How to Support Your Local Foodbank in Hertford

How to Support Your Local Foodbank in Hertford

As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme happens across the country next week, spare a thought for local foodbanks in Hertford. A 90-second read.

People have experienced varying levels of hardship and distress, both emotionally and financially, since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
Someone summed it up wonderfully when they said: “We are all in the same storm, but some of us are in different boats.”
Every aspect of our lives has been touched in some way by the lockdown and foodbanks are reporting a shortage in donations as people’s minds are understandably elsewhere.
August is traditionally a slow month for donations to foodbanks, which tend to receive a flurry of items in the run-up to Christmas.
Covid-19 has exacerbated this seasonal issue because a lot more people have sadly fallen on tough times, increasing demand at a time when donations decline.
But the good news, is that we can all do something to help.

How you can help

Some of the essential, everyday goods that are most popular with foodbanks are:
Tinned soup.
Tinned fruit.
Tinned vegetables.
Pasta, rice, and sauces.
Cereals.
Long-life products.
Tea, coffee, cordial, and biscuits.
Even the smallest donations add up when people pull together to help their neighbours and their community.
Many foodbank websites have regularly updated sections asking for specific items if they are running low. So, it’s worth visiting their sites and seeing what is most needed.
Certain products should ideally be avoided, including dairy, dented tins, perishable items like fresh fruit, and homemade cooking or baking.
And it’s not just donations of food that are welcomed. Many foodbanks need financial support to keep their operation running. So, another way of helping could be to make a monetary donation.
At Abel, we feel fortunate that we can support our local foodbanks in any way we can, including publicising the excellent work they do and saluting their amazing volunteers who make it all happen.

Thanks for reading.

Where Landlords in Hertford Stand When It Comes to Evictions

Where Landlords in Hertford Stand When It Comes to Evictions

In this three-minute read, we look at the latest news on the evictions front and the moves needed to avoid legal action.

It takes flexibility, compassion, and stamina to navigate the eviction process at the best of times. But, due to Covid-19, it takes more careful and considered steps than ever to repossess a property.

Last week, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher gave more detail about how the process will work once the current ban on evictions, introduced back in March, is lifted on August 23.

Pre-action rules explained
These new guidelines are called ‘pre-action rules’ and will remain in place until the end of March 2021.

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they will have to:

– Inform the court and tenant in writing that they wish the case to proceed. Without this ‘reactivation notice’, the courts will consider the case dormant.

– Provide the courts with any information they have on how Covid-19 has impacted their tenant.

– Provide a full arrears history.

Fail to follow these rules, and judges can adjourn proceedings, something that will only drag the process out even further.

What Action Landlords Can Take
These changes will only exacerbate the existing backlog of cases. The housing charity Shelter estimates there could be as many as 200,000 in the pipeline.

Landlords in Hertford can avoid getting caught up in this legal nightmare, by treating eviction as the absolute last resort. Here are some tips to navigate your way through tricky situations and to hopefully avoid court action.

– As they say, it takes two to tango. Don’t sit back and wait to hear from your tenant. You, or your letting agent, need to stay in regular contact with your tenant. That way, if they hit hard times, you can respond quickly.
– If a tenant is struggling to pay their rent, don’t press the panic button. There are several strategies you can pursue, from rent reductions to flexible payment plans. Before you negotiate one of these options, please seek advice from us.
– It’s easy to feel emotional or stressed when difficulties arise, but you need to remain cool-headed and pragmatic. What you do at the early stages of a dispute can be critical to recouping rental funds and determine the nature of the relationship in the future.
– And of course, keep a record of all conversations and text and email exchanges.

These steps are the basics of managing tenancies during the Covid-19 crisis.

If you don’t feel qualified or comfortable doing all this yourself, we’re lettings experts and we can do it for you. We can take the lead, lighten the load, and make your life a lot easier.

For more advice about managing your property during Covid-19, contact us here at Abel.

We’re here to help guide you through these difficult times.

The court ruling that all landlords in Hertford need to know about

The court ruling that all landlords in Hertford need to know about

 

In this three-minute read, we look at what a recent court ruling that found a “no DSS” letting ban was unlawful means for landlords.

A disabled mum-of-two emerged victorious from York County Court earlier this month after winning a case that sent ripples through the lettings industry.

The woman, who was on housing benefit, had been blocked from renting a property by a blanket “no DSS” lettings policy.

The court heard the woman, who had a part-time job, good references from two previous landlords and a reliable guarantor, had been treated unfairly. The judge agreed and awarded her £3,500 in damages and costs.

 

Legal implications
The ruling is significant because, despite lots of rumblings over “no DSS”, it is the first time a judge has ruled it is unlawful and discriminatory.

Homeless charity Shelter says the case sends a clear warning to landlords “that they risk legal action if they continue to bar housing benefit tenants from renting”.

Now some legal eagles have noted that as the ruling was made in a county court, it is not binding on other courts. But we think this is splitting hairs.

Even before the York court case, some tenants had won out-of-court settlements after challenging adverts which openly banned benefit claimants.

The direction of traffic is clear: blanket bans that take no account of an individual’s circumstances are increasingly risky. A one-size-fits-all approach can leave a landlord exposed to the threat of legal action and one big headache.

 

Push to end “no DSS”

The term “no DSS” has been used in property listings for years to make it clear benefit recipients will not be considered for a tenancy.

It’s loathed by welfare charities who argue it should be a relic of the past. (History buffs take note, the DSS – the Department for Social Security – ceased to exist back in 2001!).

There are many reasons why historically some landlords have not rented to people on benefits. One is that some mortgages and insurance policies were invalidated if the tenant was on benefits.

But things have changed. Many lenders, including the Co-operative, Nationwide and NatWest, have loosened buy-to-let mortgage restrictions that relate to benefits tenants. And the phrase “no DSS” has been banned by property portals Zoopla and Rightmove.

 

Finding the right tenant for your property
Understandably, a landlord wants to find a reliable and respectful tenant.

But slapping “no DSS” at the end of a property listing can be like hitting a walnut with a sledgehammer.

Landlords need a more nuanced strategy which considers applicants on a case by case basis.

This legwork might take a little more time, and involve more admin, but in the long run, it is worth it. This is where we come into our own as experienced, ethical letting agents.

Who – other than a lawyer, of course – wants to get caught up in a legal dispute over the fine-print of the Equality Act 2010? We can think of about 5,000 other things we’d rather do with our time.

If you’d like more advice about how to find a good tenant and protect your investment, contact us.

We’ll take the stress out of the rental process and give you back time to focus on other priorities you have.

 

At Abel we’re here to help landlords navigate the Hertford lettings market. If you have any questions about the issues raised in this article, please get in touch.

The clock is ticking for buyers and sellers in Hertford who want to get moving

The clock is ticking for buyers and sellers in Hertford who want to get moving

In this two-minute read, we discover why the opportunity clocks are ticking for people wanting to make the most of the Stamp Duty holiday.
“Life is a Game” is a quote attributed to Mother Teresa, but it could be easily applied to property.
And as with all games, there are winners and losers when it comes to selling a home.
Timing always plays a part in how successful you are, as does having a talented estate agency working on your behalf to get you a winning result.
The announcement earlier this month that Stamp Duty for properties under £500,000 is eliminated until March 31, 2021, means there’s now plenty of opportunity knocking on the doors of homeowners in Hertford.
Buyers can save up to £15,000 during this window.

Opportunity Clocks

Depending on what source you look at, it takes on average (from a cold start) between 176 to 200 days to sell a home.
This means the opportunity clock is now ticking before that March 31 deadline.
The Stamp Duty holiday means:
• Deals that were dead in the water over a difference in the value buyers and sellers were prepared to accept (especially between £15-30,000) are now potentially resurrected.
• Having more to put down as a deposit is opening more of the mortgage market to buyers.
• As is the decision by several lenders to reintroduce 90% Loan to Value mortgages.
• If you’re thinking of selling, you’ll also benefit from the Stamp Duty removal if the place you’re buying is under the £500,000 bracket.
But it’s not enough to put your most valuable tax-free asset up for sale and hope the rising tide of a buoyant market in Hertford helps you achieve the premium price for your property.
You also need to remember the following five things, which we’ve related to classic game shows to help you remember.

Blankety Blank – Watch out for cheap and not so cheerful agents or agencies that promise the earth but can’t back it up with evidence and case studies.

The Price is Right – Overvaluing a property will mean it sticks, no matter what the market is doing or if stamp duty has been put on hold. Pricing it correctly to sell at a premium price is a skill experienced agents like us have.

Through the Keyhole – When you are on the market, your property gets put under the microscope so prepare it thoroughly so that viewers will feel like it’s a place they’d love to call home.

Countdown – Remember that date – March 31, 2020 – The sooner you start marketing your property, the better. The clock is ticking.

Bullseye – When you choose an agent with an excellent track record and fair fees who values your property correctly and can guide you on every aspect of the selling process, you’ve hit the bullseye. And you won’t be left thinking about what you could’ve ‘won.’
At Abel, we see working with a client to sell their home as a team effort. So, if you like the sound of our approach and are interested to know how we’d help you make the most of the Stamp Duty window of opportunity, let’s talk.

Thanks for reading.

Local Sports Clubs and Art Groups in Hertford need our help!

It was a sad and sorry sight when clubhouses, theatres and church halls were mothballed during the lockdown. Places that once buzzed with activity sat empty; the groups who once occupied them hit for six by social distancing rules.

 

But we’re glad to see many sports clubs are up and running again – albeit with fewer volunteers and a long list of new health and safety rules to follow.

 

And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that choirs and am-dram groups will be able to meet in person again soon. Here are three reasons why these groups are so crucial to local communities and why we all should support them.

 

They help battle the bulge

In a perfect world, we all would have emerged from lockdown with guns like Serena Williams and buns like Joe Wicks. But for many of us (excuse us while we cough sheepishly), it didn’t happen. We ate more and exercised less.

 

The trend was particularly startling among young people. A study* of children and teens in Verona, Italy, found that during lockdown they ate more (an additional meal per day), slept more and spent an extra five hours a day on screens. The only thing that decreased was physical activity – down by more than two hours per week.

 

Grassroots sports clubs play an essential role in the physical well-being of the nation. In the UK there are 150,000 sports clubs with eight million regular participants. They help build social bonds and play a vital role in the fight against obesity.

 

Cultural contribution

Some people are snobbish about amateur dramatics, but we’re not too proud to say we find Widow Twankey swanky.

 

Am-dram brings people together and makes theatre accessible and affordable to all. Many people’s introduction to the theatre will come via a trip to their local panto.

 

There are about 2,500 am-dram groups associated with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association and many more smaller community arts groups in the UK. They deserve our support.

 

As well as providing entertainment, they help many people develop their artistic talents. Some like Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ben Kingsley and Keira Knightley go on to become household names. Those who don’t wind up in the West End or Hollywood still gain confidence and social skills.

 

Many am-dram groups are yet to return to in-person rehearsals, leading us to wonder if we’ll get to enjoy a panto this Christmas. We’d love the answer to be “Yes we will!” but in truth, it’s probably too early to say.

 

Mental health boost

Research published by the Royal Society found that singing improves mental health and well-being. This is because when we sing, feelgood hormones called endorphins and the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin are released.

 

About 2.14 million people regularly sing in choirs, and there are about 40,000 singing groups in the UK (pre-lockdown figures from the Voices Now charity). All have been hit hard by the pandemic.

 

Thankfully, many have continued to meet virtually during the pandemic, and we look forward to the day when they can return to live performing.

 

Here are three simple ways you can support local groups.

 

  • Help promote local sports groups and teams online by giving them a mention on social media.
  • Commit to buying a ticket for the first round of your local drama group’s performances when showtime comes around again.
  • Get involved. One thing Covid-19 has taught us all is that life is precious, and this isn’t a dress rehearsal or a warm-up. Why not volunteer to coach at a local sports club or to help out at a local theatre, choir, or art group?

It pays to talk – a guide to managing rent arrears in Hertford

At the beginning of the pandemic, many predicted Covid-19 would have a disastrous impact on the private rental sector.

But new figures show that 90% of tenants have paid their rent in full during the pandemic—a better result than many had anticipated.

Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. Covid-19 will have a significant impact for some time to come, so the issue of rent arrears is still a very real one.

*With this in mind, several property industry organisations have pooled resources and published some useful guidance for landlords and tenants on rent arrears. Here’s a rundown of the main points for landlords.

Communication is key

No news isn’t always good news. If you haven’t spoken to your tenant for a while, get in touch and see how they are getting on. If their circumstances have changed, it’s better to know about it as soon as possible. Remember some people’s lives have been turned upside down by Covid-19, so be professional and compassionate.

Keep the conversation going

If there is a problem, there are several options you could consider, such as rent reductions or deferred payments. The action you take will depend on the circumstances. It could be that offering a rent reduction will cost you less than finding a new tenant. Market values in your area may have changed, meaning that if you did re-let the property, it might be at a reduced price.

Keep written records

Document all conversations with your tenants. Often exchanges take place on the phone or via text and can be misconstrued. Clarity is key. Always follow up with an email reiterating what has been said and agreed. This means everyone knows where they stand. And if the situation does wind up in mediation, or in court (we hope it doesn’t, but you never know) you have clear records to refer to.

If you have multiple tenants in a property

Make sure you are having conversations with all the tenants in a property. Never rely on one tenant to speak for another or to pass the information on. This could be a recipe for confusion and dispute.

The Easier, More Effective Alternative

Given the complexity of some of the issues involved, consider getting an experienced letting agent to deal with it for you. Many landlords will never have managed a case of rent arrears before and be in new territory. Having capable professionals like us, to lighten the load will save you time, money, and stress.

Jargon free advice for First Time Buyers in Hertford

Do you remember when you rode a bike without support for the first time?

Or when you learned to swim?

And who can forget the moment when the driving examiner turns and says ‘congratulations, you’ve passed.’

You also never forget your first love or the first home you buy.

That’s why at Abel, we do all we can to make it an experience you remember fondly.

Because after all, your home is where some of your most magical memories are made.

But it can be a daunting first step entering the World of estate agent speak.

Fear not friends, as we’ve come up with a jargon buster to take the mystique out of buying your first place.

For the record, we don’t like or use the terms, below.

Vendor – No, it’s not a Harry Potter character. It’s the person selling a place.

The ‘applicant’ – This is you, the fresh-faced person buying the place, NOT a device for applying cream.

Sole agent – This has nothing to do with shoes or fish from Dover. It simply means the only agency selling the place.

Chain free – In theory (and in practice) any property that is sold without being involved in a chain should be an easier place to buy. This is due to fewer people, mortgage providers, agents, solicitors, and surveyors being involved.

Mortgage Offer – The confirmation you get from your mortgage provider saying you have the funds approved to buy the property. Having this in place puts you in an excellent position when making an offer.

Subject to Contract – You’ve made an offer, it’s been accepted, but there are still a few contractual hurdles to leap over first.

Conveyancing – The legal stuff that needs doing when you are buying a place. Solicitor jargon is another thing altogether.

Stamp Duty – The bad news is it’s a Government tax slapped on when you buy a home. The good news is there is relief offered to first-time buyers. Get in touch with us, and we can work out what you could be eligible for.

If you’re buying a property in Scotland, you will pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and in Wales Land Transaction Tax (LTT) instead of Stamp Duty.

Exchange – The solicitors are happy. The agents are relieved, but most importantly, you’re delighted and the transfer of contracts means it’s now VERY unlikely the home will not become yours. This is the cue for a sigh of relief and perhaps a cheeky little celebratory drink.

Completion – This is D-Day when it comes to buying your first home. It simply means all the legalities and finances have been completed successfully. You will know your ‘completion day’ in advance as you’ll need to pack, arrange removals, and get super excited.

The first evening in your new home should be memorable. We’ll provide the champagne (and take away menus), so you can take a break from unpacking and celebrate in style.

We’ve over 40 years of giving people in Hertford straight-talking property advice.

And we have a dedicated advice service for first-time buyers where you can book in a 20-minute chat to go over any questions you have or jargon you need decoding.