, tell them that we carried out an inspection on such and such a date, give them an overall idea of how (and if) the property is being looked after, and mention whether or not any issues were found, either with the property or with the tenants’ upkeep of the property.

Follow this with the list of issues you previously prepared (if such issues exist). These should be presented in a bulleted fashion, again with the most severe at the top. Issues for which the tenant is responsible for should be kept separate.

Explain your proposed course of action for each of the issues. If you’ve already instructed a contractor for a quote or an emergency repair, mention this.

For issues that aren’t emergencies but still important, tell the landlord that you will instruct a contractor in X amount of days unless you hear otherwise. This gives them an opportunity to opt-out of the work, but doesn’t leave us stuck waiting for a response that may never come. Make a note on your calendar to remind you to instruct once the time limit elapses.

For tenant’s issues, explain what we’re going to do. Which is…

Issues Caused by the Tenant

We will write to the tenant and explain that they must rectify the issue(s) by the time of the next inspection (which will be scheduled in three months).

Following that inspection, we will again need to report back to the landlord and re-assess. There are a few options.

The first is to let the issue slide and claim it back on the deposit at the end of the tenancy. This is fine for smaller issues, but might not be practical for more expensive ones.

The other option is to rectify the issue and bill the tenant. There is always the chance the tenant might not pay, which would lead to us chasing them with a CCJ etc. Bit of a headache, but a possible way forward.

The final option is to serve them an eviction notice. You would only do this if the property is deteriorating due to the tenant’s misuse and you need to prevent further damage. You would contact the landlord before engaging in this course of action.

Chasing Rents

We wouldn’t normally chase rents unless they’re at least three days overdue. People can understandably take umbrage if they’re being hounded for the rent the very day it’s due.

For that reason, it’s recommended that charges are edited so that they only show in the arrears list 3 days after they are due.

To begin chasing rents, hover over a time period with your mouse and click the “Arrears” button that appears. You can also hover over “Total” if you want to chase everyone who is overdue.

This will bring up a list of individuals in arrears. At the top, you can select the contact method – either the preferred method for the contact (usually email) or print. Select whichever you think is appropraite.

There will be stylised tickbox on the left of each entry. Select all the individuals you want to chase and click “Send Documents”.

Serving Notices

Sadly sending out letters isn’t a hundred percent effective in getting rent paid. As such, we sometimes have to resort to serving eviction notices in order to get tenants to behave.

Possession claims cannot be brought until the correct notice is served, and there are two types:

Which notice to serve depends on the circumstance.

Section 21

We are only able to serve a Section 21 notice if the tenancy has existed for more than four months already. The expiry date of the notice must be at least two months from the date of service, and must fall outside of a contractual term. Meaning that if a tenant has signed a 12 month contract, you won’t be able to serve this notice until month 10 at the earliest.

There are quite a caveats there, however a Section 21 can still be faster than a Section 8 under some and is also more convenient for the landlord as a hearing is usually not required unless the tenant files a valid defence.

Section 8

You will only want to rely on mandatory grounds for possession here, so you will not be able to serve this until at least two months’ worth of arrears have accrued. However, this notice requires only two weeks, rather than the two months of Section 21. You can also freely serve this notice at any point during a tenancy, even if it has just begun, or if the tenant is in the middle of a contractual period. However, upon application to the a court, there will always be a hearing to determine possession.

Drafting the Notices

The notices are in prescribed form. They can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms

A Section 21 notice is Form 6A (“Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy”). Drafting this should be fairly straightforward. Just make sure you give yourself clear months notice when entering the expiry date (“You are required to leave the below address after”).

A Section 8 notice is Form 3 (“notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy”). This is a more complex document. You will need to paste the grounds being claimed. The grounds can be found here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/50/schedule/2

Ground 8 will definitely be one of them, but you might also be able to use Grounds 10 and 11. The grounds must be first listed in the first editable portion of Section 3 of the document, then pasted verbatim in the second editable portion. Section 4 requires you to state why each ground is being relied on, so split your explanation per ground. Again, make sure you give yourself two clear weeks notice for the expiry date of the notice (“proceedings will not begin until after”).

Scan a copy of this notice before sending it and save it in the tenant’s folder in Sharepoint and in the tenancy documents in Alto.

Serve the Notice

You may serve the notice to the email address(es) mentioned in the tenancy agreement.

However, I also recommend that the notice is also posted to the property. In person. While posting the notice, I recommend that you use the SmarterInventories app to capture a picture of you pushing it through the letterbox. SmarterInventories will upload and timestamp the picture, proving that the letter was posted at that exact date and time.

Renewals

All of our tenancy agreements begin for an initial fixed term of, usually, six months. Upon expiry, these tenancies automatically transform into Contractual Periodic Tenancies which renew month by month. This is perhaps ideal for landlords, as it allows them to serve a Section 21 at point after the expiry of the initial term. However, tenants may want longer security of tenure. In any case, it is prudent to contact tenants as their tenancies come to a close so that they’re aware of where they stand. Some tenants even intend to vacate their property at the end of the tenancy period without informing us beforehand, so getting communication in early is essential.

The Property Management Dashboard contains an entry called “Term Notice to Quit Date”. Tenancies that are due to expire in three months’ time show on this list. For each one, a renewal notice must be sent.

Review the Rent

Before sending any notice or taking any action on renewal, review the rent and consider whether or not the property is still at market value. If you feel that the rent needs to be adjusted, contact the landlord and discuss. If the landlord agrees that the rent should be increased, then see RENT INCREASES below and skip sending the renewal notice described below.

Sending the Renewal Notice

For any item in the list, send a Renewal Notice. You’ll know which ones have already been done because the “Renewal Notice” will show up in the timeline of the tenancy.

Remember that if you opt to send this via email (or by Print & Email), you MUST send the cover email for the renewal notice to be logged on the timeline.

Agreeing a Renewal

Upon receipt of the renewal notice, the tenant may request a renewal of another set amount of months/years. You should contact the landlord for consent first because, as mentioned above, renewing is not always in the landlord’s interest.

If consent is granted, you may contact the tenant and proceed.

Renewing a Tenancy

In the “Tenancy” section of the tenancy, click the “Renew Tenancy” button at the bottom of the screen

Alto will bring up a screen showing the details of the next tenancy. It will have automatically adjusted the dates based on the expiry of the current tenancy. However, if the current tenancy is six months, it will assume you want to add another six month term. If that is not the case, simply adjust the months/years of the tenancy and the expiry dates will update accordingly. You can also take this opportunity to adjust the occupants if any have changed.

If you’re happy with everything displayed, click “Start Renewal”. This will create a progression, just like a new or vacating tenancy.

Now, from the tenancy, generate a new tenancy agreement – it will automatically pull in the data from the proposed renewal. Get this agreement signed by all parties.

IMPORTANT: If the main tenants remain the same, you do not need to re-serve all the documents you did previously. However, if the How to Rent Guide has changed at all since it was last served to this particular tenant, it will need to be re-served. You can simply email this to them through Alto.

Once the tenancy agreement is signed, you can finalise the renewal. Go to the progression, the click “Actions” then “Finalise Renewal”. Alto will now generate a new rent charge, allowing you to delete the old one.

Contractual Periodic Tenancies

If the tenant doesn’t respond to the letter or says that they do not want to renew for another fixed term, you can simply go to the tenancy section of the tenancy as mentioned above, but instead of clicking “Renew Tenancy”, click “New Period Term” and follow the process along. Alto will again generate a new rent charge and this one will never expire. Delete the old charge and you’re done.

When should you do this? Close to the expiry of the tenancy. Keep an eye out on the “Term End Date”. Don’t ever let any of the tenancies actually expire – always switch them Contractual Periodic before they do.

Increasing the Rent

If the rent for a tenancy is to be increased, you will first need to serve a Section 13 notice to the tenant. This can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms

You’re looking for Form 4 (“landlords’ notice proposing a new rent under an assured periodic tenancy of premises situated in England”). Fill this form in.

I recommend giving two clear months’ notice of a rent increase, just in order to be fair.

Serve this notice to the tenant. The easiest way would be to export it as a PDF, upload it to the tenancy documents in Alto and then send it to the tenant via email. I would recommend that the cover email would explain why the rent is being increased. Run a calculation against the rate of inflation since the tenancy begun, and mention the current market rent vs the proposed increase.

The new rent takes effect automatically – you do not need to get affirmative consent from the tenant (and remember, you’ve given them enough notice so that they can give notice and leave before it takes effect). However, if the tenant is unhappy with the increase, they will have the option to take the matter to a tribunal. This process is explained in the notice.

Once the document has been served, follow the process above for renewing a tenancy, except, when the box pops up after clicking “Renew Tenancy…”, you should adjust the rent to the new amount.

Paying Landlords and Suppliers

When we tell Alto that a landlord or supplier is to be paid, a few things happen:

  • The landlord or supplier gets a statement informing them that money is to be released to them.
  • If the payment group method is BACS, the transaction is added to our BACS file. When we upload that file to the bank at the end of the day, the transaction will be processed. (see ACCOUNTS AND RECONCILIATION)

Some landlords prefer to be paid at the end of the month, but generally we pay landlords as soon as we’re able to.

To pay a landlord, click the “Landlords to Pay” module in the Property Management Dashboard. For the landlords you want to want to pay, simply click the tickbox to the left to select them and click “Pay landlords”.

Make sure that we are actually able to pay the landlord before clicking this – if a rent was received AFTER the previous banking cut-off, we won’t have the funds to pay the landlord.

A similar process applies to Suppliers, but caution is advised here. Firstly, make sure “Include partial payments” is not selected. Secondly, Alto might prompt you to pay a supplier even if we don’t have the funds to pay them. The reason is that Alto lodges the commission charge against the landlord when a rent is due, not when it is paid. Therefore, it thinks we have the commission before we actually do. If the amount to pay the supplier is less than the commission, then Alto will think we are able to pay them.

Maintenance/Repair Requests

Judgement is required when maintenance or repair requests are made. Sometimes the problem can be quite minor – it could be something a member of staff can solve. Other times they can be severe, requiring emergency action from a professional. However, the general guidelines mentioned in the Inspection Section also apply here.

Log and manage maintenance/repair requests using Works Orders.

Leave No Loose Threads

There is no system in the world that will ensure you chase everything that needs to be chased. It will require constant attention on your part to make sure nothing gets left out. For instance, instructing a supplier is easy. Actually keeping track of the job and making sure the work is done, and to a good standard, is much more difficult.

The main issue with management is unreliability – landlords will often ignore your inspection reports or notices of repairs, contractors won’t act on your instructions, tenants will ignore every attempt to contact them and will make accessing the property difficult. These are not issues that can be solved systemically. What is required is to whittle away at each individual issue until it doesn’t exist anymore. How you organise this is up to you.