The Blakeney Cottage Company is a small family business specialising in luxury properties in North Norfolk with the emphasis on offering a bespoke, personal service to both owners and guests alike.Owning a holiday property in Blakeney ourselves, we are especially aware of owners concerns when considering offering their cottage for holiday letting.  This has enabled us to structure our business to ensure that the best possible care will be taken of your home in all situations.The majority of our property owners come to us via personal recommendation which is, for us, the most gratifying route.  It means that we are doing a good job and our management skills are competent and well appreciated.

We have tried in these pages to answer many ‘frequently asked questions’ from owners who are considering offering their property for holiday letting.  If you have any other questions, or to discuss any aspect of letting out your property please call us on 01263 741777, or alternatively pop into our office on The Quay in Blakeney for a cup of tea and a chat.

Our service levels

In order to offer as much choice as possible to our owners we have two set service levels and can be flexible on the specifics of these…

Full management:

Our full management service runs on a 22% plus VAT commission and includes:

  • All advertising, key holding, bookings and guest liaison.
  • All aspects of our website including photography, uploads and text. Because we have full charge of our website from our office we can upload, edit or update any information/photos on it in minutes.
  • Organising cleaning.* to keep standards at the highest possible level of cleanliness we ensure that all of our properties are double checked by our housekeeping team before guest arrival for every single booking. See attached price list
  • Organising linen and towels.* we provide all bed linen as well as hand and bath towels, bath mats, t-towels and oven gloves… all of the linen and hand/bath towels we provide are high quality 100% cotton. See attached price list
  • Organising gardening.*
  • Organising basic maintenance.*
  • Organising any major works that may need to be done.**
  • Management of sundries (for every turnaround we provide; toilet roll, kitchen roll, jay cloth scouring sponge and toiletries – we also keep an eye on levels of washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, kitchen/bathroom cleaner etc.. and make sure these are topped/replaced up when necessary).*
  •  Guest welcome pack and 45 page ‘in cottage’ Information Pack for guests.
  • No charge for our personnel on initial after hour call outs.
  • No charge for property checks. If a house is free for more than a couple of weeks, or we know there is a particularly cold period coming we will check the property and put heating on at a low level to ensure pipes don’t freeze etc.
  • No limits or hidden charges for owners personal bookings or cleaning.

Partial Management:

Our partial management service runs on a 17% plus VAT commission and includes:

  • All advertising, key holding, booking and guest liaison.
  • All aspects of our website including photography, uploads and text.
  • No limits or charges for owners personal bookings or cleaning.

The option to ‘upgrade’ to our full management service for a few weeks a year should you want to go on holiday, or are just need a bit of a break!

This service is aimed for people who live locally or have reliable local contacts and have the time to keep the property up to the high standard our guests have come to expect.

We are always willing to help our owners in any way should a tricky situation arise whether they are using the full or partial management service!

Frequently asked questions

Will Guests look after our home?

We have found that many owners considering letting their properties for the first time are worried about visitors damaging property or not respecting their own particular high standards.  Of course this is a totally natural and realistic concern but we find that the vast majority of guests are thrilled to stay in the outstanding properties that we offer and treat these with the greatest of respect.  Our careful booking procedure and stringent booking conditions (attached) ensure that guests are very aware of the exacting standards required by both our owners and the Blakeney Cottage Co.  Many of our guests return time and time again to their favourite Norfolk retreats!

Are there restrictions on our personal use of the property?

None at all…  We firmly believe that, first and foremost, it is your property and you should be free to use it as much or as little as you wish. There is no charge for any aspect of  using your own property be it booking or arranging cleaning/linen…  all we ask is that you let us know when you will be using the cottage and respect any bookings we have taken.

Is there a legal agreement?

Our agreement is informal and not an onerous legal document.  We believe that if you are unhappy with the service we are giving you, you should be free to change to another company at any time.  All you will be asked is to sign agreeing that you will honour any forward bookings that we have taken, that certain things like proper insurance are in place and you will not put your cottage with another letting company, or take bookings yourself, while we are still acting for you.  A copy of this agreement is attached.

Will my House Insurance cover holiday letting?

Probably not but it normally doesn’t cost too much extra to incorporate this. You will need to check with your insurers. Alternatively we recommend using Smith & Pinching 0800 585703… if you take a policy with them they will offer a 20% discount if your property is on the books of The Blakeney Cottage Company. We also require that you have at least £2,000,000 public liability within your insurance in case guests or cleaners have an accident whilst at your cottage – this is included in the Smith & Pinching policy.

Bookings and Turnarounds

Once we have talked with prospective clients and agreed a date with them, we ask them to fill out a comprehensive booking form (attached) which gives details of all of the people staying in the property and to sign confirming they agree with our booking conditions (attached). We put a complementary ‘welcome gift’ in the property which comprises seasonal flowers, a bottle of wine and chocolates.  If the guests wish, we can provide groceries, organise services such as baby sitting and for celebrations organise champagne, restaurant bookings etc.  When the guests leave we send our team cleaners in to make sure that the property is in tip top condition and to change all bed linen and towels, the dirty ones being sent to the laundry for cleaning.  The Blakeney Cottage Company has always maintained the highest standard of presentation and cleanliness and all of our properties are double checked by our housekeeping team before guest arrival for every single booking.

Promotion & Advertising

The majority of our advertising budget goes towards our website but we also have an organised advertising program that is regularly reviewed. Gratifyingly a large amount of our enquiries come from returning clients.  We keep the Blakeney Cottage Company website (currently receiving around 800 hits per day) regularly updated with beautiful photographs and write-ups on all of the properties and we also advertise in superior publications such as ‘Country Living’ to enhance our specialist top quality image, seeking editorials wherever possible.

Will it be financially rewarding?

Most owners choose to let their property to help with purchase or running costs.  It is always nice visiting your cottage when you know it is paying its way!  In our experience, quality properties command a premium price and yes, letting your property will help greatly in giving you a good return on your investment.  We will be delighted to visit your cottage with no obligation on your behalf and give an assessment on its letting potential and our opinions on the rates achievable.

When do I get paid?

Owners accounts are paid during the second week of the month following the letting and all guest monies are kept safe in a Clients Account. A statement of income and costs are submitted each month with our payment.

Maintenance and Garden Services.

Our full management level offers a maintenance and gardening service to the owners of the cottages let by us.  This can include anything from fixing a dripping tap to installing a new bathroom, minor building work and repairs, decorating, gardening and cutting lawns etc….  the list is endless.  Where this can be done by our personnel we charge an hourly rate.  Alternatively if you prefer a fixed price for say cutting the lawn, we can arrange this too!  Where we need to get contractors in we charge a small admin fee which covers our co-ordinating of the work done.

If you are interested in our partial management service but would still be interested in us organising your gardening this can be arranged.

Expected standard of accommodation

Because we specialise in ‘luxury’ properties in North Norfolk our guests do expect a certain standard of accommodation. Here we have laid out a brief description of what is expected and what you should include in your property to maximise letting potential.

Kitchens/utility rooms

All kitchens should be clean, up to date and well equipped containing a good quality modern oven and hob, a modern microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge and freezer (in smaller properties a freezer box is acceptable) and a good sized dustbin (preferably one landfill and one recycling). In all but the smallest properties a washing machine and dishwasher must be in place, tumble dryers are sought-after. All properties need a vacuum cleaner and a good supply of bags (if applicable) an ironing board and iron are essential. If there is a washing machine but no tumble dryer there must be a clothes horse.

There should be at least double the amount of microwave proof crockery and cutlery per person than the full occupancy of the house and a minimum of six in a one bedroom property… this includes coffee/tea cups and glasses (wine, tumbler and pint), plates and bowls. Kitchens must be equipped with a good quality set of cooks knives, a large range of cooking utensils, a cafetiere, and a good selection of pots and pans. There should also be sufficient ‘extra’ storage space in the kitchen for guests own supplies.

Kitchens should be well ventilated and include a fire extinguisher and fire blanket.

Living/Dining rooms

There must be at least enough soft furnishings in the living room to seat the full occupancy of the property… the same applies for seats around the dining table which should be of a sufficient size. A colour T.V. is essential preferably an up to date LCD, LED or plasma T.V. The size of the T.V. should be adequate for the size of room/full occupancy of the house. T.V’s should preferably have FreeSat, Freeview or Sky and must be connected to a working DVD player.

All properties must have some form of good quality sound system, preferably an IPod dock, C.D. player and radio. There should also be a good supply of books, board games and DVD’s for guests use. The use of free WIFI is also very desirable to guests.

If there is a wood burner or open fire in the property the correct fire utensils should be available for it as well a sufficient fuel container and instruction for use if necessary.

Bedrooms

Bedrooms must have enough storage to comfortably contain the clothes/items of the room’s full occupancy. All bedrooms must have somewhere to store both folded clothes (drawers/shelves) and hung clothes (wardrobe). There should be a mirror in every bedroom and one hairdryer per bedroom. At least one full length mirror per house is desirable. There must be an adequate supply of hangers (wooden or fabric… not wire) at the property.

All beds must be of a high quality in good condition, the same applies to mattresses. Two mattress protectors per bed must be provided by owners and should be labelled with the owners/properties name. Where possible there should be bedside tables with side lights.

Bathrooms/Cloakrooms

All bathrooms and cloakrooms must be up to date, clean and the fixtures and fitting must be of a high quality and in a good working order. There must be a mirror above all basins with good lighting and good ventilation or an extractor fan. There should be adequate storage space for guest’s belongings. A towel rail (preferably heated) must be available and all bathrooms/cloakrooms must be lockable from the inside.

Externally

The exterior of all properties must be kept well maintained at all times. All grouting and guttering should be checked annually to help prevent the occurrence of damp. The paintwork should be regularly checked and kept in good condition.

The garden should be generally well maintained and regularly checked for weeds, dead leaves, overgrown hedges/shrubs etc. Any large trees must be deemed safe and free from ‘deadwood’.

Where there is room there should be an external table and enough chairs for the full occupancy of the house. A BBQ must be provided.

General decor

The decor of properties should be kept up to date in order to keep the property fresh and guarantee high occupancy rates. We recommend touching up the internal paint work of your property annually to keep it looking its best. Spring cleans should be carried out at least twice a year and carpets/soft furnishings should be cleaned at least annually. The check list (see next page) should be regularly checked and kept up to date.

Check list

In order to make sure that all of our guests needs are catered for during their stay we have come up with this check list (compiled over many years!) of items that guests expect.  All of the items listed below should be in your property unless specified as ‘preferred’.

Kitchens/utility rooms

  • Oven and Hob (good quality, modern, clean)
  • Fridge and Freezer (freezer box acceptable in smaller properties)
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Kettle
  • Wine glasses, pint glasses and tumblers (at least double the full occupancy of the house)
  • Knives, forks and spoons (at least double the full occupancy of the house)
  • Plates, side plates and bowls (at least double the full occupancy of the house)
  • Egg cups
  • Serving bowls (oven/microwave proof)
  • Salad/mixing bowls
  • Water jug
  • Measuring jugs
  • Serving utensils
    • Wooden and metal spoons
    • Potato masher
    • Potato peeler
    • Spatulas
    • Whisk
    • Grater
  • Set of quality sharp cooks knives inc. bread knife
  • Knife sharpener
  • Casserole dishes
  • Roasting pans/trays
  • Good selection of sauce pans and frying pans
  • Scissors
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Cafetiere
  • Serving trays
  • Chopping boards
  • Ice cube trays
  • Good sized dustbin
  • Fire extinguisher and blanket
  • Washing Machine and Tumble Dryer (preferred)
  • Mop and bucket
  • Dustpan and brush & broom
  • Good quality vacuum cleaner and bags
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Clothes horse (if applicable)
  • Cot, High chair and Stair gate (preferred)

Other rooms

  • Good sized modern T.V. with DVD (FreeSat, Freeview or Sky preferable)
  • Selection of books, board games and DVDs
  • A Stereo with C.D and ability to attach IPod
  • Fire utensils and fuel container (if applicable)
  • Selection of hangers (wooden or fabric)
  • Free WIFI (preferred)

Outside

  • Good quality garden furniture (not plastic and enough seats for full occupancy of house)
  • BBQ (gas or charcoal)
  • Cooking utensils for BBQ
  • Wire brush for cleaning BBQ

This is a basic list of things that we have found guests expect when paying for luxury accommodation. Any additions to this list are welcomed and will be appreciated by our guests.

Some notes on tax

Any furnished holiday let is subject to numerous taxation points. These seem to be changing regularly at the moment but the basics are laid out below…

Basic Rules

For a furnished holiday property to be treated as a business it must be:

  • Available for rental for a minimum of 140 days per annum.
  • Let out for at least 70 days per annum.
  • Not let to the same individual/party for more than 155 days per annum
  • Not be let out to the same individual/party for more than 31 consecutive days.

Tax advantages of furnished holiday lettings

There may be a tax advantage if your property qualifies as a furnished holiday letting and either of the following applies:

  • You make a loss on your rental income.
  • You sell or ‘otherwise dispose’ of the property.

Working out your taxable profit

Your profit on furnished holiday lettings is worked out in the same way as for other rental income except that you claim ‘capital allowances’ rather than the ‘wear and tear’ allowance.

Examples of expenses that qualify for capital allowances include the cost of furnishings and furniture, and equipment such as refrigerators and washing machines.

Allowable expenses

The expenses you can deduct from your letting ‘business’ income include:

  • Letting agent’s fees.
  • Accountant’s fees.
  • Buildings and contents insurance.
  • Interest on property loans.
  • Maintenance and repairs to the property (not improvements).
  • Utility bills (gas, water, electricity).
  • Council Tax.
  • Services you pay for (cleaning, gardening etc).
  • Other direct costs of letting the property; phone calls etc.

Bear in mind that you can only claim expenses that are solely for running your property letting ‘business’. If the expense is only partly for running your business (or if you use the property yourself) then you may only be able to claim part of it.

Capital Gains Tax

Providing certain conditions are met, the commercial letting of furnished holiday accommodation is treated as a trade. This means that certain Capital Gains Tax reliefs (that are normally associated with business assets) can be claimed, for example:

  •  Business Asset Roll-Over Relief
  • Gifts Hold-Over Relief
  • Entrepreneurs’ Relief

Ask your accountant or check with HMRC for the current Capital Gains Tax rates on furnished holiday lets.

All of the above notes on Tax are intended as a general guide and due to constantly changing rules for Tax on furnished holiday lets should not be taken as ‘written in stone’!  We would always recommend talking to your accountant or HMRC about how tax will affect you in your specific circumstances.

Legal and compliance

The safety of guests is of paramount importance and steps should be taken to ensure that the appropriate checks and certificates have been completed.

All of the beneath must be carried out prior to guest occupation.

  • Fire Risk Assessment – This assessment is designed to reduce the risk of fire at the property, to protect guests in the property and to minimise damage to the property and adjacent properties in the event of a fire. The assessment makes a series of recommendations with the onus on the owner of the property to address.
  • An annual PAT test by a qualified electrician will check electrical appliances in the property.
  • An annual gas safety certificate completed by a CORGI qualified professional.
  • An annual service must be carried out on all oil appliances (boilers, AGAs etc.).
  • As of June 2011 all furnished holiday lets must, by law, have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). EPCs were introduced as a way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of buildings which are rented out or being sold. There are many registered Energy Assessors who can produce the certificate who can be found on the Landmark website – www.epcregister.com which is run on behalf of the Government.

Our terms and conditions for guests is an important agreement which must be agreed to by guests before access is granted. This document sets out the conditions upon which a guest can use the property and includes conditions relating to the party size and make-up, damage to the property by a guest, good behaviour during a stay, liabilities and tenant rights etc.