Why do interns come to Ringley?

At Ringley we are passionate about bringing young people into our business. We have a thriving intern programme but we were keen to find out what attracts them to our business. So we asked them.

“Why do interns come to Ringley? Well, there are two reasons. The first is obvious – to gain an insight into property management – and the second is to experience and learn more about one of Europe’s most exciting cities – London. 

London life

“Without a doubt, London stands alone in its ability to provide absolutely anything you can imagine, from culture to food and from activities to architecture. There is hardly a moment to feel bored because the city really is nonstop excitement! We interns have also been surprised and pleased to find so many parks scattered around the city. In particular, we recommend seeing Hyde Park, London’s largest and most famous green space. You can go for a stroll, go boating, eat out in style, listen to an outdoor concert or just relax and enjoy the greenery in the midst of this vibrant urban area.

“Another option is going to Camden Market, which is very close to our offices at Ringley. You can really delve into London’s multicultural environment and try a variety of dishes from around the world. For example, you could get a Lebanese falafel wrap, a German baguette or even an African dessert. You’ll always be full and happy!

“And to top off a great day in London, you can head to the Shard to have drinks in the tallest building in Western Europe. At night, the view is certainly impressive. These are just a few of the thousands of exciting things you can find to do in London . You can have all this and more if you choose to work here.  

A great work-life balance

“Social life at Ringley is more than just cordial conversation. Our company is a melting pot of cultures from around the world and we each bring something special to the table, including our experiences, food, and language. This means that we learn something new every day, ranging from learning to say “hello” in Russian to trying food from India. New interns and employees with different cultural backgrounds arrive constantly, so the excitement never stops.

“We always have something to talk about, and because everyone has a different point of view, we have really interesting conversations. We all accept each other for who we are, so we are able to speak openly about all kinds of topics. Although people come and go, we are able to make lasting friendships that we hope will continue into the future.

“Beyond lunch and the office, we sometimes hang out after work on Fridays. The relaxed environment helps us to build our friendships. We often go to the pub to grab a few beers, and this allows us to talk to people we do not often see in the office. Though we have fun with each other, at the end of the day, we always come back to talking about our responsibilities at Ringley.

“So even though we are ‘only’ interns, we feel as if we really belong at the company. “

Ringley: working for a sustainable office environment

 

Here at the Ringley Group, we believe that is our duty to help improve and protect the environment whenever possible. We are committed to being a ‘green’ business and genuinely care about our carbon credentials. Ringley has already met the Renewable Energy Certification System Standards, and since 2011 has fully offset its carbon emissions.

At the end of 2011,Ringley’s overall carbon footprint was 2.305 tons per person – that’s three times lower than most other similarly sized businesses (6.9 tons) – and we aim to keep it that way. In 2012, Ringley supported the London Olympics by planting 122 trees in Olympic Park. So not only are we working hard to make out own business sustainable but we are determined to do our part to make our city a greener place.

Caring for our environment is one of our in-house priorities
Caring for our environment is one of our in-house priorities

Ringley has a strict policy when it comes to waste recycling. Paper waste is carefully sorted into two different kinds of bins. We use white ones for regular black and white paper and blue bins for coloured waste. Once the bins are full, the paper is bagged up and delivered to a specialist waste recycling company once a week. The same is done with cardboard. One employee in the company is entrusted with the task of making sure this environmental rule is respected and seeing to it that the paper and cardboard are sent for recycling. Taking this one step further, the paper used in the company is all recycled.

In addition, we try to maintain a paperless office as much as possible. Everything we do at Ringley is computerised to avoid paper waste and protect the environment. Our IT team regularly repairs the hardware we use so our equipment does not have to be thrown away if it stops working. And all of the electronic devices bought by Ringley are carefully selected according to their environmental features and ecological footprints.

We continue to commit to our Corporate Social Responsibility pledge by behaving ethically and contributing to economic development,while working hard to improve the quality of life of our workforce as well as that of the local community, our local environment and society at large.

Build-to-rent: could this be your next career move?

 

With build-to-rent now growing at a rapid rate, have you ever wondered if you have the right skill-set to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there for block managers? At LifebyRingley, our new build-to-rent brand, we constantly promote block management as a people business – with customer service right out front.

Anyone managing a long leasehold block is used to working first for the freeholder who employs us and second for the residents. Of course we all have flat owners’ wellbeing in mind but our first consideration must be always to represent the best interests of our client. The big difference if you work in the in build-to-rent sector, is that the residents are your customers, so your ability to manage their expectations as well as their building, must be second-to-none.

The Clippers Quay build-to-rent development in Manchester
The Clippers Quay build-to-rent development in Manchester

Build-to-rent is all about the whole living experience; residents’ expectations are extremely high and they require a first-class service. Unlike leaseholders, build-to-rent residents can easily vote with their feet. They will choose to live in another block with better facilities and higher service levels if they are not happy – so we need to get it right first time.

Bringing competition into the mix means block managers need strong soft skills but they are also expected to take the day-to-day operation of the building to another level. This means ensuring rapid response times to maintenance issues – vital for compliance with the lettings regulations – and replying straight away to customer enquiries and complaints via telephone and email. Our customers need to feel we are actively working on their behalf; we must always be able to demonstrate that action is being taken to satisfy their requirements.

At LifebyRingley, our doors never close. Opening hours have to include weekends, Christmas and bank holidays in case our residents need us. And we are not only involved in managing the building but also in letting the apartments. Our role requires an understanding of sales, because we deal with prospective tenants’ viewings. We also need a head for admin and finance as we are responsible for check-in and check-out reports and for dealing with deposits, including retaining any element of these monies required to restore the property back to its original state of repair.

The LifebyRingley team in Manchester includes people drawn from a number of different industries. Not everyone has a background in property. So if you are a block manager thinking of changing sector, the reality is that your skills may need a shake-up. There are courses out there to help you get your foot in the door, such as this one from the IRPM but you are likely to be competing in the job market with managers from retail, sales or hospitality. The good news is that by developing a portfolio of transferable skills, property management specialists can open up their options. And the even better news for our business is that not only does that give us as individuals, access to both build-to-rent and the more traditional leasehold market, it also means that best practice from each sector is transferable too.

 

Property agents in the spotlight

 

Leasehold reform is badly needed to protect the public from rogue operators and to promote the reputation of professional property agents. After years of being deaf to the sector’s  problems, government is now listening and has set up working groups to look at the key issues.

Property agents could soon be working with a brand new set of rules.
Property agents could soon be working with a brand new set of rules.

The framework within which all property agents work is one of the areas being considered and block management is on the Government’s agenda. At the moment, anyone can set up in business as a property manager. You need no professionally-recognised qualifications and there is no industry-wide code of practice to safeguard residents. Chartered surveyors working as property managers are governed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor’s professional standards. In this way they maintain their reputation and protect their clients’ interests. Property management companies which are members of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) must meet their trade body’s quality benchmark or risk losing their ARMA member status. And the Institute of Residential Property Management qualifies property managers to a standard that most employers recognise and respect. But there is no legislation in place to back best practice across the board and the sector is open to potential abuse.

All this could be about to change – for the better we hope. The Government has set up a Regulation of Property Agents working group chaired by Lord Best. It aims to come up with recommendations on mandatory qualifications, a code of practice and regulation of residential property agents, across sales, lettings and block management. The aim is for this new regime to be consistent across the whole sector. it would mean tenants, homebuyers and sellers could be confident they are getting a professional service from their property agents – and are being charged fairly for it.

The group will report back to government this summer, but it could be some time before new legislation – if this is the recommendation – is fleshed out and put to Parliament. So, in the meantime,  if you are responsible for appointing a property manager for your block, what should you look out for?

Well, qualifications are a good start. Using an ARMA member firm or one that employs RICS or IRPM-qualified staff (or both) ensures you have some comeback if your property manager doesn’t perform. ARMA and the RICS both enforce a complaints system on their members and the organisations themselves deal with problem members.

The other important aspect is experience. Does the property manager you are considering have other blocks on their books that are similar to yours? If so, contact their residents’ association if they have one, or try and find a friendly flat owner or renter who you can talk to. Find out if they are satisfied with the company’s performance.

Property management is a people business, so interiew several potential firms to find one you and your fellow residents will feel confident and comfortable working with. And finally, resist the temptation to go for the cheapest fee. Your block manager will be looking after your biggest asset – your home – so make sure he or she is properly qualified and will deliver the level of service you expect.

Housing complaints are about to get easier

 

Housing complaints will be easier to resolve in future thanks to a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service announced in January. The government has been taking a long hard look at leasehold in recent months. Its package of new reforms aim to make the property market fairer and more transparent. As part of this, the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire plans to set up the new housing complaints system to give dissatisfied homeowners and tenants somewhere to go for help. The idea is to create a single point of contact when they can’t resolve disputes over problems with their homes – such as repairs and maintenance.

Got a housing complaint? Resolving it could soon get a whole lot easier
Got a housing complaint? Resolving it could soon get a whole lot easier

At the moment the housing market has a number of different complaints bodies, depending on what type of property you live in. This can make it difficult to find out where to go and who to talk to. By setting up a single housing complaints service for all residents – no matter whether they rent or own their home – the government hopes to help people avoid battling with their landlord or builder to resolve issues on their own. The new service is also expected to make it easier to claim compensation where it’s owed. The Housing Complaints Resolution Service will be developed by a new Redress Reform Working Group made up of representatives from across the property market, working with industry and consumers.

At the moment, there is no obligation for landlords to register with a complaints system. This leaves  thousands of renters with no easy route to resolving a problem if their landlord refuses to act. In future, private landlords will be legally required to become members of a redress scheme – with a fine of up to £5,000 if they fail to do so. New redress schemes are also on the cards to make it easier to lodge complaints about freeholders in relation to the management of leasehold property, park homes and student accommodation.

In the meantime, the first port of call whether you are a leaseholder or a renter is your  management company. At Ringley we are always here to help. We offer a service guarantee and always strive to handle complaints quickly and efficiently. Go to our website to find out more.

Electric car charging: driving home the facts

 

Have any of the flat owners in your block got an electric car? If not, chances are they soon will. The government has announced a ban on new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040 to combat air pollution. At the moment the market for electric cars is still relatively small, but around 4,500 are being registered every month, so take-up is growing.

Charging points for electric cars are starting to be a familiar sight at supermarkets and petrol stations.  In future more of us will want to charge an electric car at home but if you live in a flat this could prove a challenge. Developers are starting to install charging points in new blocks as standard but block managers running existing developments will need to do their homework as demand from residents starts to take off.

Could you charge an electric car at your block?
Could you charge an electric car at your block?

A recent article in Flat Living took a look at the implications for people living in blocks of flats. The starting point is the lease. Residents are likely to need a license to alter from the landlord to install a charging point or points. Formal, written consent will cost around £650, which will need to be covered by the resident/s in question – assuming the landlord is happy to oblige.

Location of charging points and fair use of electricity supply also needs some thought. Some flat owners may have an allocated parking space or garage but the electric supply to that parking space is unlikely to be connected to their own electricity meter. Most leases allow for use of parking spaces without ownership. Again, this means tapping into the communal supply that is covered by the service charge. If only a handful of residents are benefitting from the electricity that is being used, this will likely be called out for being unfair. Again, it may not be possible under the terms of the lease.

The good news is that charging technology is developing fast. There are now options on the market that could help get around these problems.

Pay-as-you-go solutions using a cloud-based mobile app, mean that electricity use can be monitored and logged.  Flat owners could use this system to pay their costs back to the block on a monthly basis, so that residents not using charging points don’t end up subsidising those that do.

The other hurdle – installation costs – may also be partly covered by a government-subsidised grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). This could offer up to £500 off the cost of purchasing and installing a home charging point using a registered installer, listed here.

Once upon a time, take-up of satellite TV and broadband installation in residential blocks raised similar issues. Now, whether you live in a house or a flat, most of us expect them as standard. Block managers should be prepared to deal with the questions that will be asked by residents about installing charging points – in 10 years’ time they will be standard too. If you have questions regarding your lease, about what can be recovered via service charges or would like to discuss a license to alter, contact Ringley Law.

All change for right to manage

Right to manage is under the spotlight. The Law Commission wants to make it quicker and easier for leaseholders to take control of the day-to-day management of their block.

Right to manage is about to get an overhaul
Right to manage is about to get an overhaul

If you own a flat, you can already take on the right to manage or RTM, which gives you and your neighbours rather than your landlord, responsibility for managing your building.

This includes dealing with utilities, repairs, maintenance and insurance. It is what is known as a “no-fault” right, so leaseholders can exercise it without having to prove any mismanagement by their landlord.

As it stands, many people think the right to manage journey is too technical, too slow, too uncertain and too expensive.

  • leaseholders have to pay most of the landlord’s costs.
  • Any errors in completing the paperwork can cause long delays and even prevent leaseholders acquiring the right to manage altogether.
  • Right to manage doesn’t apply to owners of leasehold houses (as opposed to flats), to those who want the RTM over multiple buildings on an estate, or to anyone whose buildings have more than 25% commercial or other non-residential space.
  • RTM companies often don’t know the extent of the management functions they have become responsible for, particularly when it comes to shared property like gardens and car parks.

In response the Law Commission is running a consultation to make the process more transparent and straightforward.  Proposed changes include:

  • Extending the qualifying criteria so that leasehold houses, not just flats, qualify for the right to manage.
  • Permitting multi-block RTM on estates, and removing the 25% commercial space restriction.
  • Reducing the number of notices that leaseholders must serve as part of the claim process.
  • Introducing deadlines for procedures and exchanges of information between the landlord and RTM company, so that the process doesn’t stall.
  • Exploring options for a more balanced costs regime.
  • Giving the tribunal exclusive jurisdiction over RTM disputes so it can resolve disputes quickly, and waive minor procedural mistakes made in the process of claiming the RTM.

At Ringley we have many years of experience advising leaseholders on right to manage.

We agree that the system is over-complicated and we look forward to seeing what comes out of the consultation. Anything that makes the process more user-friendly for leaseholders has to be a good thing.

But any changes to the existing system may take some time, so if you are already committed to  the RTM route or are thinking of doing so in the near future and would like some help, take a look at the Ringley website where we have lots of useful information. We have RTM specialists ready to take your call and we are also about to produce an E-book helping leaseholders through the process that will be ready to download in the next few weeks.

Finally, if you would like to share your RTM journey and take part in the consultation, you can find the online response form here.

The right to manage consultation will be open until 30 April 2019.

Warning: don’t ignore middle-aged renters!

 Middle-aged renters are on the increase and landlords who ignore them are missing out. This is the warning from new research from Intus Lettings. In the past, renting was what young people did before they bought their first home. A 2018 study by the Department for Work and Pensions revealed the number of people aged 35-54 who rent has nearly doubled in the last 10 years and these findings are backed up by the Intus survey.

Among more than 2,000 tenants polled, people in this age group said their main reasons for continuing to rent were not being able to afford a deposit or not meeting mortgage criteria. Intus says that increasing house prices have left many middle-age workers unable to afford a first home, or as ‘accidental renters’ after a relationship break-up.

Warning to developers and landlords: ignore middle-aged renters at your peril.
Warning to developers and landlords: ignore middle-aged renters at your peril.

With the cost of rent rising faster than wages, it’s no surprise that more people are finding themselves unable to save up for a deposit to buy a home well into their 40s, 50s and beyond. Sadly, the survey results also show that only around one-in-five middle-aged tenants feel renting really suits their lifestyle.

So if the needs of older renters are to be met in future, developers must heed the warning and re-set their default design for BTR schemes to take a different demographic into account.

Demand for family homes and larger flats and apartments will no doubt increase over time, with the studio and 1-2 bed apartments so loved by developers – particularly in city centres – becoming less desirable as tenants find partners and have families. Developers will be missing a trick if they don’t adapt their developments to take account of changing needs.

And further down the line, co-living – which is only now breaking into the UK market and is so far aimed at young people – could also become an important piece of the rental puzzle. We are all living longer but many of us will live alone in our old age. Loneliness is a major problem for many elderly people and co-living could be the solution, with minimal personal space that is easy-to-maintain and the emphasis on well-managed communal areas for cooking, eating and socialising.

According to the Centre for Ageing Better (CfAB), the number of over-60s renting privately rose from 254,000 in 2007 to 414,000 in 2017. And it predicts about a third of people over 60 could be living in private rented accommodation by 2040. So in future you could be just as likely to visit your granny in her co-living block as your student son or daughter.

Guaranteed for renters – a home fit to live in

The government aims to ensure a decent home for renters is guaranteed as part of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act. A Private Members’ Bill allowing tenants to sue over the condition of their rental properties completed its paslawsage through Parliament just before Christmas and will become law on 21 March.

The new Act makes changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the Building Act 1984. So what does it mean? Well, from the date the new Act comes into force, all landlords in the social and private sectors must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and stays that way – essentially  guaranteeing that their rented home is fit for purpose. Where this is not the case, tenants will have the right to take legal action for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit to live in. The new Act only applies to tenancies in England. The Welsh Government has already included similar rights for tenants in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

The Residential Landlords Association and National Association of Landlords are backing the changes set out in the new Act but some individual landlords are not so keen. They are worried that the new law could mean tenants refusing to pay rent until the freeholder carries out repairs, etc. leading to landlords getting caught up in costly litigation while rogue tenants are given free rein to cause damage.

A simple way to get around this issue is to carry out regular inspections and ensure tenants sign these off every time. Any damage caused can then be noted and a paper trail created that can be used by both sides to prove that what should have been actioned has been done and the tenant charged for repairs where appropriate.

In fact, where not carrying out repairs counts as a breach of contract, tenants have had the right to take their landlord to court since 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act, so that hasn’t really changed. What is new though, is that what defines  ‘fit for habitation’ is now enshrined in law over and above the existing ‘hazards’ that are listed in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. This is already used by local authorities to ensure that rented housing is of an acceptable level. At the end of the day responsible landlords have nothing to fear from the new Act – after all, any property that is let should automatically be guaranteed to be of an acceptable standard.

As part of a bigger package of reforms that tackles housing problems, the government has also announced  a new Housing Complaint Resolution Service. This guarantees protection for homeowners as well as tenants and gives them a single point of contact to sort out disputes over repairs and maintenance. All private landlords must sign up to the new scheme. If they don’t they could face fines of up to to £5,000. A new Home Ombudsman is also on the cards, so watch this space. All good news for renters and flat owners we think.

How to protect your home this winter – and don’t forget the insurance!

 

burglaryDo you know how to protect your home from unwanted intruders? We’ve got some helpful tips to share with you but first, did you know that around a third of people living in flats don’t have contents insurance? With your home more likely to be burgled in the winter than during the rest of the year, whether you own your home or are renting,  now is the time to sharpen up your security and make sure you have the right insurance policy in place.

Research from MoneySupermarket shows that around half of us are most nervous about leaving our homes empty while we are on our summer holiday but in fact you are more likely to be burgled in the autumn or winter. More than half of all burglaries take place in the evening or at night – and darker evenings make breaking into your home easier.

So, what can you do to keep potential thieves out of your home? Here are some quick and easy tips to help keep burglars at bay. They may sound obvious but they are worth remembering.

  • Close your windows – dark evenings make it easy for burglars to sneak in and grab valuables near to open windows.
  • Keep keys safe by placing them a safe distance from doors and windows.
  • Make sure tools and ladders are stored out of sight and preferably locked away, so they can’t be used to get into your house or block.
  • Use a light timer – these make it look as if someone’s at home even if the house is empty.
  • Replace the locks – previous residents may still have keys to your home, especially if you are renting but do check with the landlord first.

In a recent spate of burglaries in Ireland, thieves have been putting tape over door locks so they can see whether or not a house is occupied, so check locks for any signs of tampering –  and make sure your home looks lived in when you are away. Don’t forget to cancel any deliveries and make sure a neighbour ensures any post is pushed through your letterbox.

“Claiming on your home insurance may be difficult if someone breaks in without forcing entry, especially if there is no evidence of a crime being committed,” warns MoneySupermarket. This is known as the duty of care, so to make sure your insurer pays out in full, always check windows and doors are locked before you go out, whether you’re just popping to the shops or going out for the night.

And if you are one of the 60% of people living in a flat who don’t have contents insurance because you don’t think anyone can easily gain entry to your home, think again. You may not be first in the line of fire for theft if you live on the upper floors of your block but what about water damage or fire? Leaks in particular cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage in blocks of flats every year, so don’t take the risk. Contents insurance costs a lot less than the average Sky or broadband subscription, so do yourself a favour and get covered.