Doctor in the House Family Letter 2018


Overview of the Homestay market place and Doctor in the House: December 2018

Another year gently comes to a close and time to reflect on your role as a Host with Doctor in the House. To those of you new to Doctor in the House (DitH), this circular is sent as a reminder to our Hosts of your responsibilities to our Guests. It’s also an update newsletter letting you know what we’ve been doing in the background plus an aide-memoire of what needs to be done as a responsible Host during 2019.

Last year saw the completion of our back office systems leaving us free in 2018 to improve our website and promote your accommodation more effectively. We’ve made significant progress with social media where Clinicians and Academics often seek advice on accommodation in London and the UK. It’s an immensely complex subject engaging with this global audience but we are making solid progress. Gone are the days of stuffing envelopes with flyers or cosy chats with accommodation managers. Hospitals understandably now manage accommodation requests via the internet which is where we concentrate our energy.
The big US based accommodation platforms continue to dominate the market but are moving their focus on Homestays to promoting entire apartments. This rapid growth is fuelled by the new Hosting management companies such as Air Sorted and Hostmaker, creating a new market place which barely existed a few years ago. Working with buy-to-let investments, the Host management companies have now created a genuine alternative to the hotels and traditional Homestay accommodation. Coupled with the new Hosts who have entered the market place, driven by AirBnB, prospective Guests now have a wealth of opportunities which didn’t exist a few years ago, making it harder still to secure bookings for Doctor in the House Hosts.
As I’ve stated in the past, unlike most of our UK competitors DitH has continued to invest significantly in the digital economy. We are well placed to compete and are confident our Social Media strategy for 2019 will bear fruit.

What’s new from Doctor in the House?

We launched our email management system in December 2015 and now work with a new email address for our booking team: Please check you are using this email address and not our old gmail account.
In November 2015 we launched our on-line secure payment system ‘Sage Pay’. This is free when using a debit card and helps our Guests make simple secure payments directly. If you no longer wish to receive cash from your Guests, you can ask your booker to manage payments on-line. DitH can take full payment for your bookings and make your payments via Bank transfer. It’s simple and easy. Just ask your booker.
In 2016 we completed our microsite system where each Host is represented by their own mini website. In 2018 we opened up our website project enabling prospective Guests to view your Microsite without revealing your details. This has proved exceptionally helpful for guests making bookings. However, if you do not wish prospective Guests to see your accommodation on our website, let us know and we can remove this view of your accommodation.
You should now be familiar with our booking system which has been running since 2017. If you have any special requirements or information a Guest should know (for example a new pet you have not told us about beforehand) please contact a member of your booking team and we will update your notes on our system.
Should you wish to change your rates we are now able to create a custom rate card which we can apply to your accommodation. This is especially important for exceptional accommodation and apartments. Contact your booker for more information.
During 2018 we have been working hard with Facebook pages to represent events, conferences and seminars in London held for professionals and clinicians alike. This has meant our position within Google search has improved significantly and we expect to continue to improve our profile during 2019.
During 2018 some of you may have heard very little from our booking team. We will have been promoting your accommodation but sadly our Guests will have chosen alternative options in your area. Please have a look at your Microsite and check the images and copy illustrating your accommodation is as good as it can be. Guests now have exceptionally high standards and if your images are out of focus, under exposed or just a bit dull it doesn’t help us promote your accommodation as best as we would like. If you would like new pictures taken please make contact and we can arrange a visit to take new professional images.
Finally I have been running DitH for just over four years, implementing our back office changes and restructuring the company. We now have a fully automated system fully integrated with the internet. It is now time for me to step down and allow Mark Dineley to take control. The Dineley family acquired DitH four years ago from the previous owners Tiggy and Sue. I shall continue working for DitH managing new microsites and acting as a consultant while Mark will take control from mid-January 2019. This will be my last family letter and potentially my last DitH communication. It’s been a joy to get to know you all and I’m delighted DitH is in such capable hands. Sandra and Cat will continue to work with you directly managing all of our bookings personally.

Important points to remember as a Host, Rates, things to do and TAX update

The first and most important point to remind everyone is your welcome to your Guests. Our Guests are often new to the UK and deeply appreciate your welcome email, providing directions and general household information. As most of you know, if you get it right at the beginning you will avoid any ambiguity and possible misunderstandings between you and your Guests.
You will by now be aware of our automated acceptance or decline emails. Please please click on one of the options depending on your answer:
Green to accept
Red to decline
Blue if you want to know more. By clicking on Blue opens up a new email which is easy to manage at our end and enables you to ask as many questions as you like.
Sandra and Cat will now always call you first to see if you are available. If you do not pick up we will send you an email which must be replied to within 24 hours. If we don’t hear from you within 24 hours we will assume you are not interested and you will receive an email to this effect. Sadly today’s Guests seek instant gratification and unless we can confirm accommodation is available almost immediately they start shopping elsewhere, which means we lose a potential booking.
When you do accept a booking you can now see full details on your Microsite. Go to the agreement section where you can see your booking details in full. Furthermore you can also access a full record of previous bookings. If you are unsure how to do this, contact Cat or Mark and they will be delighted to help.
When bookings are confirmed you and your Guest receive a comprehensive email detailed with everything you need to know about the booking. One recent change to our system is the instruction to your Guest to make contact. This is now written in red stating: It is most important that you contact your Host well in advance of your stay to confirm and arrange your time of arrival. Preferably once you have made your advance payment.
On occasions Guests appear to miss this essential message but we keep trying.
DitH has a few historical processes which we would like to change. One of which is where our Hosts take our management fee on DitH behalf for long-term bookings. If you no longer wish to take our management fee for long-term bookings let your booker know and we will take the full fee from your Guest and pay you for your accommodation via a monthly bank transfer.

Keeping track of you within our booking system
One of the critical aspects of our booking system are your needs and specific requirements. If your circumstances have changed in any way over the past year please contact Sandra or Cat, who will be eager to update your records.
Typical changes and useful information might be:
  • Changes to your household, access to the kitchen or bathroom. A new pet or for that matter any animal.
  • Any dates where you are unavailable and do not wish to receive a booking.
  • Preferred type of booking. You may wish to broaden your original brief to get more bookings.
Repeat bookings – When you receive a Guest from DitH your Guest will have agreed to our terms and conditions, which are legally binding. It is important to note that even if they have come to you directly after a previous stay, prices and management fee for Doctor in the House accommodation will still apply. Just let Sandra or Cat know and they will create a new booking for you.
Insurance is essential and not a ‘nice to have’. Please make sure you are adequately covered to take paying guests. If you experience any problems please contact our booking team and we will be delighted to help.

A gas certificate is a now a legal requirement when providing accommodation for paying guests. You must have your gas boiler checked annually and obtain a gas certificate. Many of you have provided us with a copy but not all. Can you please scan your copy and email it to one of the team at your earliest convenience.
If you have a gas boiler it is a legal requirement to fit Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Please also ensure you install a smoke alarm on each floor, and if you have a solid fuel burner you will also need to install a Carbon Monoxide detector in the nearby vicinity. They are cheap to install but they do need a new battery from time to time unless you wish to install the more expensive type, which last for 10 years.

One for Homestays and not flats or bedsits. Could you please offer your Guest a full continental breakfast. That’s tea/coffee, juice, cereal, toast/bread and fruit and ensure that all products are within their 'sell by' date. We suggest that you discuss breakfast with your Guest on arrival. If you go out in the morning to work could you please leave breakfast in a suitable place and show your Guest what they need to do when preparing breakfast i.e. preparing coffee/tea/toast. At DitH we still follow HMRC guidelines so if you choose not to provide breakfast, HMRC will technically not consider your earnings to be from B&B and you will not be able to make the most from the new tax break. See below under Tax.
In days gone by we had asked for you to provide your Guest room with a TV as this was considered a basic requirement for Homestay (B&B) accommodation. Now the internet has taken over and most Guests will probably now be watching TV on their laptops. Therefore please ensure your Guests have access to hi-speed Wi-Fi. When we promote your accommodation we state internet access as standard. In today’s world such a facility is considered as an essential tool for both work and recreation and not a nice to have. Furthermore please try and ensure your broadband connection is fast and not just installed as a token measure.

One re-occurring point made repeatedly by our Guests is heating. Can you please ensure that your Guest’s room is warm in the morning and in the evening as London can be a chilly place for Guests arriving from warmer countries. Just because you like plenty of fresh air doesn’t mean your guests will feel the same way. Remember they are paying for a comfortable warm bedroom.

For bookings up to 27 nights and 28 nights + we will continue to work with 2018 rates with the option to opt for a custom rate card. This means if you wish you can now set your own rate. We have looked hard at the market place and little has changed since 2017 with Homestay and Hotel rates flat lining. We recommend you stay at our standard rate for Homestay accommodation.
Our DitH management fee remains the same as in 2015.
For those of you who have self-contained flats with separate access and some bedsits we still negotiate the fee for each flat independently.
Please remember when Sandra or Cat are making a booking it will be invariably for single occupancy which is the rate paid by the Guest, even if the room is a double. We do not charge for a double if we only have a single occupant. As a rule of thumb for Homestays, an additional guest, using the same room, is charged at £18.00 per night
Your recommended rates for a Homestay with Doctor in the House for 2019 are:
Per night
Per night
Those who have special accommodation will continue to operate with a custom rate card.
As is customary with Doctor in the House, your Guest should pay you in cash - pounds sterling on arrival unless the booking is made by a 3rd party (corporate clients) in which case DitH will pay you on a monthly basis.
It goes without saying that it is essential when your Guest makes a payment that you count the money received in-front of them and provide a receipt to avoid any confusion. If your Guest needs a Tax receipt please direct them to your booking team who will issue a receipt on behalf of DitH and you the Host.
Note: For long-stay accommodation, where we would normally ask you to collect part of our management fee, you now have the option where DitH will collect the full booking fee and pay you monthly by bank transfer.
If you are still sending your management fee by post please remember the address for postage is:
Doctor in the House
Flat 1
17 Aubert Road
London, N51TX
To transfer the Doctor in the House management fee by BACS, our Bank details are:

Account Name: Doctor in the House Ltd
Account No: 01876494
Sort Code: 12-20-26
Reference: Please put your name as reference otherwise we do not know who has sent the funds.
You can now access all of your booking records via your Microsite, which will be helpful if you are asked to make a tax return for HMRC.
A few important points to consider for Homestay accommodation and HMRC rules:
  • You should not expect to accommodate more than six people at the same time.
  • The building must be your own home or if leased it is must be stated in your agreement that you can run a Homestay or B&B.
  • The Homestay business must be secondary to the use of the building as a home.
Rent a Room scheme
Many of our Hosts operate under HMRC’s Rent a Room scheme. The Rent a Room scheme is an optional scheme available to owner occupiers or tenants who let out furnished accommodation to a Guest in their main home. From April 2016 the scheme now allows you to earn up to £7,500 tax-free, or £3,250 if you are letting jointly.
If the amount you earn from renting out the room is less than the thresholds of the Rent a Room scheme, then your tax exemption is automatic and you don’t need to do anything.

If you earn more than the threshold, you must complete a tax return (even if you don’t normally), and you can then do one of the following:

  • Choose to opt into the scheme – in which case you need to let HM Revenue & Customs know this on your tax return and claim your tax-free allowance.
  • Not opt into it – in which case you simply record your income and any associated expenses on the property pages of your tax return.
There’s no special form for telling HM Revenue & Customs that you don’t want to be part of the scheme. If you earn more than the threshold or already complete a tax return, you simply declare the relevant lettings income and expenses when completing your tax return.
Your DitH team continues to operate with real people who manage every step, from enquiry through to booking until your Guest leaves your accommodation. We are always there to iron out any wrinkle and ensure you and your Guests are happy and if things do not go as planned, we are there to support you and ensure any issue is resolved swiftly. We are not a large faceless company so if you have any concerns please contact your booker or Mark and we will do everything we can to put your mind at rest or resolve any issue you might have.
And finally!
I hope you have found this information to be clear and useful, and if you have any questions please to do not hesitate to contact us.
We will continue to work hard to develop closer relationships with Hospitals in London and the UK and anticipate continued positive reaction to our Social Media campaigns during 2019.
Best wishes from the Doctor in the House Team.
Chris, Sandra, Cat and Mark