What To Look For When Renting/ Top Tips For Landlords #RentalInsights

Recently homelet.co.uk carried out a survey and have found some interesting stats about tenants:

  • Overall 86% of people were either very happy, quite happy or somewhat happy with their landlord or letting agent
  • 75% of people surveyed claimed to be happy with the response to maintenance requests
  • 43.6% of tenancy agreements do not allow pets
  • 12.5% of people surveyed have had their deposit withheld with 39.1% of these down to cleaning and 19.3% down to re-decorating costs

We are long term renters but have also been landlords ourselves too, so we have seen it from both sides of the fence. We have had some poor experiences as tenants, but have also had some very positive ones as well. Over the years, we have rented privately and through letting agents, in house shares, as a couple, and as a family, and have had our homes managed by many different companies along the way. Therefore I am pleased to take part in HomeLet’s #RentalInsights campaign, to share our experiences and top tips!

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Renting as a family (especially with an SEND child) means that our experience, and our priorities, maybe different to other people in some regards. I know that before we started a family, we personally had a very different view on renting, whereas what we look for has shifted now that we are parents. For example, we used to move around every 6 months or so; a scenario we are most definitely very keen to avoid now! We both used to work full time so rarely gave any thought to how much notice we were given or how often access was ‘required’. Infact we were probably pretty quick to complain if things weren’t dealt with very promptly! These days, that is a disruption that we want kept to a minimum and we need flexibility with regards to timings, with as much notice as possible given too.

The top priorities we have when looking for a family rental home, aside from location and so on, are three fold:

Firstly, it must be a long term let. As a family, and especially with an SEND child, long term means years. Many agents consider 6 month contracts to be a long term let, so it is important to clarify what is meant by ‘long term’ for the particular property that you are considering. 

Secondly, we need somewhere that accepts pets. They are part of our family; rehoming them is absolutely not up for consideration. However, as the survey suggests, this reduces our options by roughly half before we can even begin to think about any of the other factors that we need to consider. Sometimes a personal letter to the landlord, an offer of a higher deposit and/ or clauses added to the agreement can help with finding a pet- friendly property.

Thirdly, we look for a suitable landlord/ letting agent. If initial conversations suggest that the attitude of the landlord, or approach to property management, is going to cause us stress and/ or prevent us from feeling like it is our home, we dismiss it. We also ensure that we are upfront about our own circumstances (home educating, SEND child etc…) so that we can find a good match for us. 

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We have had some totally appalling experiences along the way though, both as a couple and as a family. This includes landlords letting themselves in without warning, agents showing round viewings after we have said it is not a convenient time, drastic rent increases regularly, keeping deposit without justification (prior to the compulsory deposit schemes) and even being evicted in the midst of our child having a health crisis (through no fault of our own; it was simply because they decided to sell). It can quickly turn into a nightmare if you find yourself in a difficult situation, so I recommend both landlords and tenants are clued up on their legal rights and responsibilities at all times. 

The key points we would give to landlords/ agents is to build up enough of a working relationship with your tenants that you understand their personal priorities, and vice versa. Are they the type of tenant who will want every little detail dealt with immediately? Or do they need any essential work done around their schedule? Are they away alot anyway so people letting themselves in (with prior written notice of course!) is irrelevant to them, or are they a homebody who values their privacy and wants to be left alone as much as possible?

The absolute crucial thing to remember is, for the period that they live there, it is the tenant’s home. And most people want, and need, to feel at home. It can be stressful living in a property where you feel like you are just visiting, or are made to feel uncomfortable in any way, and that in turn can affect peoples’ health and wellbeing. So putting yourself in the shoes of your tenant is a must.

Understanding abit about the tenants and their situation, and knowing what matters most to them personally, helps everyone to have a more enjoyable, relaxed and positive experience. 

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post written as part of HomeLet #RentalInsights campaign. 

Omlet Eglu Go: Rabbit Hutch and Run Review 

We have three rabbits; two are paired up and I will be writing more about their enclosure soon, but the third is a smaller breed who lives alone. Having chewed through the wood on his previous enclosure, it was time for a replacement!

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We wanted a home for him that provides freedom to be inside or out at all times, gives him plenty of space, and allows him to graze without fear of him digging out. (After all, this is the bun who was once found by a neighbour in the middle of the road after he dug a hole and escaped!) After some research, we decided that the Omlet might be a good fit for him, and they kindly agreed to let us review the Eglu Go hutch and 2 metre run.

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The Omlet took quite a while to assemble! The instructions were not as clear as they could be, but there is a YouTube video to watch, which makes it clearer. We made a couple of minor mistakes, which added to the time it took. Plus we had to take a section of the hutch apart because one of the pre-fitted internal nuts had come loose. It was easy enough to sort that out ourselves though without any major hassle. It was fully assembled and ready to use within 3 hours, so I guess that’s not too bad in the scheme of things.

Once put together though, it is low maintence, easy to clean and it is obvious that it is very durable. There are lots of little features that I really like, such as the hay rack and bottle attached to the door and slide out tray for easy cleaning. I also like the attached floor to ensure nothing can dig in or out.

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Patchy, our bunny, is given access to both the hutch and run at all times (personally I feel it would be far too small to ever shut him in the hutch alone) and he has free-range access to the garden under supervision sometimes too. He has plenty of space to hop, stretch and periscope!

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Omlet, Eglu Go, rabbit, pets, hutch and run, review, furbabies, furry family, bunny, enclosure

Squiggle and one of our cats also demonstrate how much space there is…

Omlet, Eglu Go, rabbit, pets, hutch and run, review, furbabies, furry family, bunny, enclosure

Omlet, Eglu Go, rabbit, pets, hutch and run, review, furbabies, furry family, bunny, enclosure

We have been using the OMLET Eglu Go hutch and run for over a month now and it has been thoroughly tested in that time. After just a few days of Patchy moving in, we discovered a fox trying hard to get into the Omlet. Given that my daughter had commented that she heard a banging sound quite a while beforehand, I suspect it had been trying for quite sometime. We even spotted muddy paw prints on the hutch roof!

We were relieved it withstood this assault without any sign of weakness, but we have made a few extra safety modifications since them to improve security further still. This includes a padlock on the run door, cable ties on the joints and a couple of bricks at the back. We also throw a blanket or two over the run at night as well.

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In Summary – Eglu Go hutch and 2m run

  • RRP £360
  • Pros: durable, easy to maintain, secure.
  • Cons: ease of assembly.

Aside from the difficulty with assembly, we really like the Omlet Eglu Go. I think it is a good investment that is best suited for smaller breeds of rabbit, ideally with regular access to the garden too. To purchase, visit the Omlet website. There are also various useful accessories, such as full length clear cover (£24.99) and extreme temperature liner (£34.99).

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Omlet also sell a range of other pet enclosures. See the website for their complete range of products and accessories.

*Disclosure: We received a free Omlet Eglu Go for the purpose of review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

**This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small amount if you purchase through my website. This does not cost you any extra.

Camping Guide: Get Organised With Halfords

We have been on many outdoor style holidays, staying at campsites or holiday parks. We tend to be caravanners and often, but not always, opt for locations by the beach. We have had lots of precious moments from waking up to see rabbits hopping about outside our window, to exploring Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door for the first time last year, and discovering adventurous nature paths from our holiday site to the beach.

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Dorset

However, I reflect back on our very first holiday as parents – a caravan trip to the seaside – and we were so unorganised and unprepared! Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of special memories from the trip – Squiggle’s first touch of sand, putting her toes in the sea for the very first time, sleeping away from home with her for the first time ever. It was wonderful in so many ways.

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First paddle in the sea.

But the caravan was basic with no heating, so it was very much like camping in a tent. Plus it was out of season too, so not very warm- and as new parents we forgot so many camping essentials! We even had to dash out in the evening to get supplies; we were literally banging on the window of the nearest store just as they closed up, begging them to let us in for 2 mins to make a quick purchase – cue a supermarket sweep style grab for blankets and extra thick sleeping bag! Oops!!!

Halfords have created a useful Guide To Camping with lots of helpful essential packing tips, so luckily you don’t have to make the same Rookie mistakes as we did! There are also suggestions for campsites; from beach lovers to cycling and outdoor adventures, wild camping, and caravanning sites, plus other camping ideas too – there is even a playlist if you need some musical inspiration!

What are your top camping tips? I would love to read them! Leave me a comment.



*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Halfords.

Innovations in Blogging – What Does The Future Hold?

When I started blogging, I did it simply because I enjoyed writing; I believed that it would never be anything more than a hobby. Not least of all because I honestly thought the only people who could ever make any money from it were the people who got in there quick, when the whole blogging thing first took off. I realise now that is true of some things but I seriously don’t know why I thought that about blogging in particular! 

Fast forward to now and I still blog for the love of it… but now I also get a reasonable part- time income from it too. It is hard work, and there is so much more to it than I could possibly imagine before I got into it. But then again, when you do something you love, it doesn’t really feel like a job as such. And in some ways it has been easier, or at least more achievable, to monetise than I originally thought. I guess the saying is true that it often seems impossible until it is done. So I don’t foresee the popularity of blogging dwindling, if anything I think it will continue to grow.

I firmly believe that blogging can kind of be compared to books; in the sense that although the format might change (e.g. kindle books instead of hard copies), people continue to love to read books in one form or another – regardless of how popular TV, film and internet is. Regardless of other media, the love of books still remains strong. 

So in future, I think blogging will still be popular, and YouTube and podcasts will continue to grow in popularity but not at the expense of written blogs. But I also think bloggers are versatile and flexible so will adapt to the latest trend, as an addition to the services they offer. I suspect platforms like wordpress will continue to be front- runners.

Blogging, I feel, has also become more of a supportive community than it used to be. We all have our strengths, our own angles and our unique points; so to an extent there is room for us all. By working together, we lift each other up, and this makes us all stronger. I think in future our community will continue to grow and thrive; with more collaborations, networking and team work within blogging. I think this will be the case both online and in real life via conferences, events and meet ups. I suspect we will also see an expansion on the number of PR agencies, and an increase in websites who connect bloggers to brands. 

In summary, I would like to think that blogging will remain a viable way to earn an income and the community will continue to grow. At least, I hope so! 

Disclosure: This post is written as part of a study by innovationcompany.co.uk on what bloggers see as the future of blogging. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Choosing A Family Car: Important Considerations

Whilst we spend alot of our time out and about on foot, we do still rely on our family car to provide us with more freedom and flexibility. At present however, ‘our’ family car is actually just a company car, which we may not even have access to in the future, so we have been discussing and researching into the possibility of getting a new car.

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Personally, finding an eco-friendly car is one of my first considerations. Ideally I would love an electric car if at all possible, but in reality other factors might prohibit this. However, this is certainly an important part of our research. Auto Express lists their top 10 green cars of 2017, which includes a combination of electric, hybrid and traditional cars. Top of the list is BMWi3 followed by the Toyota Prius. However, I was also surprised and impressed though with how many electric cars are available now.

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Of course though, the absolute top priority is safety. Accident Advice Helpline have created an interactive guide to some of the safest cars of 2016 – 2017.  It shows safety percentages for drivers, passengers and pedestrians so gives a clear picture of different aspects of safety. You can also filter based on the type of car you are searching for.

Again, the Toyota Prius appears high up on the list here too, so this car would be a great all rounder if environment and safety were the only two factors we needed to consider. But, of course, budget also plays a part in the decision too though!

However, these guides highlighting key information are really useful. Then it is just up to us to weigh up all the factors and decide on balance which car is best, within our budget. Regardless of outcome though, I feel much better knowing that I have researched properly!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. 

Bakerdays Letterbox Cake: Review and Giveaway

To help celebrate Squiggle’s 9th birthday recently, Bakerdays kindly sent us a letterbox cake. We were lucky enough to review one of these yummy cakes previously too, which you can read about here

Since then though, there have been lots of developments over at Bakerdays! Their website has had a facelift; now even more user- friendly and is looking great, with new designs and more products being added. 

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Mobile version (android)

The cake arrived well packaged and in perfect condition, same as last time. There isn’t excess packaging or too much plastic either, which I am happy about. There were also thoughtful finishing touches in the box, such as the party blower, some balloons and a little card. I also like the card that says who packed it too.

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I chose this rabbit design after specifically searching the website for the word ‘bunny’ because Squiggle had a pet theme this year for her birthday. I then personalised the writing. Last time I ordered dairy free but I decided to order the regular vanilla sponge on this occasion, just to compare. (Generally we opt to eat as close to vegan as possible but aren’t strict about it!)

Squiggle was really excited that a cake arrived through the letterbox for her! She was very pleased with the design too…

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We took the cake outside for a garden picnic and Squiggle had the honour of cutting her cake…

Squiggle also got to have first taste too as the birthday girl…

Her verdict was “Mmmm… it is YUMMY!”

I enjoyed it too, it was tasty and good quality. I do recall the dairy free one we had previously tasted more buttery (in a good way!) than this one, and it seemed to lack a filling, but it was yummy nonetheless!

The letterbox cake is plenty big enough for 3 people to have a very generous sized slice or two, and stays fresh for a reasonable amount of time too. It definitely makes a lovely novelty gift or surprise for someone!

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Bakerdays are kindly giving away a letterbox cake to one lucky reader! Enter via the rafflecopter below.
Open to UK residents only. Competition closes 14th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: Bakerdays sent us the letterbox cake for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Switching Energy Providers To Save Money

Roughly this time last year, we switched our energy provider to a clean energy company in a bid to make our lives greener. We chose to switch from British Gas to Good Energy via 38 Degrees Big Switch. We found it incredibly easy to do this, it seriously took no effort at all, and we saved alot of money this year in doing so.

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Unfortunately, the fixed tariff has now ended and the one we are automatically transferred to is a much higher rate, so it is time to switch again! We were kept well informed of this though; 38 Degrees were very good at sending out emails to ensure customers were aware, and to offer a new deal with a different company (Bristol Energy). 

If you don’t review your energy provider regularly to ensure you are getting the best deal, for example at the end of a fixed rate period, I really recommend you do so. The amount you can save is significant! There are lots of energy companies to choose from (including several clean energy providers) so it is worth taking the time to shop around and compare the various deals on offer.

There are also various companies who are using people power too, by joining consumers together to get a better collective deal, much like the one we did. These really take the time and hassle out of it all, whilst getting great savings. Google to check the latest one, as they are usually limited numbers and set deadlines.

The other thing to consider is thinking ahead in order to save money. I would imagine that you are more likely to find deals on installation, or home heating oil if you use it, now during the summer months than later in the year for example. So a little bit of planning now could help make savings in winter.


*This is a collaborative post.

CakeToppers – Personalised Cakes: Review and Giveaway

I think Caketoppers read my mind; just when I was busy organising Squiggle’s party and thinking about her birthday cake, they dropped me an email asking if I would like to review their personalised photo cupcakes. Since it’s her birthday, they kindly agreed to send me cake toppers for her birthday party cake as well as two cupcakes to sample too, which I really appreciate!

Caketoppers is based in Farnham, Surrey and offers a selection of personalised photo cupcakes, celebration cakes and toppers. You can use photos, logos or even drawings to personalise your choice of cake, so it makes it really unique. I chose my Living Life Our Way logo for the cupcakes. For the birthday cake toppers, I designed a picture on a photo app using some of Squiggle’s own drawings.

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The cupcakes and toppers arrived promptly and were well packaged. I don’t like to create so much waste with plastic packaging personally, but it certainly meant that everything arrived very fresh and in perfect condition.

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So firstly, the cupcakes. They are absolutely delicious! I literally dreamt about these cakes (yeah, yeah, I know). They were really moist and fluffy; they honestly tasted like they had just that second been made (by someone with far superior baking skills that my own!) Gorgeous. I would tell you what the rest of the family thought of them, but they wouldn’t know… they were way too good to share! I sampled one vanilla sponge and one chocolate; both were to the same yummy standard. I personally liked the vanilla sponge best but that is just my personal preference – both really were delicious!

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The cupcake samples, like my example above, can be purchased for £5 including delivery. A set of 6 cupcakes are £12.99 plus postage. There are also various other options, so check out the website for details.

As for the cake toppers, Squiggle loved the fact that her party cake was so unique and personal, decorated with her very own drawings. It meant so much to her! The cake toppers are easy to use; they came with detailed instructions but basically you just peel the back off then use icing to stick them on. They are ideal if you plan on baking a homemade cake but want a special finishing touch to decorate it with. Cake toppers cost from £7.45 for a round, square or rectangle edible photo topper.

I ended up buying a supermarket ‘decorate your own’ celebration cake for the topper, which was a tiny bit too small so doesn’t really do the topper justice. However, that is entirely my own fault and not a reflection of Caketoppers whatsoever! Squiggle didn’t notice at all though – as I said, she was delighted with her special cake! We all were infact, love it.

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Caketoppers do also sell the right size cakes to match the cake toppers so you can decorate it yourself, if you fancy a semi DIY job. A round or medium square undecorated cake is £20 and large square (10 inch) is £26. (Plus delivery charges). I’ll admit I would have much rather ordered her party cake from them too, especially after tasting those amazing cupcakes, but this didn’t quite manage to happen – despite the fact that they do also have a super speedy next day delivery option. Mummy fail. Oops! (Long story that I won’t bore you with but absolutely nothing to do with the company!)

Alternatively, you can purchase photo cakes with your own design printed on them, so the same concept as the cupcakes, only bigger. This is an easy, convenient option; and is the one that I am more than likely to opt for next time! These cost from £32.50 plus P&P for a medium 8 inch cake.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Caketoppers, we are really impressed with them. It is a shame that the same can’t be said of my cake- making or organising skills! 😉

Last but certainly not least, Caketoppers have kindly offered up for grabs a set of 6 yummy cupcakes, with the design of the winner’s choice. So enter my giveaway below for a chance to try these for yourself!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to UK residents only. Ends 7th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply. 

*Disclosure: I was sent the cupcakes and toppers free for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Is Your Garden Dog Friendly?

As you all know, we love being outdoors, including spending lots of time in our garden. We enjoy growing a good selection of plants, flowers and food each year. However, we also have various pets so need to be aware of what we are growing that they might try to eat! 

If you are a dog owner you might find this infographic by Rattan Direct useful. There were a few that I wasn’t aware of to be honest. It particularly caught my attention that daisies, which are of course such a common garden flower, can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Hopefully most dog owners are already very aware of these poisonous plants, especially the deadly ones, but it is handy to have a visual reminder and this information could certainly be very helpful to new owners.

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www.rattandirect.co.uk

Both my brother and my dad have pet dogs, and we had a beautiful King Charles Spaniel called Cindy when I was growing up. I remember she would eat absolutely anything she could get her paws on! I think my dad’s dogs that he has now are pretty well trained in comparison, although they do seem to enjoy picking up the odd bit of litter off the street, and they chase all the leaves blowing around in autumn! But as far as I know, hopefully, they aren’t partial to munching on plants and flowers – especially not any on this list!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Squiggle is a big fan of dogs, so she loves spending time with them. She did actually ask again recently if we could own a dog, more specifically a Dalmation. I honestly would love to, but unfortunately a dog is not an option for us at the moment. One day maybe though!

Anyway, I’ll leave you with these adorable photos of Squiggle with our family’s furbabies…

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What pets do you have? Tell me in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.


Perfect Glasses: Review 

It had never occured to me to shop online for any type of glasses before, so when perfectglasses.co.uk got in touch with me, I was quite intrigued and keen to give it a go! As I don’t need to wear prescription eye glasses personally, and summer is (hopefully!) on its way, I opted to review a pair of sunglasses for myself.

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They offer an excellent selection, including various designer brands, and have options across a range of prices. (Prescription glasses start at just £9!) The sunglasses can be ordered as non-prescription but are also available as prescription sunglasses too. I decided to have a little nosey at how this would work and it looked really straightforward; you simply enter the specifics of your prescription and they take care of it… so easy!

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The website sells lots of different styles. If, like me, you aren’t sure what shape will suit your face, there is a handy feature where you can take a selfie then look in the virtual mirror to see what they would look like. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this made it to decide, without needing to actually try them on. There are also clear accurate measurements in the descriptions, which is helpful to note when making your choice. As with any sunglasses, some styles/ brands are smaller than others, so this information is useful to help pick a pair suited to you.

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The website itself is easy to navigate. There are different categories, and the results can then be filtered based on materials, size, colour, type and shape, and can be sorted by price. In my opinion, I think there seems to be a bigger range than you would find in most stores. I am sure there is something to suit everyone!

I specifically wanted a metal frame as I personally prefer this over plastic, so I searched under this filter. (I probably would have opted for a wooden pair if that had been an option!) I had alot of fun ‘trying on’ the different styles and looking through all the various options. I found it far more enjoyable than going into a shop to buy some! Once the frame has been selected, there are various options depending on the type of lenses needed.

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The service was excellent and delivery very quick. The glasses came via a carbon neutral courier and were well packaged with enough packaging that they were secure and arrived undamaged, but without unnecessary packaging (which is a good thing of course!) 

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The sunglasses are exactly how I expected them to be, the virtual mirror and accurate description meant there were no surprises there. They are good quality; they feel nice and sturdy. They are also really comfortable. Ordering the glasses online was convenient and easy – I’d definitely be happy to order from the website again. 

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*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.