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Tool School: 5 Clever Gardening Gadgets for Spring and Summer

new technology for the garden

Get yourself some high-tech help with these time-saving technological innovations to make life easier in the garden.

The swallows have returned, tulips and wallflowers are blooming and Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan have warmed up their binoculars.

Gardeners can finally look forward to some fair-weather gardening during spring and summer.

So now is the time to invest in some new high tech gadgets to smarten up your outdoor space and make this season a fruitful one.

new technology for the garden

1. Flymo 1200 R Robotic lawnmower and charging station, £599, for stockists visit flymo.com/uk

If you live in the city and only have a small piece of grass to mow, but don’t have time to do the basics, this new Flymo robotic lawnmower may be for you.

It operates via sensors around your borders and when its charge is running low, it will know to return to its charging port before you have to carry it there.

This efficient, Lithium-Ion battery powered device is capable of effectively mowing a lawn area up to a maximum of 400m2, negotiating itself around trees and fences.

new technology for the garden

2. Chester Up & Down Solar Wall Light, £29.99, thesolarcentre.co.uk

Give your outdoor space some extra green credentials with this solar-powered wall light. All energy comes from an accompanying solar panel – no need for any fiddly wiring – resulting in a soft, warm, naturalistic glow. Sleek, waterproof, and wrought from stainless steel, this little lamp turns on automatically once darkness falls.

new technology for the garden

3. iGrill 3, £94.99, weber.com

Bid farewell to underdone or charred BBQ meat. Owners of a gas-powered Weber Genesis II, Genesis II LX, or Spirit II barbecue can invest in this weatherproof digital thermometer, which monitors the ‘doneness’ of up to four cuts of meat at once and sends its data straight through to an app on your smartphone.

new technology for the garden

4. Hozelock Cloud Controller Set, £142, johnlewis.com

This gadget allows you to control garden watering from your mobile, anywhere in the world. After attaching the controller to your garden tap, use the accompanying app to remotely set a watering schedule. The app will let you know if the weather changes back home, so you can pause watering if it turns wet or step it up when a heatwave strikes.

new technology for the garden

5. Dynamic BT Ear Protectors, £85, stihl.co.uk

If you like listening to music, and dislike having your eardrums savaged by the drone of your hedge trimmer, these Bluetooth ear protectors might just be for you. Each unit hosts a set of speakers that can connect wirelessly to your smartphone, playing for 38 hours on a single charge.

Buying a new Home? Phil Spencer Reveals the Warning Signs to Walk Away from.

property warning signs

It's all about Information, Information, Information, says the property guru.

Ever moved into a new house and realised that your new neighbour is the drummer for an amateur metal band? Or snapped up a new pad only to discover that the bedroom turns into a swamp every time it rains?

We sincerely hope the answer is no, but given how complex, difficult and murky property deals can be, that may be more by luck than judgement.

Property expert and investor Phil Spencer has headed up Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location alongside Kirstie Allsopp for almost two decades, and has now set up Move IQ, a website that uses complex algorithms to produce 45-page status reports on properties.

He took some time away from the cameras to comb through the real estate red flags that should make you dig a little deeper – if not send you running for the door.

property warning signs

Cautionary tales

We don’t want to alarm you, but there are a lot of traps you can fall into when assessing a property. “I know of one sale where the buyer didn’t do their research,” says Spencer, “and bought a house without realising the neighbours were running a business with 24-hour deliveries.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Spencer is full of anecdotes about property purchases that went pear-shaped. “I’ve worked on several cases of buying a house from a divorcing couple, when you find out later that the person still in the house doesn’t want to sell. That makes for an extremely complicated negotiation.”

“There are lots of examples of people buying houses, and then finding out that the right permissions weren’t in place for building work done by the previous owner. If a house has probate, that can be complicated… Honestly, it’s a minefield.”

The very last thing you want at the sharp end of a property deal is a sudden, nasty surprise. So, how can you ensure you don’t end up as another anecdote on Phil Spencer’s list?

property warning signs

Knowledge is power

Unfortunately, the most worrying warning signs are the ones you can’t see. “Your priority is misinformation,” says Spencer, “you need all your info to be as accurate as possible, and it will come primarily from the estate agent and the vendor. Ask direct questions, ask them again, and then ask the same questions of different people.”

We wouldn’t want to cast any aspersions, but you can take it as read that estate agents aren’t going to lead with the negatives.

“The key thing,” says Spencer, “is to ascertain why the house is being sold. People often try to muddy the waters and it’s up to you to get to the bottom of it. Have they outgrown the house, are there financial reasons, or is there an argument with a neighbour?”

“There are plenty of valid reasons for selling, but it’s going to come down to negotiation, and you want to know how motivated the vendor is to do the deal. Will they want to conclude quickly, and how willing might they be to agree to a price reduction?”

Once you’ve got a number on the seller, you can turn your attention to the house itself. “You need to understand the marketing history,” says Spencer. “Is there any interest, has anybody made an offer, and has anybody had a survey done?” If the house has been on the market for six months under a different agent, undergone repeated surveys and fallen through three times, then that’s need-to-know information.

Next up is the price – is it reasonable? “The internet has made making comparisons easier than ever, but you need to be sure you’re looking at fairly recent sales,” says Spencer. “Pounds per square foot is a useful rough guide; work it out for the property you’re interested in, and compare with others in the area.”

“Remember, this is just a rule of thumb, and takes no account of condition, views, garden, and so on.”

property warning signs

Buyers and sellers

You and your vendor don’t need to be bosom buddies – or even make each other’s Christmas card lists – but there’s a certain amount of trust at the heart of every sale.

“You don’t have to go for dinner and drinks, but you want to know that they’re selling you the truth,” says Spencer. “If you ask a direct question, you need to be confident you’re getting an honest, if probably gilded, answer.”

Unmotivated sellers can spell trouble – last-minute mind-changing can be infuriating and costly – and be wary of overly-canny sellers straining every sinew to show their house at it’s best. “If the table is laid for dinner, there’s fresh bread baking, and the smell of percolating coffee,” says Spencer, “keep your wits about you!”

“I’ve also seen examples of sellers stowing things in storage to make their house look roomy enough for children and two adults. There is, if you move half your stuff out.”

Beware stubbornness, not just in your vendor but in yourself. “Sometimes people become ‘principled’ in property negotiations,” Spencer says. “It’s not the time – if you’re paying good money for something, don’t fall out over a loo seat or a fridge. I’ve seen little things like that derail massive property deals – just respect that it’s someone’s home and they can get a bit emotional.”

property warning signs

Bricks and mortar

For many, a house viewing involves scouring every nook and cranny for dry rot, blue tack stains and missing roof tiles, but for Spencer, such practical pitfalls are a secondary concern. “I wouldn’t get overly het up about it,” he says, “the surveyor will come in and give the house the once over.”

“If it’s of interest, by all means go over the house with a fine tooth comb – you can easily see for yourself if the windows are rotting, there are cracks in the walls or the bath leaks. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with any of these – so long as it’s reflected in the price.”

Much more important are pre-existing works and renovations, and the paperwork surrounding them: “If you do end up negotiating, you want to be able to warn your surveyor and solicitor about any extensions, because you’ll need the forms and permissions that support that work.”

Everything you need to know about Joe Perkins new Facebook Inspired Chelsea Flower Show Garden

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

As a father-of-three, garden designer Joe Perkins is well aware that social media can lure young people away from the great outdoors.

Enter Beyond The Screen, Perkins’ Facebook-sponsored show garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, within which he’s going to reveal how online and offline worlds can come together.

Visitors may think the Facebook garden, set in a 10x10m plot in the ‘Space to Grow’ category, is going to be high-tech, with state-of-the-art screens and speakers popping out from behind the flora and fauna. But Perkins’ vision is very different.

It’s a coastal garden for young people, featuring plants from around the world that can withstand salt-laden winds and harsh weather. Euphorbias, agaves and maritime pines are among the plantings.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

“I’ve got plants from Mexico, the Balearics, India and the US, but the point is, they all share this tolerance of particular conditions, so they have these shared interests – which brings me back to the community groups on social media.”

Other elements of the garden include water, a copper canopy and a dramatic rock formation.

“The coastal element for me is all about connection. The oceans connect us all geographically, water connects us physiologically and as a landscape, it’s evolving, just as online communities are constantly shifting and evolving,” he explains.

There’s a copper canopy which references back to connectivity (copper is a conductor), the parallel being that social media is a conduit for global interaction.

He’s also using vertical layers of rock to show that geological forces have transformed the landscape, just as social media has changed the social environment in which we live.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

Perkins, 42, who runs his own garden design business in Brighton, has been involved in many Chelsea show gardens over the years, but this is his first solo project. He approached Facebook with a design plan, and they were quick to jump on board.

“My inspiration is a very personal one. It’s drawn from my experience of having family holidays on the Atlantic coast of Spain. My wife’s family is from the Basque country and I’ve taken my three young boys there every summer for years.”

His aim is to show how our worlds – both online and offline – collide, and he hopes the Facebook garden will spark debate about the value of social media.

“It’s about having a proper discussion around how we can use it better, and recognising the difference between how we should and shouldn’t be using it, and how we can be responsible.

“Social media is about global connection and the possibilities it’s opened up for us to connect with people all over the world, and join like-minded people in community groups, on Facebook in particular. In the UK, there’s something like 1.5 million gardeners on Facebook.”

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

Facebook is partnering with the community charity Groundwork, which works with disadvantaged young people throughout the UK, on the project. Some of Groundwork’s young ambassadors will be helping to build the garden, and getting involved with moving it into the community once the show’s over.

“While you can argue that young people have less inclination to go out and engage with nature, you could equally argue that they’re doing a lot of positive stuff online, and a lot of that involves gardening,” Perkins says.

Joe Perkins connected Chelsea garden

On a personal level, Perkins’ sons’ introduction to social media isn’t too far away, with the eldest aged 12 and the youngest aged eight.

“That’s really why I wanted to explore and open up the debate about what we should be doing as parents. How can we help young people, and what do they themselves think about the time they spend online? Many people of my generation feel that time spent online is negative, but what do younger people think?

“Independent research has found that young people feel a lot of the time they spend online is productive and positive, because they engage in community groups, community projects, shared interest groups and keeping in touch with friends and family. That can reduce loneliness, help engagement and actually get stuff done in the real world.

“Obviously, the negatives are mental health and wellbeing, and all the headlines we’ve read about. But social media isn’t going away, so let’s look at what’s good about it, talk about what’s bad and see if we can actually produce a healthy discussion about how we can move forward.”

And what if the only thing you see your teenager doing in the garden is taking a selfie, unaware of the real beauty that lies around them?

“By doing that, young people are broadcasting our fantastic industry around the world,” he says.

“Look at the big UK growth in interior plants. It’s clear from social media that young people are very interested in plants and how they can use them to decorate their houses. If you can make gardening cool and desirable, that can only be a good thing.”

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 21-25. For details visit rhs.org.uk

Fitness for human habitation – What landlords need to know

The fitness for human habitation act (AKA the Karen Buck Bill) came into force on 20th of March 2019, which is an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985.

The act requires that any property let by a landlord (private or social) must remain in a state fit for habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration.

This act is in place to help protect tenants against negligent landlords, and gives tenants the power to sue their landlords if they are not in compliance with the regulations. The Act covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the social and private rented sectors.

What does fit for human habitation mean?
The landlord of a qualifying dwelling is required to ensure that the house is “reasonably suitable for occupation” in respect of the following nine matters:

  1. repair,
  2. stability,
  3. freedom from damp,
  4. internal arrangement,
  5. natural lighting,
  6. ventilation,
  7. water supply,
  8. drainage and sanitary conveniences,
  9. facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water;
    and the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.

How can landlords comply with the Fitness for Human Habitation Act?
Landlords who haven’t inspected their rental properties for a while – perhaps because they’re using a managing agent – may find it worthwhile visiting their properties and checking that everything is in order.

Courts will have the authority to order landlords to carry out repairs and they will be able to award damages to tenants.

Are there any exceptions?
Your landlord is responsible for fixing a lot of problems in your home. However, there are some exceptions:

  1. Problems caused by tenant behaviour
  2. Events like fires, storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes called ‘acts of God’)
  3. The landlord will not repair your possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants
  4. If the landlord hasn’t been able to get permission from certain other people.

Guide for landlords
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-landlords-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

Guide for tenants
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-tenants-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

If you would like to know more, or just have a few questions how this may effect you. Call our residential letting agent expert Nicola Bremner (MARLA) on 01252 622550

Maldivians are Planting a Community Spirit by Going Farm to Fork

Maldives farm to fork

On a remote coral island in the Maldives, Hannah Stephenson discovers a rural community which has turned its sandy landscape into a farming haven.

Maldivian farmer Ali cuts open a heavy, juicy watermelon from his plot of land, proudly presenting us each with a slice, juice dripping, still warm from the sun.

Standing on his small farm in Meedhoo, an island within the Addu Atoll, the southernmost group of islands in the Maldives – next stop Antarctica – you could be a million miles away from the luxurious five-star resorts complete with picture postcard white beaches, aquatic lagoons, over-water villas and swaying coconut palms synonymous with these islands.

Walking past a corrugated shack, which doubles as his shed, Ali proudly shows us his farm, which looks a bit like a huge allotment.

Watermelons and honeydews are ripening on the ground in the sun, many of which serve the discerning clients at the nearby deluxe Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa on neighbouring Villingili Island.

Maldives farm to fork

Ali is one of 50 farmers on Meedhoo who have helped form a cooperative to clean up their land and make it more productive, in partnership with the Shangri-La group, and tourists are now being offered the chance to see how this partnership is working in a new farm-to-plate experience.

Since the tourist boom of the 1970s, hotel-islands (there’s only one resort hotel or complex per island in the Maldives) were originally developed with the aim of keeping Western visitors separated from the Muslim localities.

But trends are changing and, despite the continuing political unrest of this nation, tourists are growing more curious about local communities and their cultures, seeking more authentic travel experiences.

The location of Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort is not only ideal for the luxurious fly-and-flop break, where tourists can boast that they’ve crossed the Equator, spotted turtles, seen manta rays and prolific pods of spinner dolphins or enjoyed a round of golf, but being close to the other islands which form the Addu Atoll also allows easy access to an insight into local life.

 

Maldives farm to fork

Once you’ve had a few days to wind down and admire the glorious vista of the turquoise Indian Ocean, the sublime white beaches and the sumptuous accommodation, you may want to sample a true taste of Maldivian life.

A 10-minute speed boat trip takes us to Meedhoo Island, which spans 2km x 2.5km, where we are presented with garlands of frangipani and bougainvillea by beautiful Maldivian children dressed in traditional Dhiveli libaas, dresses with ornate necklines made from traditional weaving, watched proudly by their hijab-clad mothers.

Meedhoo is clearly new to tourism. Only a few years ago, the small beach on which we are standing was a rubbish dump awash with plastic bottles, rusty cans and other debris, a makeshift landfill from its 3,500-population.

Today, thanks to the work of concerned members of the community who formed an NGO to clean up their island and educate adults and children in all matters of eco-friendliness, there’s not a plastic bottle or bag in sight. Adults and children still take part in regular beach cleans three years on and a local waste management company removes the rubbish.

Here, female tourists are politely asked to wear attire which covers their shoulders and knees in respect of the Muslim faith.

Driving on the sandy road past 900-year-old Koagannu, the oldest cemetery in the Maldives, we come across an impressive school hidden behind bright blue walls, while a peppering of stylish gated houses in subtle shades of lemon clash with nearby tired, older buildings with corrugated roofs and fading pink painted walls. Traditional houses used to be made of corals but, of course, that doesn’t happen anymore.

Maldives farm to fork

By the look of things, tourism has clearly helped some prosper on Meedhoo but has been slower to transform life for others.

With a population of 3,500 to feed, farming has always been big here but now it’s bigger. On one farm, we walk past deep troughs of leafy Chinese cabbages, huge banana trees and beds of yam, whose voluminous leaves are known as elephant ears, and are asked to remove our shoes before entering a large greenhouse filled with rows of lofty cucumber plants bearing dangling ripening fruits.

It’s one of four greenhouses made possible through a $15,900 (approx £12,200) loan in 2013 from the Shangri-La group to the cooperative, which has helped increase farming production massively, so much so that Meedhoo and its neighbouring islands in the atoll now provide the resort with around 15% of its fruit and vegetables. The farmers paid back the cost of the greenhouses within 10 months, which was deducted from the resort’s weekly supply.

Hot Maldivian chillis, papaya, bananas and a variety of salad leaves are flourishing on the cultivated land. Fragrant frangipani, bougainvillea and other flowers grown on the island also serve the resort.

Maldives farm to fork

So how can they grow such rich produce on a bed of coral sand?

Rotten leaf matter on the island is broken down to make soil richer, although compost also has to be imported from Sri Lanka and India to beef up the terrain, while great tanks gather rainwater for the crops.

And while problems of whitefly, thrips (an insect) and mites sometimes threaten the harvest, the biggest challenge for farmers is the changing weather patterns resulting in a longer rainy season, says the community environmental officer Mohamed Kamir.

But efforts are being made to expand the types of crops which may be able to cope with changing weather conditions.

Earlier in the day, we visited the resort’s own chef’s garden to pick vegetables and herbs to use in our dishes at dinner.

There’s an abundance of mint, dill and basil, as well as gourds, aubergines, courgettes and spring onions, Chinese cabbage and rocket, all of which provide some of the resort’s needs.

If the chef’s garden cultivates a new variety successfully, it will teach the Meedhoo farmers how to grow and care for the plants, so that they can expand their own crops.

So, as we sit down to our delicious farm-to-plate dinner in stylish settings on Villingili later that evening, featuring locally-caught wahu carpaccio, meaty tuna with lemongrass veloute with some of the herbs and vegetables we picked earlier in the chef’s garden, and fruit cocktail with mango soup courtesy of the farmers of Meedhoo, nothing could really taste sweeter.

Maldives farm to fork

8 Cracking Ways to Set the Scene for Easter

easter decorating

Planning some Easter entertaining? Gabrielle Fagan reveals simple decor displays and finishing touches to bring the occasion to life.

It’s time to get all your chicks in a row for Easter, with some truly egg-cellent decor!

A holiday gathering will be much more memorable with a cheerful springtime table setting, with plenty of seasonal touches to bring it to life – from pretty hanging eggs on a tree, to colourful wreaths and, of course, a sprinkling of cute, decorative creatures, be it bunnies or chicks.

Style it out and that setting’s sure to be Insta-worthy, promises Rebecca Stanton, a stylist and visual merchandiser at Dobbies.

“Easter decorating includes some of my favourite styling elements, including pretty pastels, blooming bouquets and fresh foliage,” she says. “A mix of candy-coloured decorations will bring a table to life, especially with the addition of miniature chicks and Easter bunnies to set the tone for the occasion.

“Nothing says springtime like a bunch of gorgeous tulips, helping bring a touch of the outside in,” Stanton adds. “Frankly, you can never have too many flowers!”

easter decorating

1. Branch out for that finishing touch

Time was, decorated trees were just for Christmas – but they’re rapidly becoming an essential ingredient for Easter decor too.

“Within the home, an Easter tree is an eye-catching statement piece which can be dressed up or down, depending on your style,” says Lisa Rutherford, stationery and seasonal events buyer at John Lewis.

“They’re becoming ever-more popular. A small collection of hanging eggs can look beautiful and under-stated. If a full-sized tree isn’t for you, consider a smaller table-top tree version, or just a simple collection of branches in a vase with a few ornaments for a mini display.”

easter decorating

2. Keep it cute

Hop to it and gather a collection of chicks and bunnies, which children will love but can also be all you need to pay a subtle nod to the season.

Hang several on a wire across a window frame or mirror (double the visual impact), or hang individually on cupboard handles or from a pendant light above the table.

easter decorating

3. Crack a top table display

“A meal, and the table setting, is at the centre of many Easter celebrations,” says Rutherford. “It’s worth investing in the ingredients for a scheme which you can use again. Consider following a colour scheme – yellow or zingy green are both top choices for a crisp, fresh look.

“Whether you want something fun and functional, maybe a grass table runner and a line of tiny pots of faux daffodils, or a little more sophistication using pastels and muted florals, your table offers a space to be creative and playful. It doesn’t need to be over-elaborate to be successful.” John Lewis has a Talking Tables Grass Table Runner, £18, and Artificial Daffodils in Kraft Wrap, £4, which would be ideal.

easter decorating

4. Treat the table

Splurge on a few new pieces of Easter-inspired homeware to give a table setting a lift, or to decorate a mantel or shelf. They may be just the finishing touches you need.

If that’s beyond the budget, with all those chocolate treats to pay for, simply fill a clear glass bowl full of eggs (traditionally, real eggs are hard boiled and dyed with food colouring) and place in the centre of the table, or opt for a simple spring bouquet from the garden.

For a quick fix: Use a ribbon or twine to tie a hanging decoration to each napkin and personalise with a label displaying each guest’s name.

easter decorations

5. Hunt down style

Easter wouldn’t be the same without an egg hunt – after all, you don’t want to be responsible for making the Easter bunny redundant! Pop up a sign, scatter some artificial eggs, and have chocolate treats as prizes.

easter decorating

6. Bring in nature

Nature’s waking up after winter, with blossom and new growth galore – a beautiful feature of the season. Reflect that indoors too, with floral wreaths and garlands (faux ones are so good nowadays, it’s hard to distinguish them from the real thing). Hang on a door or wall, or use as a table focal point.

easter decorating

7. Create a stunning centrepiece

What you need:

4 birch branches; twine; seasonal flowers and foliage (such as eucalyptus, ivy, mimosa or forsythia); six decorated Easter eggs or Easter chocolates; two large cup hooks.

How to do it:

  • Lay the four birch branches on a large flat surface and loosely arrange them parallel to each other, with a gap of approximately 3-4cm between each.
  • Wind twine several times around an outer branch. Leave a length of 3-4cm of twine and then wind around the next branch and so on, until you get to the far side and the branches are all connected. Do this 20-30cm in from each end of the display.
  • Gather your chosen foliage and flowers together in two loose bunches and bind their stems. Lay each bunch on top of the birch branches with the bound stems overlapping in the middle. Tuck the bound ends into the opposite bunch to hide untidy ends.
  • Tie lengths of twine to your Easter eggs, ready for hanging. Hang your birch branches and foliage from the ceiling with cup hooks and twine, then tie on your Easter eggs in varying positions and at different heights. Tweak the arrangement of the foliage or add more, once the centrepiece is in place, to achieve the look you want.
easter decorating

8. Enter into the spirit of Easter

Don’t confine decoration to inside the house – wreaths hung on a front door, or a tub of spring flowers in a porch makes an attractive, welcoming touch, and will hint at more decor treats inside.

Ban on Letting Agent fees

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 is coming into effect for all tenancies signed on or after 1st June 2019.

A major change for the lettings industry is coming into effect for all tenancies after 1st June 2019 in England. Called the ‘Tenant Fees Act 2019’, it could cause quite a stir along the way.

The act sets out the governments approach to banning fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England. The act is aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords, with the wider aim of making everything fairer, improving quality and creating more affordable rental properties.

From 1st June you cannot require a tenant to make certain payments in connection with a tenancy. You cannot require them to enter a contract with a third party or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.

The only payments that can be charged in connection with a tenancy are:

  1. the rent
  2. a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  3. a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
  4. payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
  5. payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  6. payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
  7. A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement

For further details on the ACT check out the information on the legislation.gov.uk website
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/4/enacted

The landlords guild also have a good article
https://www.landlordsguild.com/understanding-the-tenant-fees-act-2019/

Guidance
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tenant-fees-act-2019-guidance

If you would like to know more, or just have a few questions how this may effect you. Call our residential letting agent expert Nicola Bremner (MARLA) on 01252 622550

About to be a First Time Parent like Meghan and Harry? 5 tips for Baby-Proofing your Home

From stair gates to non-slip mats and locking the oven, there's lots you can do to make your home more baby-friendly.

baby proofing your home

One can only imagine the challenges involved in baby-proofing a royal residence. Fitting stairwells with the world’s widest baby gates; locking down toilet seats in 78 separate bathrooms – well, Buckingham Palace has 78, but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex won’t have quite that many to contend with, when they take their baby back to their new home in Windsor.

baby proofing your home

Still, whether you’re a royal or a regular Joe, baby-proofing your home for new arrivals can be a pretty big task. Your little prince or princess might spend all day, every day snoozing at first – but they’ll soon hit curious mode, wanting to clamber on, poke and explore everything possible.

“More than a million children are taken to hospital every year in the UK because of accidents in the home,” says Lorna Marsh, senior editor and parenting expert at BabyCentre. “Falls are the most common accidents, and you need to minimise hazards before your baby starts crawling.”

So where to start? Here are five tips for ensuring your home is a baby-friendly zone…

baby proofing your home

1. Prepare early

A couple of points to note up front: First of all, no amount of baby-proofing can substitute for watchful supervision, so don’t let gadgets lull you into a false sense of security. Many a baby gate has been scaled by an enterprising infant, and some youngsters make a habit of turning up in unexpected places.

Secondly, it’s never too early to start thinking about baby-proofing. Young children tend to grow alarmingly quickly and by the time they’re crawling, you want to be confident with your new safety features. Getting the job done is much simpler when you’re not knee-deep in nappies and battling sleepless nights, so it’s a good idea all round to prepare early.

Before you begin, it’s worth getting on your hands and knees to get a child’s eye view of your home. Are there any edges or corners that look threatening, or furniture that’s invitingly climbable? Silly though it may sound, this is a worthy way to identify potential trouble spots before your child starts to explore.

baby proofing your home

2. Consider how things look from toddler height

Start with the big stuff. Any furniture that can topple (bookcases, we’re looking at you), should be fastened to the wall securely with furniture straps or brackets, while tall, unstable lamps should ideally be removed. Attach cushioned corner protectors to desks and coffee tables to avoid painful bumps and bangs.

“A new arrival means you’ll see your home in a whole new light,” says Marsh. “Things that you took no notice of before suddenly become a potential danger.” Cupboards should be sorted into safe and not-safe, and the latter latched with baby locks.

There are some obvious things to keep out of reach – knives, medicines, cleaning products and so on – but even apparently innocuous items can represent a risk if not considered carefully. House plants, for example, can be poisonous if nibbled on, and even the harmless ones are often potted in earth or dirt that might look appetising to a curious bub.

Beware the chest of drawers – you may think it’s a safe place for your unsecured television to sit on, but adventurous children use drawers for climbing practice, and anything heavy on top can topple off, potentially ending in serious trauma.

baby proofing your home

3. Make stairs and windows safe

If there are stairs in your home, baby gates are essential – consider installing one at the top and bottom of the stairs. It only takes a second for a littl’un to scale a set of steps!

Window blind cords can be particularly dangerous for children and must never be overlooked. “Replace corded window blinds with cordless ones,” says Marsh, “and put stickers on glass doors to make them visible to your child. Fit window locks, and never open them wide enough for a crawling baby to get out.”

Electrical cables represent trip, choke and entanglement hazards for small children, so use cord holders to fasten them to the walls.

baby proofing your home

4. Check every room

Once you’ve dealt with the basics, give your whole house a systematic sweep. Different dwellings pose different dangers, and the only way to know that you’ve got everything is to take a proper stock-check yourself.

The bathroom is one of the most perilous places for a tot who’s just finding their feet. An infant can drown in just 5cm of water, so invest in a baby bath seat and never, ever leave a bathing baby unsupervised. Toilet seat locks are a must too, and you can prevent scalding by adding soft covers on bath taps and spouts. Wobbly babies and slippery surfaces don’t mix, so put down some non-slip mats in tiled areas.

The kitchen is also high on the danger-o-meter. Avoid place mats and tablecloths on dining tables (an inquisitive child will tug on them, and bring the table’s contents crashing down), and make sure your oven is always safely locked, with covers on anything likely to get hot to the touch.

Sitting rooms can be deceptively hazardous, especially those with fireplaces. “Fit smoke alarms and keep a fire extinguisher nearby if you have a fireplace,” says Marsh. “By law, you must have a fireguard, and keep matches and lighters out of your child’s reach.

“In the bedroom, make sure your baby’s cot or Moses basket is sleep-safe,” she adds. “And, if you have a cat, put a cat net over [the baby’s bed].”

baby proofing your home

5. Think about how you’re using your home too

Making alternations is vital – but think about how you’re doing things around the home too. Is there a more child and baby-safe way to adapt everyday tasks?

For example, cook on the wall-side hobs if you have them (they’re further from reach!), and keep kitchen appliances away from children where possible. “Keep mugs of hot drinks away from edges,” adds Marsh. “And when cooking, make sure that the handles of saucepans are turned away from the edge.”

Be sure to unplug appliances like irons (we should all be doing this anyway!), and remember that visitors to your home may not be holding their habits to the same standards.

Be careful what you throw away too, as some babies are relentless scavengers. “Old batteries, plastic bags and sharp objects should be discarded safely,” says Marsh. Toys like Lego are well-established choking hazards, and the same goes for items like marbles, coins and paperclips.

“Keep plastic bags, including nappy bags, well out of reach of your child,” she adds, “and make sure pens, scissors, letter openers, staplers and other sharp instruments are kept in locked drawers.”

Even when they’re clear of all apparent danger, crawling children are still wiping their mitts on the floor, so it’s important to keep a hygienic home too. If you don’t already, enforce a no-shoes policy inside the house, and clean regularly to keep your surfaces germ-free (you don’t need a gleaming show home, of course – we’re just talking about getting the important basics done).

Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme becomes a legal requirement

Membership of a Government Approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme becomes a legal requirement for all agents in England dealing with residential lettings across England from Monday 1 April.

What is Client Money Protection (CMP)?
Client Money Protect is a client money protection membership scheme designed to protect client money held by property agents and professionals. The member’s clients are protected in the event that the member misappropriates the client money held in the course of running their business.

Is client money protection mandatory?
Yes, mandatory Client Money Protection becomes a legal requirement on April 1st 2019. All property agents will be required to be part of an approved Client Money Protection Scheme.

How can you tell if an Agent is a member?
An agent must display a certificate confirming membership of an Approved CMP scheme both in branch and on the website.

Do you provide a hard copy of your Client Money Handling Procedures?
Yes we do. Please call in to our Lettings branch in Fleet to obtain a copy

Is McCarthy Holden a member?
Yes we are. You can view our certificate here.

Where can I find out more about the scheme?
Mccarthy Holden are members of the property mark scheme. More details can be found at http://www.propertymark.co.uk/working-in-the-industry/member-requirements including:

  • Client Money Protection (CMP)
  • Client Account Reporting
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • Independent Redress
  • Money Laundering Regulations
  • TPO Codes of Practice
  • Company Declaration

Who are propertymark?
See http://www.propertymark.co.uk/about-us/


Check out our ‘Seven step’ tried and tested process for letting your home safely.

For property in Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Camberley, Wokingham, Odiham and surrounding areas.

Call Nicola Bremner (MARLA) on 01252 622550 for a full appraisal of your property now!

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