10 Top Tips For London Tenants to Save Money

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has turned his attention to tenants and come up with 50 fabulous tips for saving money when you are renting a flat. Here are his top ten with appropriate links to his website where he fills in with more detail.

1. Renters have a right to switch and save on energy (even prepaid). If you pay the gas & electricity bill directly (not via landlord), you can and should compare and switch. Don’t stick with the previous tenants’ supplier as often it’s costly. Always do a meter reading as soon as you move in.

Speedily find your cheapest tariff: The MSE Cheap Energy Club checks you’re on the cheapest, and if not, compares across the market to find it (check the ‘top picks’ tab for fixed deals which guarantee no price hikes). After, it monitors your tariff and lets you know when to switch again.

What if I don’t know my usage? Cheap Energy Club can estimate for you.

What about prepaid? You can still switch supplier and save (seeCheapest Prepaid Energy). Yet switching from prepay to a normal meter sadly usually needs your landlord’s permission, as it physically changes the property.

2. Beware joint bank accounts with flatmates. Shared bank accounts for bills can mean you’re credit-linked – even if you hardly know each other. Then, when applying for products, their history can be taken into account. If it’s poor, it hits you.

If you used to have a joint account, but don’t any longer, apply for a notice of ‘disassociation’. See How Credit Scoring Works for more.

3. Is your deposit protected? A fifth of private renters don’t know if their deposit’s been protected (source: Shelter), so check. By law, for most private renters who moved in after April 2007 in Eng & Wales, your landlord must use a Govt-backed deposit protection scheme – giving you rights. See Is Your Deposit Protected?
4. Landlords must ask before entering. Landlords may need to come in occasionally for repairs and inspections, yet they should arrange a time with you. If they enter without asking, you can ask them to stop. If it continues, it can be considered harassment. Contact Citizens Advice or a solicitor for help, or the police if you feel threatened.
5. Cheap contents insurance. If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you only need contents (essentially the stuff that’d fall if you turned your home upside down).

Only you / your family live in the home? To get cheapest cover combine comparison sites* & Compare The Market* to bag the max quotes in min time, then Aviva* and Direct Line*, which they miss. Better still, try the full Cheap Home Insurance guide where some get PAID for cover.

If you live in a houseshare. Getting cover from mainstream insurers can be tricky (a locked room helps, so ask for one).*,Gocompare* & MoneySupermarket* say they provide flatshare quotes, but double-check the policy allows it – comparison sites are very flaky on this. You may find a specialist such as Home Protect* or a local broker viaBIBA easier.

6. Furnish for FREE – sofas, beds, TVs & more. If you’ve gone unfurnished or part-furnished, then online giveaway sites can help you for nowt. Hundreds of top-quality goodies are available daily for free from web communities – some’s tat, but some’s treasure. See Furnish for Free tips.
7. Don’t redecorate without the landlord’s permission. You generally need to return property in the state you got it (minor wear and tear’s allowable). So get the landlord’s permission in writing to put up shelves or repaint, unless you want to have to undecorate before you leave.

Beware putting pictures up. Don’t get hammer-happy – it destroys walls and deposits. Forumites recommend specially-designed picture strips to hold up pics without using damaging nails. See full Rental Decoratinghelp.

8. Letting fees can be perverse and nasty, check. Renters can be hit by huge and unfair fees. Some reported to us include £120 for permission to buy a dog or £60 for photocopying a contract.

Sadly there’s little regulation over these charges – but at least make sure you know what they are so you avoid them. There are growing campaigns for stronger rights. For more (limited) options, see Beware Unfair Fees.

9. Does every renter need their own TV licence? In shared homes, this usually depends on the tenancy agreement. Joint tenants can usually share, but if you’ve your own tenancy you need your own licence. For exact rules (incl lodgers), see TV Licence help.
10. Are you eligible for help? If you’re on a low income and struggling to pay rent, check if you’re eligible for housing benefit/grants. See Extra Cash Help.

London Rents Are Rising and It’s All My Fault.

Excited for my medical terminology class today...

Photo credit: LibraryatNight

I was ill – I caught a debilitating disease for which the medical term is Domii Pauci – my G.P. identified the problem and got me an appointment with a specialist who had devoted his life to curing people with this complaint. I prepared a wet fish, and finally the day came for my appointment and I marched into his surgery and announced:

“You bloodsucking leech! How can you live off the misery of your patients! How dare you sit in your comfortable surgery, taking taxpayers money? I am going to make sure that you never practise medicine again! Then I hit him round the face with a wet fish. I don’t think we will see HIM in surgery again!

At least that was the message that I got from today’s Independent in their story:

A new era of house building could create jobs, stimulate growth, and help the poor. So why won’t Cameron do it?

It’s a great story with a lousy message.

Yes there is a problem, especially in London: a modest two-bedroom place in London’s Zone 2 – a standard monthly rent is indeed £800, even £900. The Independent reports hundreds of furious Londoners bombarding with their renting horror stories. One had a 35 per cent rent hike imposed on them at Christmas; another was forced to desert their Stockwell flat after a 40 per cent increase. “My tiny flat in the East End went up by £200 a month for the next occupants when I left”. Clearly the patient is sick, sick with Domii Pauci – a housing shortage.

The Independent’s solution is the wet fish: “Private landlords can do as they please, of course. Having a roof over your head is a basic human requirement and, when there is a lack of houses to go around, it is a need that can be exploited. A landlord knows that, if their tenants don’t like an outrageous rent hike, their only option is to put themselves back at the mercy of the ever more pricey private renting market. According to Shelter, annual rents in inner London went up by 7 per cent last year – or just under £1,000 for a two-bedroom house. When people’s wages are flat-lining, that’s a big hit.”

As a Landlord of some 20 years I have seen this coming, indeed it’s why I am a Landlord. The strange thing is that the Government hasn’t seen it coming, and still doesn’t understand why it is happening, and getting worse. The fixed costs of being a Landlord are increasing exponentially – Pimlico Flats has had to take on an employee solely for the purpose of administering deposits, council tax, utilities. Computerisation has enabled big corporations like Westminster City Council to remove thinking from their activities and leave automated mailshots. New regulations require building work to prevent such things as “death by only having one lock” ……. again, many of the new initiatives are good, and contribute to tenants well being, but some don’t. And all carry a cost, and at the end of the day the tenant bears that cost,  not government, or the landlord.

It’s time for Government and Shelter to examine what leads to higher rents, and what leads to lower rents, and to act accordingly.

Meantime don’t be surprised if Landlords leave the Planet saying thanks for all the fish.


Why Landlords Need Regulating


Landlord? (Photo credit: the justified sinner)

Just visit any property forum or website & ask what landlords think of the idea of licensing and regulation and you will get a loud and clear indication that Landlords consider regulation to be an expensive useless waste of time.

In spite of this new rules were introduced in January 2010 which meant landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) must have their properties inspected and licensed. During the first year, until December 2011, Oxford City Council issued 338 licences – and just 11 of those, or three per cent, were issued without any additional conditions. To my mind this sends a loud and clear signal – either the Private Rental Sector is rotten to the core, or the Regulations are!

97% of Privately Rented Accommodation Isn’t Fit For Purpose?

The new regulations were introduced in two phases. From January 2011, landlords of three-storey houses or two-storey houses for five people or more were told to get their property inspected for £362, make any necessary alterations and renew the licence annually. The rules were then rolled out to include properties with three or more sharers this January, resulting in an extra 1,065 applications. Oxford is currently the only council in the country to require all HMOs to be licensed, more than 2,000 warning letters were sent to landlords in December, and since the scheme came into effect there have been eight prosecutions against landlords managing unsafe HMOs and one letting agent. The council has also taken over the management of one HMO because the landlord was not a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

So what is wrong – Landlords, or Regulations? During 2011 Pimlico Flats received 2 letters from Westminster City Council threatening enforcement action.

  • One was because we had 5 Flats which only had 1 lock on the door – in spite of 30 years without a crime, a daily manned reception and a 24/7 CCTV monitoring service WCC still estimated that the likelihood of death or serious injury from there only being 1 lock on each flat entrance was 1/7. It was cheaper to put a second lock on every door than argue with the Environmental Health Office about the regulations.
  • The second was that a tenant wasn’t sleeping with his girlfriend. How WCC were able to identify the couple’s nocturnal habits is beyond me, but they readily confessed to their crime – apparently they were working different hours and were using a sofa to avoid disturbing the partner. WCC were not prepared to accept the argument that as Landlord I had no right to dictate my tenant’s sexual habits, but fortunately the tenants were happy to give me a letter voluntarily committing themselves to sleeping together.

Clearly when 97% of the Private Rented Sector fails to meet regulations something needs to be done – what do you think should be done?

As a Pimlico HMO Landlord …….


Speaking as a Pimlico HMO I was somewhat amazed at the stupidity displayed by 4 of my Bristol Bretheren who seem to have just ignored their local authority, and their responsibilities to provide safe decent accommodation.

The knowledge and attitude of local authority Environmental Health Officers can be patchy – they can be helpful, skilled, trained, or sometimes they leave you shaking your head in disbelief. You have to take the rough with the smooth, and in general things will turn out all right. What you cannot do is ignore them, or believe that the regulations apply to everyone else, but not you.

Housing Officers from Bristol City Council, found a series of problems at an HMO including:

  • Failure to provide adequate fire safety at the property.
  • Failure to ensure the shared areas of the property were maintained in a good and clean decorative order.
  • Failure to ensure the property was kept in good repair.
  • Failure to provide lighting in many of the shared areas of the property.
  • Keeping a property whose structure was a danger to the health of the occupiers.
  • Failure to provide information about the property when required to do so.

Bristol  can offer a range of advice and support to help landlords comply with legislation, however, where landlords refuse to co-operate and where there are serious breaches of the Housing Act (as in this case) local authorities can and will take legal action to compel them to bring improvements.

On December 21, the landlords were summonsed before Bristol Magistrates Court in relation to alleged offences under the Housing Act 2004 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. They, failed to attend Court or have representation – talk about committing suicide! The defendants were found guilty on all charges, and the combined fines totalled £30,036.30 and combined costs totalled £5,199.60.

Private landlord prosecuted by council for Housing Act failures

London (Pimlico) Estate Agent Goes Viral

Pimlico Estate Agent Douglas Gordon has sparked controversy, and gone viral with a controversial video about estate agents which has featured in the Daily Mail. It is a grossly unflattering film that shows estate agents as their many detractors would imagine them – as obnoxious, sleazy, unprincipled louts.

Outrageous: James Turner strikes an arrogant pose in the Under Offer film, which has gone viral 

Douglas Gordon are one of the top agents in London, so the film is unlikely to damage their reputation, nevertheless the reaction to the film hasn’t been to recognise it’s intention – as a spoof – but to recognise the stereotyped characteristics as being a genuine documentary. Who knows how this will play? Nevertheless the Property Industry should be alarmed at the number of people who look at what is intended to be a spoof & say “that’s just like my agent!”.

What Can Derail London?

London Armageddon

London Armageddon


I avidly follow Property Journalist Graham Norwood (click picture for his blog) and yesterday he examined what it would take for the London Property Bubble to burst. I thought that I would take his premise and apply it to Pimlico.

The top end of the housing market is where it is currently at with developers & agents vying to beat the benchmark £6000/sq ft set by Candy & Candy.  Pimlico has never been in that market – for reasons unknown. Pimlico’s location is second to none – as close or closer to any Central London destination as Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington Pimlico only suffers from having a film about it by Ealing Studios instead of Julia Roberts. The properties tend to be Victorian terraces rather than Georgian or pre-war Mansion Blocks but the fact is that Pimlico is a secret bargain hidden from the Savills’  “ubiquitous billionaires”. Knight Frank’s Private View magazine, described by the firm on Twitter as “full of the best properties available worldwide” actually has details of 32 London homes on sale…and only 24 from the entire rest of the planet, and none from Pimlico ………. Yay!

But what – in the darkest hours of the night when they might find themselves awake – do agents, developers and analysts fear might just possibly cause London to go belly-up? Graham Norwood asked 20 individuals from international and UK sales and letting agencies, what if…just what if…something was to happen.

The industry’s worries are simple, and three fold – Graham reports:

  • Euro Crisis: “Frankly no one’s worried about Greece defaulting. But if that happens and leads to Italy and then Spain, that’s Armageddon. British exposure is so great, no one from overseas will want to invest here, and no one from here will be able to afford to invest” says one UK sales agency;
  • Another 9/11: “So much of the London rental market is dependent on American corporate executives, a lot of harm would be done if they stopped flying” says one leading London lettings agency;
  • More Civil Unrest: “I was in the US when pictures were shown of the London riots. Suddenly the UK became a no-go zone. If that happens again, on a larger scale, where is central London’s buyers and investors?” is the question of a leading developer.
Now looking at these points from a purely Pimlico perspective …….
  • Euro Crisis:Well – Pimlico is occupied by insiders – people who know London, and know where to live. Top politicians, Judges, the Establishment, they all either house their mistress here or have a family home. Pimlico is the understated home of the establishment and a Euro Crisis won’t rock any boats
  • Another 9/11: The hotels and boarding houses of Pimlico tend to offer value rather than luxury. If Americans stop flying, everyone will feel the pain, but Pimlico will be the least hurt of all London locations. One of the benefits of being the insiders’ preference.
  • More Civil Unrest: Well Pimlico’s chavs did indeed go on a rampage in Sloane Square – but regardless of what goes on in the rest of London – the fact is that Pimlico is a haven of peace and quiet in Central London.
So actually my view is that whilst Pimlico may be missing the drama of a London Housing Boom, we are also immune from most of the risks.

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