Property Problems

Once you have found your perfect property it is time delve into the minefield that is conveyancing

By this point in your life you may have bought a house or two. Perhaps you own a holiday home in France for summer vacations or you have learned the hard way by renting a four-bed house near your local university to the cast of The Young Ones.

However, this does not mean you are impervious to mistakes, and the ever-evolving world of property law is rife with complications which can end up with you wasting your hard-earned money. Whether you have accrued some bad habits after a lifetime of buying and selling, been given poor advice from your estate agent or are looking for an alternative way of doing things, we want to help make your next move a much smoother, simpler and cheaper experience.

FOR THE BUYER

Buying a property remains one of the most stressful experiences any of us can go through, irrespective of how many times we have done it. Indeed, 70% of respondents to a Press Association survey earlier this year said it was the single most stressful event in their lives – even more stressful than having a child. If you can believe that. It is of no surprise, then, that certain parts of the process can fall by the wayside and simple problems can become costly mistakes. Eilish Adams of London-based legal firm, The Law House, explains these things can often come down to taking the cheaper option: “Too many people go for the cheapest conveyancing offer first – that’s the big problem – they go online and then they go for the cheapest price.   “What they don’t then bargain on is, what is quoted as the professional fee comes with some hidden costs and when the other fees come through, such as management packs and agency fees, they feel a bit cheated.”

It is not just dodgy companies on the Internet that can end up costing you more money than you intended; your estate agent can be at fault also. “People go to their estate agent and they feel pressured into taking on the conveyancer that they recommend – often there will be some form of kickback for the agent,” says Ms Adams. “They then find it very hard to extricate themselves from the deal should it not be working for them.”

Of course, there is a simple solution to most of these problems – read the paperwork! It may seem obvious but a Fairer Finance (fairerfinance.com) survey found that 73% of people admit to not reading the fine print in a contract handed to them, and this, unsurprisingly, comes back to haunt them should they decide it is not suitable.

“Clients will chase a particular deal and then be shocked by the real costs involved. They do not read the paperwork and are then surprised when extra costs such as stamp duty, land tax or hidden agency fees appear,” explains Ms Adams. “People have a real habit of signing their lives away.”

So, perhaps the one vital thing we should take from this is: do not cut corners! While it may seem cost-effective to look for the cheapest deal with something as important as buying a home it is always best to opt for quality. Get a survey done, use an established conveyancer, do not cut corners and your next move may be the stress-free experience you want it to be.

FOR THE LANDLORD

Landlords get a bad reputation. They are often seen as money-grabbing Scrooges who work the system to their advantage. And while that may be true in certain cases, on the whole, landlords are generally of the benign and industrious disposition. If you are making your tentative first steps into renting out a property, or if you already have a couple on your books you want to run more efficiently, it is important to be prepared. Your options for dealing with an unruly tenant will narrow unless you have clearly explained to them the consequences in the contract prior to them moving in.

Thus it is important to keep on top of the property with regular visits and ensure that you have carried out the relevant checks on any prospective tenant – it would seem that nowadays landlords are expected to do the government’s job for them. “Landlords have a hard job because they have to make sure you are not an international terrorist and you have a right to stay in the country! Because, in effect, they are doing the Home Office’s job by doing ID checks,” says Ms Adams. “If you are a landlord and you don’t do these checks then you are in trouble if they find that someone got into your property who shouldn’t have.” Better safe than sorry then.

If it comes down to it and you want to remove someone from your property, then you will have to be prepared to play the long game to get what you want. It is no rarity to see issues over non-payment of rent, refunding of the security deposit or refusal to depart the premise. Going to court is a last resort, but also a necessary, if unfortunate, possibility. Regardless, with these (relatively) simple precautions in place, then you may find that renting out a property is not the minefield of problems it is made out to be.

“If you are renting a property out to a member of the public the last thing you want them to do is damage the property, steal from the property, annoy the neighbours and run up more costs and expenses than is actually in the deposit fund,” explains Ms Adams. “Being a landlord you have to make sure you have done an inventory, you have to make sure the tenant understands the paperwork, that the deposit is held in the usual deposit fund and that tenants are absolutely clear as to what they will pay if they damage the property.”