Four Reasons Why People in Hertford Should Support Small Businesses

In this three-minute read, we look at the crucial role small businesses play in bringing prosperity and personality to our high streets.

Small businesses across Hertford have played a vital part in helping our community to get through the pandemic, so it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling a lot of love for local firms right now.

A new survey has found 59% of Brits say they support local businesses now more than they did pre-Covid-19.

The research, commissioned by American Express and Small Business Saturday UK, highlights the significant contribution small businesses have made in 2020.

It’s not been easy to keep calm and carry on amid lockdowns and tier restrictions, and for many small firms, it has taken sweat and tears to keep the wolves from the door.

But the good news is that many of these local enterprises are still standing, and you can do your bit for them on Small Business Saturday (5 December).

On this date, people in Hertford and across the country are being urged to purchase goods and/or services from local businesses. (If you can’t do it in person, you could do it online).

Last year, some 17.6 million people backed the cause by choosing to shop small on Small Business Saturday, spending about £800 million. Organisers are hoping for similar success – albeit in more challenging circumstances – this year. 

Here are four reasons why you should back small businesses on Saturday, 5 December – and the rest of the year too.

Personality – Independent businesses bring vibrancy and creativity to villages and towns. Without them, high streets are sterile and non-descript. By supporting local firms, you’ll be ensuring our shopping areas have energy and sparkle.

Better customer service – Often, small businesses offer better customer service than their larger competitors. This is because the owner is never far away from the action – unlike a big chain, where the boss is in a swanky HQ hundreds of miles away.

Prosperity – Small businesses employ local people and draw on the services of other local firms such as accountants, builders, and cleaners. They keep the wheels of the local economy turning. 

Say thank you – Most small business owners are decent people who are proud of their local community. Over the past nine months, small businesses have helped out in all sorts of ways, such as delivering essentials to the homes of the vulnerable, pivoting to make PPE, or donating to food banks. A little bit of recognition can go a long way.

2020 has been tough on all of us, and now, more than ever, we need to work together as a community. At Abel we’re committed to supporting the people and communities we serve.

Abel

It’ll be Christmas with a Difference in Hertford This Year

In this two-minute read, we look at what this weeks Christmas announcements mean to households in Hertford.

This year has been filled with anguish and anxiety for many of us.

But the news that came out last week around successful vaccines and yesterday’s announcement of the temporary relaxation around social distancing rules over Christmas has cheered up many of us.

And in true Christmas miracle fashion, it’s got the four national governments of the UK to take a united approach.

For five days, people have the option to celebrate the festive period with selected families and friends.

Here is some of the Government’s guidance for England around the rules for 23 to December 27 as reported by the BBC.

  • Up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a “Christmas bubble.”
  • You can form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with usually – so you can choose to stay with different people for the five days.
  • You can meet people outside your Christmas bubble. But only outside the home and in line with the rules for the tier in which you are staying. Places you can meet those people include parks, beaches, open countryside, public gardens, allotments and playgrounds
  • Children under 18 years-old whose parents do not live together may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles.
  • Existing support bubbles count as one household towards the three-household limit.
  • Students are considered to be part of the household to which they have returned.

Lookout for the announcements Thursday about the different tier levels which will come into effect when this lockdown ends on December 2.

According to the BBC, the decision will be based on several factors, including case numbers, the reproduction rate – or R number – and the amount of pressure on local NHS services.

For some families, it will be a difficult choice around who to share Christmas with.

There’s always the option to stay within your established bubble (AKA your immediate family).  This way, you won’t fall out with the in-laws, and you’ll be keeping seriously safe.

So, what will you be doing?

Will you be planning a three-family bubble with all the traditional works?

Or are you going for a lower-key approach, with a smaller turkey and Michael Bublé’s Christmas songs providing the backdrop?

Whatever you plan, we hope you have a safe, memorable, and happy time.

From all at Abel

PS: Here is the link to the Government’s Advice. (England Only)

https://tinyurl.com/y5czwlkc

Advice for Hertford Landlords on Tenants with Pets

In this three-minute read, we look at the pros and cons of letting a property to a tenant with a pet.

Should tenants be allowed to keep pets in rental properties? It’s a thorny subject that is back in the spotlight after an MP called for landlords to be more flexible on the issue.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell argues that preventing tenants from being with their beloved pet companion is cruel and discriminatory.

“For most people, being separated from your dog is really no different than being separated from your brother or your sister,” he says.

Mr Rosindell has put forward a bill that would give tenants the right to live with their pet, providing that they can show they are responsible and caring.

Changing attitudes

While the bill is still some way off becoming law – it’s not clear yet whether enough MPs will back it – it does indicate a growing interest in the issue.

A study by YouGov and Mars Petcare found that two-thirds of private tenants would like to have a pet.

However, only around 7% of landlords advertise homes as suitable for pets, meaning there’s a yawning chasm between the number of renters who yearn to have a four-legged friend of their own, and properties where this is possible.

Decisions for landlords

Landlords have an ultimate say over whether pets are allowed in a property, although the Consumer Rights Act 2015 prohibits blanket pet bans. 

Instead, landlords in Hertford can include a clause in the contract requiring tenants to request permission to keep a pet. Landlords can refuse a request but need to provide a good reason for doing so.

If you receive such a request, here are a few key issues to consider.

Cons

1 Introducing a pet into a property can increase the risk of costly damage. Some landlords have horror stories about dogs digging up gardens, and cats clawing furniture and leaving carpets flea-ridden. 

2 If the property is leasehold, some leasehold agreements do not allow pets.

3 Barking dogs can upset the neighbours and be a source of ongoing dispute.

Pros

4 Allowing a reliable tenant to keep a pet could encourage them to stay long term, meaning you don’t have to bother finding new tenants and running more reference checks.

5 Allowing pets could make your property more marketable and therefore you can raise the rent. 

6 Rodent reduction – Cats kill rats and mice, so provide an element of pest protection.

Other points of consideration

7 Not all pets are equal. The impact of having a 90kg Great Dane living in a property differs greatly from a caged hamster or a cat. Talk in detail to your tenant about the pet they would like to have, and how they intend to look after it.

8 If the tenant owns the pet already, ask to set vet records to ensure it is vaccinated and microchipped.

9 If the tenant kept a pet at their previous property, ask for a reference from the landlord in question.

10 Make specific provision in the contract for the pet in question so that your tenant can’t take advantage of your generosity and acquire a menagerie of animals.

If you’d like more advice about dealing with tenants with pets, get in touch. Here at Abel we can provide a detailed briefing about how to say on the right side of the law and protect your property.

Planning to Sell Your Hertford Home in 2021? Then Read This Before Your Christmas Decorations Go Up

In this three-minute read, we look at why people planning to sell in 2021 should act now to take advantage of the traditional surge in interest from serious buyers.

If you’re contemplating putting your home on the market next year, there’s one thing you can do right now to maximise your chances of getting a great deal.

Before you get carried away in a giddy rush of festive fever and adorn your house in flashing lights and sparkly tinsel, take a deep breath and pause for just a moment.

You may be planning to kickstart the sale of your home in January – once the silly season is over – but there’s a good reason why you shouldn’t wait.

The reason is that traffic on property portals skyrockets on the days between Christmas and New Year.

Pageviews on Rightmove, for example, typically increase by around 230% between Christmas Day and 2 January.

What drives this surge in interest?

As well as being a time of celebration, Christmas is a time of contemplation; one when many people make major life decisions.

Some folks decide – after hosting family on Christmas Day – that their home is too small and they need something with more room.

Others finally get around to having a frank discussion with elderly loved ones about downsizing. 

The festive season is also a time when couples commit to finding a “forever home” together, or sadly decide it’s time to go separate ways.

Whatever their reasons for moving, buyers at this time of year tend to be highly motivated. Smart sellers can take advantage of this by making sure that their property is online in all its glory before Christmas Eve.

We suggest that you instruct an agent now so that you have plenty of time to get the photography, copy, floorplans and Energy Performance Certificate sorted in time.

No tinsel, baubles or flashing lights just yet.

This brings us back to our recommendation that people in Hertford who are planning to sell next year hold off on putting the Christmas decorations up. There are two good reasons for doing this and both centre around marketing photos.

Reason 1

The key to good property photography is getting rid of clutter. Property photos aren’t family snaps. You don’t want buyers mulling over your penchant for flashing reindeer or how many presents you have under the tree. Having lots of personal items on show is a big no-no. 

Reason 2

If your property doesn’t sell before Christmas, the photos will look dated if they feature wreaths, presents, and Christmas cards. 

So, there we have it, get the photos done first and then go for broke. Deck your hall with boughs of holly and bling up your Christmas tree, relaxed in the knowledge that you’ve taken the right steps to ensure a prosperous New Year.

Here at Abel, we want to help make your plans for 2021 a reality. Get in touch now for expert advice on how to make those dreams come true.

Copyright 2020 Abel

Wellbeing Wednesday – Exercise Tips for People in Hertford

In this Wellbeing Wednesday two-minute update, we look at the benefits of exercising and why it could be easier than you think to get moving again.

We’ve been through some historically uncertain times this year.

But with the recent announcements around the highly promising vaccines to combat Covid-19, brighter times have appeared on the global horizon.

During this period of uncertainty, one thing has become crystal clear, and that’s the importance of exercising regularly for your mind and body.

According to the NHS, the benefits include:

Reducing stress levels

Strengthening your immunity

Maintaining a steady weight

Improving your memory and brain functioning

Helping you to sleep better

Increasing feel-good endorphins to boost your mood

Yes, it seems that exercise is one of those things that we all know is good for us, but not all of us do it.

So, with that in mind, we jumped on the internet to find six easy ways to get moving.

  1. Housework Out – Did you know that doing the domestic chores for 30 minutes can burn up to 220 calories on average. Time to get the mop out?
  2. Working Out at the Car Wash – Getting your vehicle shiny and clean isn’t just easy on the eye, it’s helpful to the waistline, because on average washing your car can burn around 314 calories an hour.
  3. Keep on Track – Keeping tabs on how much you’ve exercised can be hugely motivating. And it’s never been easier to chart the number of steps you’ve taken in a day, or the calories you’ve burned, thanks to smartphones and fitness trackers.
  4. Find a Fitness Friend – Although we’re all still being encouraged to socially distance, nothing is stopping you calling a friend and suggesting doing three 30-minute exercise sessions a week. You don’t have to do these together, but it keeps you motivated knowing you are accountable to someone and you spur each other on.
  5. Small Things Add Up – Next time you are waiting for the kettle to boil, do some stretches. Or park a little further away on the school run. A series of small steps in the right direction can put you on the path to feeling much fitter.
  6. Now We’re Walking – The most straightforward way to exercise is a low impact, brisk walk. It provides a change of scenery, some fresh air, and a new stimulus for the brain.

Before embarking on any new exercise plan, consult your doctor or a fitness professional.

And if you are thinking of moving home, consult us for honest, expert, and friendly advice.

At Abel, our passion is to help people across Hertford get moving. And for us to do that, we need to stay fighting fit, so we’ll be trying out the above ideas.

What’s your best exercise tip?

Thanks for reading.

The Documents that Hertford Landlords Must Have

In this three-minute read, we look at the documentation landlords need to meet their legal obligations – and avoid messy disputes.

First-time landlords often make the rookie mistake of underestimating the amount of paperwork involved in letting a property.

Many assume that once the ink dries on a tenancy agreement, they’ve got the paperwork sorted – but nothing could be further from the truth. 

Record-keeping is an integral part of a landlord’s duties and falls into two categories: 

  • Documents that you must keep. Landlords are required by law to keep records covering things such as safety inspections and deposits.
  • Documents that it is wise to keep. Although not obligatory, these records serve as an unofficial insurance policy should a dispute arise. If you wind up in court, you don’t want to rely on a vague recollection that “you paid a guy who was either called Terry or Trevor sometime in 2019 to sort out a few maintenance issues”. Firm dates, times and details of conversations and actions provide a vital paper trail.

Here’s a checklist of documents landlords need to keep:

1 Gas safety certificate – Landlords are required by law to have gas appliances such as hobs checked every year by a Gas Safety registered engineer.

2 Electrical safety report – Electrical safety inspections must be carried out by a qualified sparky every five years.

3 Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TPS – A landlord must place a tenant’s deposit in an approved TPS within 30 days of payment.

4 Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – Landlords need to get an EPC every ten years. A registered assessor must carry out the inspection, and the property must have at least an E rating.

5 Landlord registration – Some local authorities in England require landlords to sign up to a register. Check the rules in your local area.

6 Fire safety – Keep all paperwork relating to smoke alarms (you need one on every floor) and carbon monoxide alarms (you need one in any room with a solid fuel-burning appliance).

7 Property inventory – An in-depth report of the property and its furniture, fixtures and appliances will help you resolve any quibbles over belongings or damage at the end of a tenancy.

8 Landlord insurance – A condition of most buy-to-let mortgages, landlord insurance covers you in the event of flood or fire and for legal claims if someone injures themselves in your property.

9 Repair works –Keep all paperwork relating to repairs carried out on the property. 

10 Tenant inspections – Keep a record of when you visit the property during the tenancy, and any issues raised. Follow up conversations with an email outlining your discussions.

11 Right to Rent – A landlord must check that tenants have the correct immigration status to reside in the UK. Landlords must keep copies of all relevant documents.

When it comes to record-keeping, many landlords have good intentions but struggle to keep up over time. If you don’t have the energy or inclination to handle the paperwork that is part and parcel of being a landlord, a letting agent can do it for you.

Here at Abel, we’re pedants when it comes to paperwork and pros at keeping tabs on tenancies. If you’d like us to help you manage your property, get in touch.

Five Healthy Eating Tips to Get Hertford Through This Winter

In this two-minute read, we look at five ways to stave off cravings and eat well this winter.

Many of us turn to food when we’re bored or stressed, so it’s no wonder that the pandemic has played havoc with so many people’s waistlines.

Spending lots of time at home this year, amid ongoing uncertainty, has meant that bad habits have crept in. Do any of these descriptions resonate with you?

The all-day grazer: Mid-morning you reach for the biscuit tin and then keep going – and going. You eat little and often (by that we mean almost constantly) and lose track of how many bourbons/crackers/cookies you’ve devoured.

Late-night binger: You skip breakfast and stick to a simple eating plan for most of the day – until about 9pm comes and BAM! you snaffle a tub of Ben & Jerry’s at lightning speed.

Zombie eater: You always eat in front of the TV or while on your laptop. You shovel it in on auto-pilot, unaware of how much you’ve packed away, if it has any nutritional value or even if it tastes nice.

Afternoon snack fiend: Your mood and willpower plummet mid-afternoon. You start to feel hangry (that’s hungry plus angry) and need a sugary snack to give you an energy hit.

If any of these descriptions ring a bell with you, then here are five tips to help get your eating habits back on an even keel.

Plan meals and shop in advance

Create a meal plan, stock up on healthy produce and get cooking. (Meals made from scratch are typically lower in salt, sugar, and fat than processed foods and takeaways.) Foods to add to your shopping basket include sweet potatoes and spinach (they’re packed with vitamin A) and oily fish (for a hit of vitamin D). If snacking is your weakness, have berries and oranges (full of vitamin C) on hand for when the cravings hit.

Sit down at the table to eat

Avoid eating on the run, or while multitasking. Sit down to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day. This structure will help stop you grazing or bingeing.

Frozen counts

Frozen vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, so make sure you have some in the freezer. That way, if you wind up having to quarantine, you can still get your daily dose of veg.

Don’t obsess 

Food isn’t supposed to be a source of guilt, it’s meant to be nourishing and joyful. If you have a blowout, don’t be too tough on yourself. We are living through strange times. Move on, tomorrow’s another day.

Exercise

Exercise boosts your mood, and gives you more energy, so you won’t need sugary treats to give you a lift. Schedule exercise for the time of day when you typically feel low or lethargic.

Here at Abel, we’re here to help you get through these uncertain times. Look after yourself and take care.

Copyright 2020 Abel

Celebrating World Kindness Day in Hertford!

Friday the 13th is usually viewed with suspicion given its ‘unlucky for some’ label.

But this year’s vintage is a time to celebrate and cast aside any superstitions and celebrate World Kindness Day.

And 2020 is certainly the year where kindness and community spirit were needed like never before.

World Kindness Day started in Tokyo in 1998 and has since grown into a global movement of doing nice things for others.

At Abel, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the kindness and care of the good neighbours across Hertford who make each other’s lives that much better.

The experience of lockdowns and restrictions this year has highlighted the value of generosity, compassion, and community spirit.

So, let’s hear it for our local heroes, AKA good neighbours.

Kindness Counts

Here are three simple things you can do to let your neighbours know how much they mean to you.

  1. Send a text to them, something along the lines of ‘Today is World Kindness Day, and you sprang to mind because you are a very kind and considerate neighbour’.
  2. Pop a note or card through their door, thanking them for being such a good person to live near.
  3. Tag them in this post, letting them know why you think they are fab.

The importance of having good neighbours is a huge plus point for people seeking a new home.

The Value of Good Neighbours

According to a survey featured in an article on the Ideal Home website, the majority of people who were asked about the importance of having good neighbours said they would gladly pay 1 to 3 per cent above the asking price to guarantee they got on with the locals.

So, it seems like the Czech proverb we discovered while researching this article is correct:

‘A good neighbour adds value to your property.’

We want all our clients, neighbours, and members of the community to know that we remain here to help the good people of Hertford in any way we can.

Government Announces New Rule on Evictions During Lockdown 2

In this two-minute read, we look at the new rules on eviction enforcement during the latest lockdown.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a ban on bailiffs carrying out eviction enforcement during the lockdown in all but the most serious of cases.

While the courts are continuing to hear eviction cases, under the new rules announced last week as England returned to lockdown, bailiff enforcement action cannot be implemented until January 11, 2021, “at the earliest”. 

Mr Jenrick says the move protects those who have found themselves in financial difficulty through no fault of their own “while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases”.

He adds: “We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.”

There are a few exceptions to the enforcement ban. The bailiffs can act on cases of illegal occupation, fraud, anti-social behaviour, eviction of domestic abuse perpetrators in social housing and where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant. 

The government says it also intends to introduce an exemption for extreme pre-Covid rent arrears.

Uncertainty and case backlog

The latest announcement from the government adds another layer of complexity to the legal landscape when it comes to evictions.

This year landlords have had to contend with an eviction ban and an extension to the eviction notice period.

To further complicate matters, courts in England are currently working through an unprecedented backlog of cases caused by the first lockdown and eviction ban.

As a result, any landlord considering eviction proceedings should prepare for nightmarish delays (and bear in mind that even in the pre-COVID-19 era, the process took months).

That’s why here at Abelwe adviseHertford landlords to view eviction as the absolute last resort. 

There are several ways to avoid the tenant-landlord relationship breaking down to the extent that eviction is the only answer. 

By investing time and effort into managing your tenant relationship, and by being thorough with reference checks, record-keeping and inspections, many issues can be resolved without legal action.

And if a dispute does occur, expert negotiation and communication can mean a finding a solution without the lawyers getting involved.

Investing in a professional letting agent can save you as a landlord time, money, and stress. As the nation continues to navigate its way through the uncertainties of the pandemic, having an expert on your side who can look out for your best interests will help you sleep well at night.

If you’d like to know more about how to avoid getting tangled up in the messy eviction process, then get in touch with us here at Abel. We’re happy to provide expert advice on how to manage property investments while staying on the right side of the law.

Abel

Six-Month Moving Checklist for Home Seekers in Hertford

In this three-minute read, we share our five-point plan for a smooth move in six months’ time.

Moving can be stressful ­– some people rate it right up there with divorce in the aggravation stakes – but there are ways you can take the drama and disruption out of the process.

The first step is to acknowledge that buying a new home is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you make in your lifetime.

And if you plan to sell a property to fund your next move, you’re effectively carrying out two incredibly important transactions in one hit. (No pressure then.)

Given the magnitude of the task, if you want to move in 2021, we advise you to start working towards that goal now.

The process always takes longer than you expect, so use your time wisely now so that you can move when the time is right next year.

Here are five tips to pave the way for a successful move.

Research prospective areas

You probably have an inkling already of where you would like to live, but until you get into the nitty-gritty, you won’t know if your dreams are realistic. Review local property prices, pinpoint favourite streets, revise school catchment boundaries and check if there are any major residential or transport projects in the pipeline that will impact the area.

Sort out your budget 

Scrutinise your finances to get a clear picture of your income and spending. Be honest about what you can afford. Consider how your responsibilities might change in future if, for example, you plan to have children or change careers. Identify the size of the deposit you will need, along with costs such as Stamp Duty, legal bills, surveying fees, mortgage insurance, and removals.

Research mortgages

The good news is that interest rates are currently low. However, uncertainty in the market means those looking for a high loan-to-value mortgage may struggle to secure one as many lenders have pulled them altogether. Analyse a wide range of deals to get the best product for your situation.

Basic maintenance and refurbishment

Once you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to get your house, quite literally, in order. Give tired rooms a lick of paint, and mend broken windows, doors, and cupboards. Plant spring bulbs in the garden so that your yard is brimming with colour by March. If you’re considering complex renovations, such as installing a new kitchen or bathroom, get a second opinion. Will you recoup the costs of a major refurb when you sell? Ask an estate agent for their expert opinion.

Declutter

Working on a room-by-room basis, get rid of unwanted items. If an item has some value, sell it online. If not, take it to the tip. Sorting out all your belongings now will mean you won’t have to do it closer to moving when you have other things on your plate. It will also make marketing your property much easier and help you achieve maximum selling price.

If the events of 2020 have made you consider moving, come and talk to us here at Abel. We can give you friendly, expert advice about where the market is heading and the outlook for 2021.