5 Home Décor Tips to Brighten Your Mood

April is National Stress Awareness Month in the UK, making it a great time to evaluate how to relieve stress in your life. It’s stressful being a tenant, especially during a pandemic where financial concerns may arise and a lot of us are working at home.

A survey by Aetna International in September 2020 showed that 32% of the surveyed employees were concerned about stress levels while working from home, and 76% of 18-24year-old workers were struggling to deal with the blurring of work and home life due to the pandemic.

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to de-stressing our lives and homes, so we’re sharing our five renting and budget-friendly top tips for home décor to help brighten your mood.

1. Natural Lighting to Brighten the Room

Daily encounters with natural lighting can provide several health benefits, including: a boost in vitamin D, lifting low moods, improving sleep, and a reduction in the health risks of excessive fluorescent lighting exposure. Open up curtains and blinds as soon as you wake up to ensure as much natural light as possible is reaching the inside of your home.

Exposure to light (natural and artificial) helps us feel more awake and alert. At night, use blackout blinds/curtains to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health, so it’s important to get a good night’s rest.

2. Place Indoor Plants and Fresh Flowers

Houseplants and fresh flowers add natural, aesthetically pleasing decoration to the home. Studies show that indoor flowers and foliage can improve your mood, lower stress/anxiety, and help you focus, as well as ease headaches and respiratory ailments due to the improved air quality.

Bringing nature inside is a great way to brighten up your space and, in turn, your mood.

3. Incorporate Relaxing Décor into Your Bedroom

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for relaxation and rest, especially when trying to relieve stress. While you may not be allowed to paint the walls or drill holes in the wall for picture frames, there are many creative ways to create an aura of relaxation in your bedroom.

‘Cosy up’ with soft blankets draped on the bed or armchair, light candles or reed diffusers, and – as previously mentioned – block out the light from lamp posts outside when it’s time to get to sleep. Experiment with décor and see what works well for you.

Adding pops of colour with accent cushions, vases, and other colourful décor pieces can help lift your mood and turn your bedroom into a stress-free zone, ready for getting good-quality rest.

4. Storage and Organisation

The phrase “tidy home, tidy mind” is popular for good reason. Clutter can lead to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Organising your home with simple, renting-friendly storage solutions is a great way to de-clutter and thus de-stress.

A messy home will lead to increased stress levels for the whole household, whereas in an organised home everything is in its place. You may not be able to put up shelves or nail a bookcase to the wall, but whether it’s a short bookcase or a large chest of drawers, there are many ways to add storage to your home while remaining within renting guidelines. Furthermore, keep visible surfaces free of too much clutter – a good rule of thumb is to limit the decoration of bookshelves and open surfaces to half-full.

5. Keep Your Space Clean

Now you’ve tidied away the mess and organised your cupboards, it’s time for a deep clean. Mundane activities such as regular household cleaning can help you wind down and relieve stress, with the added benefit of a sparkling-clean home afterwards.

Those with long, stressful work shifts, physical disabilities, and/or mental health conditions may find it difficult to do a full-home deep clean all at once. Take everything at your own pace and start with smaller, simpler cleaning tasks. This will still contribute to a clean home while preserving your energy, time, and mental health.

For ideas on how to decorate your rented accommodation to feel like home, even when you can’t put down permanent roots, click here.

A Guide to Keeping Affordable Housing Residents Happy

Developments under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act (also known as S106) provide affordable housing and infrastructure to the local community, in agreement with the local council. Affordable social housing is mutually beneficial to both the developers/investors and the local community and council.

As a developer or investor, you can retain ownership of your S106 properties by working with a Registered Provider to negotiate and manage the property on your behalf.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government updated the Charter for Social Housing Residents social housing white paper to detail how the government will help keep social housing residents happy. This includes ensuring they “are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong.”

What can developers and investors do to make sure their social housing residents are happy?

1. Provide a safe, secure, and good-quality home

Properties should be built with the safety and security of the residents at the forefront. This includes fire safety and prevention methods (with tighter requirements following the Grenfell Tower tragedy), working door locks and well-sealed walls and windows, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and more.

Working to and beyond the Government requirements and regulations will ensure the physical safety of your social housing residents, as well as ease any safety anxiety or concerns that could arise.

As the property owner, you’re responsible for dealing with repairs, maintenance, and other recurring services that contribute to the safety and wellbeing of the residents. Whether you arrange this directly or through an agency, the onus is on you.

Have you added affordable homes to your property investment portfolio and are dealing with the new responsibilities that come with being a landlord? Read our blog post for tips on becoming a first-time landlord to help you through this difficult yet exciting time.

2. Keep in contact with the tenants/tenancy management provider

Your residents should be able to have communication with their landlord, either directly or through an agency. As the owner of the property, it is up to you how you wish to proceed with tenancy management – will you manage them directly, or through an external service? Whichever you choose, make sure that you’re as transparent and helpful to your tenants as possible.

You’ll be held accountable for where your money is going, whether repairs and maintenance are getting carried out (and in a timely fashion), and how well you uphold safety standards.

3. Act with kindness, empathy, and respect

Tenant complaints and problems can be frustrating, but it’s important to deal with issues with empathy and respect towards your tenants.

There are Government schemes in place to assist tenants with complaints and problems with their landlords. However, it’s a good idea to minimise the need for these assistive services by dealing with problems promptly and fairly, and treating your social housing residents with empathy, kindness, and respect. Give your residents a voice and listen to their needs and concerns; having a good relationship with your tenants will make your life easier and improve the overall happiness of your residents.

If you’re struggling with managing your affordable housing or you’re selling properties at a loss, there is a better option: Orchard & Shipman’s Affordable Homes Management Service. Retain ownership of your S106 properties, gain greater control over developments, and receive quality estate management.

Tips for First-Time Landlords

There are numerous responsibilities that come along with becoming a landlord. For first-time landlords, it can be daunting figuring out where to start, how to succeed, and the best practices of the market.

If you’re a first-time landlord, read our guide to help you navigate landlord duties and excel in your new venture.

Legal and Financial Obligations

It is imperative that you are familiar with your legal and financial obligations when becoming a landlord. Property and tenant management can be complicated, so make sure to consider the following areas:

  • Legal fees (one-off, recurring, and potential),
  • Licenses,
  • Deposit protection schemes,
  • An Energy Performance Certificates for every property,
  • Your obligations as a landlord to your tenants and property.

Preparing a Property for Rental

Following on from your obligations as a landlord, it is your responsibility to make sure that your property is suitable and safe to be inhabited. It is also wise to consider your target demographic of tenants (for example, whether you primarily would like long-term lets, short-term, or student lets) and configure your property to reflect this.

Make sure that you’re taking into consideration:

  • Safety checks of electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, the structure of the building, and any other areas which could cause hazards to the building’s occupants,
  • Conducting routine inspections, usually quarterly but also ad-hoc,
  • Whether you’ll be offering the property furnished or unfurnished,
  • How you will source suitable tenants for your property, whether you do this yourself or using an external service.

Ongoing Tenant and Property Management

As a first-time landlord, you may not necessarily yet know all of the ins and outs of tenancy and property management.

  • Will you be managing the tenancy yourself, or outsourcing this service?
  • Who do the tenants need to contact in case of maintenance/repairs/emergency?
  • Remember you need to give at least 24 hours’ written notice of inspections to tenants, otherwise it is trespassing and illegal to enter the property.

It is vital to be aware of the negatives of owning rental property. You may find yourself out of pocket if a tenant is in rent arrears or between tenancy periods where you need to cover the lack of income.

With the Guaranteed Rental Scheme, Orchard & Shipman can guarantee landlords fixed rental income. Our dedicated team of skilled property managers can oversee the end-to-end lettings and management process, and you will receive your rent each month in advance. Benefits of using this service include no extra fees or set-up costs, ongoing tenancy management on your behalf, no costly void periods even when your property is unoccupied, and no risk of tenant arrears or legal eviction costs. Our guaranteed rental scheme can bring you peace of mind and financial stability, reducing the risks and challenges that you’ll face as a first-time landlord.

General Best Practices

In addition to the specific topics above, here are some general best practices you can adopt as a first-time landlord to ensure the best experience for you, your tenants, and your property.

  • Tenancy agreement documents are not a legal requirement, but they are extremely beneficial to both you as the landlord and to your tenant(s), so it is well worth drawing up this document either yourself or through a management agency,
  • Comprehensive insurance cover for your property – have peace of mind knowing that your money is safe,
  • Research well – understand the law, know your rights, and put a plan in action,
  • Stay organised,
  • Be smart with your money and minimise the financial risks associated with being a landlord by using services such as the Guaranteed Rental Scheme.

Asset Management Awareness Month – March 2021

March brings us Asset Management Awareness Month, highlighting the importance of good asset and property management practices for businesses and property owners. At Orchard & Shipman, we know the importance of managing your assets responsibly, smart planning for investments, and maximising efficiency in the property investment market.

Property management focuses on the logistical, daily responsibilities of property investment, whereas asset management is more dedicated to adding value to property investments. A combined approach – property asset management – is a comprehensive strategy to increase the value of your investments while also reducing overall costs and maintaining efficiency.

“What do I need to consider for my property asset management plan?”

The best property asset management plans are well-rounded, comprehensive, and target the main aspects of property investment. It’s important to have a clear, long-term strategy to improve efficiency and avoid trial and error mistakes. Key parts of a good plan will include:

  • Clearly defining your business goals/objectives with regard to investment – what do you want to achieve? How will you achieve your goals? What do you need to do to maximise your investment potential?
  • Financial requirements and limitations – do you have a strict budget? Are you allocating budget to cyclical and non-cyclical fees and costs? Will working with agencies save you money in the long-term?
  • Planning for the long-term – how will rent arrears affect you? How long can you afford a property to be vacant? How will you source suitable tenants?
  • Investment protection – make sure that your money is insured, giving you peace of mind that your money is safe and protected.

It’s also good to consider the diversity of your property portfolio; diverse real estate portfolios allow for larger income streams, involvement in multiple markets, and the suitability of properties for you/your company. While property investment can be rewarding, it can also come with large costs which could leave you out of pocket, including emergency repair costs, legal fees, and other unpredictable costs. Well-researched asset management accounts for ad-hoc fees and recurring high costs, and takes into consideration both the short and long-term challenges that may be faced. Furthermore, your investment portfolio should align with your business goals and objectives; it’s great to aim high but be realistic and strategic in your approach.

Good property asset management means strategising to maximise income stream, profits, and efficiency. If you own affordable homes but you’re managing/selling them at a loss, there is a better option: Orchard & Shipman’s Affordable Homes Management Service.

As a Registered Provider, Orchard & Shipman are authorised to manage social housing developed under Section 106 agreements made with local authorities. This means you can retain ownership of your affordable properties, which are a fundable and saleable asset, leading to an income stream that increases over time and builds long-term value.

Orchard & Shipman will assume full ownership risk for your affordable new homes, reducing the financial burden on you derived from tenants in rent arrears, void periods, maintenance, and cyclical repairs. The Affordable Homes Management service also includes tenancy management, estate management, and greater control over placemaking, offering a great all-around solution for property investors to achieve their investment goals.

Consider using the Affordable Homes Management Service as part of your property asset management plan.

How does the Guaranteed Rental Scheme work?

What is the Guaranteed Rental Scheme?

The Guaranteed Rental Scheme from Orchard & Shipman guarantees fixed rental income for landlords. Our local authority clients will nominate a suitable tenant to occupy your rental property, with a skilled team of property managers to oversee the entire lettings and management process.

How does the scheme work?

The service includes ongoing tenant care, void periods, repair and maintenance to ensure that your property is carefully and professionally managed.

There are several steps involved in the Guaranteed Rental Scheme:

1. Consultation and Valuation

Initially, Orchard & Shipman lettings experts will arrange a visit to your property for a thorough valuation and walkthrough of our service. This will provide you with all the information you’ll need to join the scheme.

2. Services Built to Suit You

You’re able to plan ahead and choose a service package to suit you, including fine-tuning the terms of the lease and rental payments to fit your rental and financial requirements. This will give you peace of mind with the knowledge that your service is specifically tailored to your needs as a landlord.

3. Property Inspection

Should there be any works required for the property to be eligible for the scheme, we will outline our necessary standards following a property inspection. We aim to be thorough, transparent, and professional throughout this whole process to provide you with the best possible service.

4. Legislation and Paperwork

You will need to provide all the required legal safety paperwork and certifications for your property, and agree to our terms of business; following this, we will set a start date for the tenancy that suits you.

5. Tenant Selection

Orchard & Shipman’s skilled property managers will secure a suitable tenant for your property from our local council partners, as well as arrange all the necessary move-in paperwork and administration. This removes the hassle from your busy work schedule and lets us handle the details.

6. Ongoing Tenancy Management

Your assigned property manager will manage the tenancy on an ongoing basis and act as your main point of contact throughout the term of your agreement with us. You will receive a high standard of professional management throughout your term with us.

7. Guaranteed Fixed, Regular Rental Income

You will receive your rental income regularly each month, with payment guaranteed whether or not a tenant occupies the property. Take the risk out of letting homes with our Guaranteed Rental Scheme and avoid costly void periods.

What are the benefits of the Guaranteed Rental Scheme?

There are several benefits of using the Guaranteed Rental Scheme, bringing you a fixed income and peace of mind.

No management fees or set-up costs

Ongoing management is included within the cost of the scheme agreement, with no hidden fees or initial set-up costs.

Guaranteed rent for up to 5 years

We offer flexible long-term leases of 3, 5, or 10 years, and can guarantee rental income for up to 5 years.

End-to-end support, advice, and property and tenancy management

Property and tenancy management such as viewing and tenancy agreements are all handled by us, freeing up your time and resources.

You will receive end-to-end support and advice for yourself as the landlord as well as for your tenants.

Dedicated maintenance and management services

Included within the scheme is professional, dedicated maintenance and management services to support your property and tenants.

Reduced risks

Even when your property is unoccupied, you won’t experience any costly void periods due to guaranteed fixed income. There is also no risk of tenant rent arrears or legal eviction costs, bringing you peace of mind and better financial stability.

Affordable Homes Management: There Is A Better Option!

Are you selling your affordable homes at a loss? There is a better option!

Planning obligations under Section 106 (S106) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 are often used to secure affordable housing and/or financial contributions to provide affordable housing or infrastructure. In most circumstances, developers sell their S106 properties at substantial discounts to Registered Providers (RP) of social housing.

Did you know that you can often retain ownership of your S106 properties, creating an excellent long-term managed investment? S106 properties are not legally required to be owned by an RP, only managed by an RP. This helps out developers and investors who are interested in retaining ownership of their S106 properties.

What is the affordable home service?

Orchard & Shipman is a long-established private and social sector housing manager with a UK-wide property management team and 30 years of portfolio management experience. As a Registered Provider, we are authorised to manage affordable housing, including S106 properties. Managing S106 properties through an RP allows developers/investors to retain ownership of their properties, leading to higher returns on investment and a broader, more successful residential property portfolio.

What are the benefits of using the affordable home service?

There are many benefits to investing in S106 property using affordable homes management services, such as…

Building a property portfolio

Get started with or expand your residential investment portfolio using the affordable home service to secure S106 property. Large-scale build-to-rent affordable property investments boost your portfolio and profit, as well as benefitting the local community (in accordance with Section 106) by providing rented housing. It is extra beneficial to provide housing in in-demand areas, particularly in student-populated towns if student renters are part of your target market.

Increasing your income stream

You’ll benefit from ownership of an appreciating, fundable, and saleable asset. Our affordable homes service can help you achieve a steady rental income, which increases over time as you make more money with the property value increases year-on-year. If/when the time comes to sell your property in the future, affordable housing offers a higher return on investment.

Development management and maintenance

Using affordable homes management, you’ll benefit from quality estate management and greater control of the developments’ public realm and placemaking. Orchard & Shipman will support you every step of the way, including helping with S106 negotiation, drawing on 30 years of property management experience. We offer a range of bespoke services to suit the needs of our clients from tenancy and property management, to assuming full ownership risks (such as rent arrears, voids, maintenance, and cyclical repairs).

Maintain peace of mind knowing that Orchard & Shipman is a long-established, ARLA-qualified Registered Provider of social housing, regulated by Government organisation Homes England. We know what we’re doing when it comes to all things property management and offering a bespoke service designed around your requirements as a developer/investor.

Control who is involved in property development

Stay in charge of your property and gain complete control over who is involved in the development, giving you peace of mind. Whenever you feel unsure, Orchard & Shipman is available with support and advice from locally-based property management specialists.

First Time Buyers & Stamp Duty

Stamp duty land tax relief for first-time buyer’s information and useful links to government websites provided below.

Important Dates

Since 22 November 2017, if you are purchasing a residential property that costs £500,000 or less, you may be entitled to stamp duty relief. If you purchased a property that completed before this date, unfortunately the first-time buyer relief does not apply to you.

Who qualifies for first-time buyer stamp duty relief?

The relief applies to purchases made in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. There are a number of conditions that you must meet in order to be eligible for the relief. There’s a full guide provided on the gov.uk website which you can access using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/stamp-duty-land-tax-relief-for-first-time-buyers-guidance-note

What relief will you get?

The amount of relief you will receive is based on the cost of the property you are purchasing. The first £300,000 of the purchase price will be exempt from stamp duty. This means, as a first-time buyer, you may not have to pay stamp duty at all. For any amount that exceeds £300,000, stamp duty will be charged at an amount of 5%. Unfortunately, if your transaction goes over £500,000, the relief won’t apply to you.

You can access a government calculator here: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro

How do you claim first-time buyer stamp duty relief?

As a rule of thumb it states that ‘Relief must be claimed either in a land transaction return or an amendment to that return’. We would recommend however that you read the guidance – specifically Chapter 7 for more information on this; which can be accessed via this link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/stamp-duty-land-tax-relief-for-first-time-buyers-guidance-note


How to make a space your own when you can’t put down permanent roots.

It’s important to know what the ground rules are when thinking about decorating your rented property. If you think that the space is in need of a fresh coat of paint, you should ALWAYS ask permission before you make any changes, as most landlords prefer neutral colours and may not want you to decorate their home yourself. There are ways that you can make the space your own without making any drastic changes – please see our tips below:


Investing in some signature or statement accessories such as lamps will provide your space with a bit of your personality. You could buy lamps that have interchangeable shades so you can ‘revamp’ your living space throughout your tenancy.


Accessorising your furniture with statement cushions, art work (you could even paint your own canvas). Be careful with hanging things on the walls as your agreement may prevent you doing so; you could try leaning paintings up against walls as an alternative which could give a more relaxed feel to the room. Other options could be easels or other stands that you could use to perch your paintings on!

Also changing your bed linens can completely change the feel of your room; this is probably one of the easiest ways to brighten up a neutral room.


If you aren’t keen on the flooring in your rented property then rugs are your best friend, they are great ways to add colour to a very neutral room. Or to make wooden or laminated floors a bit more cozy,


Dressing your windows with curtains can make a big difference to the room; you’ll be able to take these with you if you move as well; just remember to keep your landlords curtains in a safe place for when you’re ready to move out.


Quite often you may not have access to a garden when you are renting; especially if you are renting a flat. If this is the case then why not bring the outside indoors and accessorise your place with some plants. If you’re the type to forget to water them then you could always opt for artificial plants.

If you’re ever not sure about what you can do in your property it’s always best to check first to avoid any unnecessary costs for you later down the line.

Orchard Shipman Flowers

Energy Saving Tips

Living on your own can be expensive if you don’t budget your money. Here are some suggestions for making your money go further. The Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to give you more advice on budgeting.

Top 10 Energy Saving Tips

  1. Switch off lights in empty rooms.
  2. Close curtains at dusk.
  3. Set thermostats correctly (hot water around 60-65°C, room thermostats between 18-21°C).

Top Tip!

If you turn your thermostat down by 1°C – this can save you as much as £60 per year! This may be the oldest trick in the book but it’s also one of the best, and after a week you won’t even notice the difference!

  1. Turn electrical appliances off rather than leaving them on standby.
  2. Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need each time you boil it.
  3. Cook with lids on pans and match ring size to saucepan size.
  4. Avoid placing furniture in front of radiators.
  5. Wait until you have a full load before using the washing machine and use a lower washing temperature. Just remember lower temperatures work for almost anything except stained clothes, underwear and bed sheets.
  6. Use a shower instead of a bath where possible.

Top Tip!

Turn the pressure down on the power shower, you’d be surprised how much water they use- sometimes even more than a bath. Power showers are luxuries for a reason in that they cost a lot.

  1. Tumble dryers cost a lot to run. Dry clothes outside, or on a clothes rail for free. Remember to open a window when drying clothes inside to stop condensation building up.

Fridges & Freezers Tips

  • Make sure there is plenty of space for air to flow around the back and top of your fridge freezer.
  • Keep the cooling fins at the back of the appliance clean and free from dust.
  • Put the appliance in a cool place away from direct sunlight and the cooker or boiler.
  • Check the inside temperature with a fridge thermometer (around £2 from any homeware shop) to make sure the fridge is the right temperature.
  • Use the fridge/freezer thermostat to keep the temperature right: the higher the setting the cooler the temperature.
  • Don’t put warm or hot items into a fridge/freezer. Let them cool down first.
  • Keep the fridge/freezer door shut to stop cold air escaping and warm air getting in. Replace damaged door seals, as they let the heat in.
  • Defrost regularly – the more ice the more electricity is needed to keep the appliance cool.

Lighting Tips

  • Switch off lights when they are not needed.
  • Use the lowest wattage light bulb that gives the light you need.
  • Make use of daylight. Keep windows clean and furniture away from windows.
  • Install energy saving light bulbs in lights used for three or more hours a day, including those kept on for security purposes and outside lights on at night.