Landlords choose their agents for all sorts of reasons, but many, whilst looking at what service an agent can offer, do not consider who is actually going to provide them with that service. They may ultimately instruct a company on their reputation or manifesto, but the quality of staff is something which should be a fundamental consideration when landlords are opting for a management service. Many failing businesses do not recognise and many successful businesses neglect to reward, the quality of their staff. Residential lettings and property management is a legislative minefield with over 700 pieces of legislation that have to be complied with and having the right staff in place, armed with knowledge and expertise for any given scenario is essential for all landlords.
We recruit staff who have a genuine interest in property and those who can demonstrate a desire to provide a high standard of customer service. We do not necessarily look to employ people who have experience in the property sector, as this can involve eradicating bad habits and lead to re- training. It is difficult to get an individual to break their long term habits and it can be a time consuming process, which can be met with a resistance to change. For the benefit of the organisation, its employees and ultimately its customers, it is important to understand the new recruits fears, hopes and dreams at the recruitment stage. Having an unhappy employee is not conducive to a productive or successful team and putting square pegs in round holes will never lead to a high quality of service.
Our staff are made up of all walks of life with varying degrees of experience in the customer service sector, but what they do have in common is that they all enjoy property. This may mean that they have a real interest in the market place, have a property that they rent out themselves, perhaps have taken on a renovation project, or have a genuine appreciation of property. This initial interest makes them more receptive to keeping up to date with all the changes that the lettings industry face on a daily basis.
The fact that we have favoured growing our own staff, rather than recruiting fully trained people; demonstrates our desire to not only ensure that the people that we employ enjoy their careers with us, but that we are training them to do things correctly. Often when new recruits are put in place, a training regime is implemented to demonstrate how a specific job is to be done and what the company expectations are. It is fair to say that most staff problems do not present themselves immediately, unless the candidate is entirely unsuitable or little or no consideration has been put into the recruitment process. It is only when a new employee feels comfortable at their desk and are sure that they are free from the shackles of observing eyes that we begin to see the cracks show in problem employees and by this time the service standards have already dropped.
The onus should therefore be on consistent and relevant staff mentoring, which is imperative when ensuring the quality of service and we continue to do this throughout each employee’s career. We have built our business from grass roots, we are licensed members of ARLA, Regulated by the RICS and have a two tier experienced management structure in place to ensure that service standards and legislation is adhered to at all times. We are proud to provide an excellent service and this ethos echoes through all of our staff. The service we provide to our customers is important to us and we are happy to make changes where necessary to build quality working relationships with our clients.
I was speaking to a new Landlord of ours last week who has only been with us for 6 months and he was saying how relieved he was that he had chosen us to manage his property as he felt that all aspects of the letting, management and accounts with ourselves were very efficient and transparent, particularly as other agents were pushing low fees to let his house at the outset.
When considering who to manage their property, landlords tend to make their decision based on how quickly an agent states they can get it let or the costs involved, above any other concerns that they may have. Although these are fundamental factors, the consideration of how the property is going to be looked after and how and when the landlord gets his rental income should be given due consideration and not just become important after the tenant has moved in.
Over the years and with a down turn in the sales market, many Estate Agents decided they would start lettings to subsidise their income and on the whole have provided their landlords with a cheap & quick let. With the help of the internet, the securing of a potential tenant is relatively easy if the property is marketed to its full potential and priced correctly.
Unfortunately though, the responsibility of managing a property requires more than just a flare to secure a tenant. It needs stringent referencing to ensure that the tenant is able to continue to pay their rent past the initial instalment and also now more than ever, the documentation signed by the tenant is very specific to ensure that they are aware what they need to adhere to in respect of tenancy obligations and ensures that the landlord does not fall foul of tenancy deposit legislation.
Effective day to day property management of a landlord’s property requires a concrete understanding of both the legislation and an appreciation of how the landlord wants his property to be managed. Having confidence that an agent will not pay a contractor from the rent until works are inspected is something which is important and not something which all agents religiously do.
In addition, it would be wise to make sure that your chosen agent is adhering to the protocol of keeping clients’ money in a separate account and that they are part of a Clients Money Protection Scheme. The profession of accountancy is specific in most industries, but for residential lettings and property management, an agent who not only has the knowledge and qualifications in his or her specific role, but has the additional vast experience and knowledge of all aspects of the business can be at a distinct advantage when dealing with the accounts for landlords.
Most landlords have a mortgage to pay and so the rental coming in on a regular basis is paramount. Although tenants rent is usually due a month after the day that they move in, a good agent will negotiate a rent due date to suit both landlord and tenant if requested. Having the rents input daily and accounts payments run twice weekly and transferred over to Landlords within 7 days of funds clearing, instead of only accounting at the end of each month or quarterly, differentiates the flexible agent from the rigid ones, which also ensures that a Landlords cash flow is maintained.
Research shows that the majority of investors are in the age bracket between 40-70 years old and although the majority of us have been launched into the technology arena, there are those who still wish to deal with actual paperwork rather than electronic mail. For the good agent, the sending of statements automatically via email at the time payment is made, is a quick and efficient service to their landlords, but recognising and adapting their protocol to suit and tailor to their landlords needs is something that they should additionally see as important.
Should you as a landlord, be toying with the idea of living abroad, seeking an agent who has the backing of a professional body, is imperative to ensure that your agent is doing all that is required by the HMRC in respect of overseas tax. A good agent should be able to fully explain the liabilities of an overseas landlord and deal with on your behalf, the collection of relevant tax which will need to be paid to HMRC if appropriate. For the larger investor an annual consolidation of statements and expenditure can be easily sought from a good agent at a reasonable price or negotiated into your overall management contract, to alleviate the financial burden of calculating these figures in time for their annual self-assessment.
PWR Lettings are ARLA Licensed & RICS regulated agents and as specialists in our field can provide tailor made services for all types of client, so if you are looking for guidance on an existing concern, we’ll be happy to help.
A parent at the school where my children attend, asked me the other day where we get our tenants from. She explained her total exasperation at her local agent and wondered if I could give her any tips. I explained that it is true that all agents often use the same portals and media to attract its tenants, modern technology has determined that we all follow this route nowadays. However, the quality of the marketing within these websites can make a huge difference to the number of enquiries and conversion into viewings and ultimately secure you a tenant for your empty property. This will generally be the one and only judgement they will make before deciding to view or ask for further details.
A common mistake that agents make is not ensuring that the property is seen in its best light and the lady in question was shocked when I showed her the ineptness of some agents as they highlighted the properties flaws on the portals, rather than exhibiting their full potential. I explained that many an agent exposes potentially negative factors such as poor cleanliness, overgrown gardens or untidy rooms, all things that should be resolved prior to photography or viewings.
If the exterior of the property demonstrates character, or the property’s spaciousness is its best feature, then this image should be used as the main photograph. However, if the outside image doesn't truly represent the property and it has a particularly nice kitchen or lounge then this photograph should be used instead. The purpose of the main image is to draw prospective tenants in and to continue their interest in the property, a poor photograph could potentially cost you a tenant.
These days so many of us choose to take our snapshots on our smart phone, but for the agent it is imperative that they invest in a high quality camera which produces good quality bright photographs. Minimal photographs won't be enough to make a prospective tenant want to view and at the opposite end of the spectrum, bombarding the potential viewer with endless photos of empty rooms won’t work either. Together with high quality images and a general representation of the house, is the need to keep potential viewers interest. When a property has been on the market for a while, this can make the interest in it become stale. By periodically rotating the main photograph to show off different parts of the property it will not only keep it fresh, but may well draw more interest to it.
In addition to the photographs, an agent should be doing all they can to expose your property to potential tenants. Erecting an eye catching To Let board (if the owner agrees) helps pin-point the property as being available and also people in the immediate locality may have friends or family looking for a property close by. It may seem at first sight, that all To Let boards are the same, but the visibility and the colours on a board need to not only make your property stand out against the competition, but they need to clearly display the agents telephone number, website and company name, so a prospective tenant knows who they need to contact. Boards are usually driven by and within those few split seconds it needs to have created enough of an impact to stimulate a viewer’s interest.
Local knowledge of the area and the letting agency staff’s awareness of your property is imperative to its letting success. Of course not all staff conduct viewings but an agency that encourages their negotiators to view the property for themselves is widening their chance of getting the property let. The knowledge of the property is a key asset when referring it to prospective tenants and undeniably the property is more likely to be at the forefront of a negotiators mind if they have viewed it themselves.
There is no doubt that these are all tricks of the trade that any agent can use to make your property more appealing to the potential viewer, but it is the proactive agent that can convert an enquiry into a let. Every day agents get enquiries for properties that they have to let or are yet to be instructed on, it is here that a good agent will over shine a mediocre one. The main difference I see with us, is that we see each contact from a tenant as a potential let. Everyone who contacts the office, even if we have nothing to offer them are qualified and put on our database of prospective tenants looking to rent, which includes relocation agents and large local employers.
With new properties coming on to the market daily and with the potential for applications to fall through, agents would be stupid not to make a point of registering every enquiry. We combine all of the above for the properties which we market, to ensure of a quick let. Having a proactive approach in all these aspects of marketing helps to speed up how soon a new tenant is found for a client’s property, which minimises void periods and loss of a landlord’s revenue.
If your property is not being marketed to its full potential, may be its time for a change ?
With new legislation enabling you to draw down your pensions in one lump sum from April this year, you may have considered trading your pension for an investment in property. It is estimated that 32,000 of the people intending to cash in their lump sum this year alone are choosing to invest in something which is deemed safe.
With interest rates on savings likely to stay low long term, getting into letting may be the best way for you to make your money work for you. Not only will you benefit from a steady return on the property you’ve purchased, you should in the long term see its value increase, as your mortgage decreases.
There are vast arrays of investors and PWR endeavour to cater for them all. In order to maximize the return on your investment you first need to find a lettable property and that’s where we can help. Choosing the right property is imperative, as if you pick an investment which is in the wrong area or is not suitable for letting it may cost you money rather than make it for you. At PWR we are happy to either point you in the right direction or conduct a full search on your behalf. Should you be wishing to have a hands off approach, we can offer you an extensive property search where we will find and view suitable properties on your behalf and give you a complete breakdown of the works required to attain the maximum rental return.
For the more experienced investor we are happy to look over your potential investment and give you our expert opinion on what we can achieve and what type of tenants you can expect to live in your property. Whether you want a property which maximizes the rental now or whether you are looking for longer term capital growth, we can provide you with the necessary advice.
As a first time landlord you may want to consider putting your investment in our hands. As part of our full management service we can ensure that your property adheres to all the frequent legislative changes and that your tenant abides by the constraints of an up to date tenancy agreement. We appreciate that you would want to gain the maximum from your investment but without expert guidance your investment could cost you dearly.
Buying a house at any age is a huge investment and never more so than when you’re sinking the savings for your retirement into it. With PWR you can be rest assured that we will guide you through the legalities and demands of residential lettings in order to protect your investment.
Respectful, loyal, methodical, conscientious, are only a few of the superlatives which go on to describe Simon O'Neill. Since joining the PWR team in September 2013 we have seen this young man grow steadily in confidence and we are pleased to say that he has proved to be an excellent recruit. Simon joined the team at a point where we were departmentalising and had to learn his role swiftly so that we could maintain the high level of service to our clients.
Coming from an administrative background, Simon found that he already had some of the skills needed to be effective in his role, but the demands of the role initially took him way out of his comfort zone. Despite Simon's reservations in his ability, he rapidly adapted to the demanding pace of property management and within 5 months was a fully trained property manager.
Simon has always been a steadfast member of the team and was a welcomed addition, as his presence positively changed the dynamics of a tight-knit office. He is, by nature, a team player who prefers to be directed rather than taking the lead, but in recent months we have witnessed a notable change in him. He has shown initiative and belief in himself and this has been reflected in his work and he has given strength to the property management department as a whole.
For an individual who previously sought constant support, he is now a changed man. Many ambitious young men strive to be the best in this business, but on their way to achieving their personal goals they lose their way and neglect the purpose of their role. In Simon, we are lucky to have an individual who is not only content to make steady progress with us, but will step up to the challenge when its placed in front of him.
Simon is a genuinely nice man, who thoroughly enjoys his role in the office, he is a loyal employee who goes quietly about his day to day tasks in an obliging and eager way, doing the best job he can for PWR and for everyone he comes into contact with. We are delighted that he has been rewarded for his commitment and achievement to date. Simon has done everything that has been expected of him, he has listened to all the advice and guidance on offer; applied the words of wisdom to his daily tasks and as a result, has found a belief in himself which has not only given him confidence in his own role but has provided welcomed support and guidance to the new recruits.
We have been thrilled to watch Simon flourish during his time with us. We are delighted to see that he loves the job that he does and that he is happy in his career. He has been an excellent recruit, who is a fundamental part of the property management team. He is in our opinion the epitome of what a property manager should be and the basis of what we should be recruiting for in the future.
One question that we invariably get asked is “So what makes you different?” Like politicians all letting agents are assumed to be the same. Same spiel different suit. However amongst the similarities there are many fundamental differences. So what do we offer that other agents don’t?
We have built our business from scratch. We have never acquired any other businesses and we are not supported by a franchise, to make us seem larger than we are. We are not a corporate, we are a forward thinking family business who believes in old fashioned principles. We built our business from nothing, through hard work, dedication and a belief that if we gave the best service we could, we would have a successful business that we’d be proud of. Since 2004 we have continued to grow month on month and have a tier of staff underneath us that maintain the same ethos that we set out with at the beginning and have grown with us.
As landlords ourselves, we understand the importance of having short void periods between lettings, and so we not only endeavour to find you a tenant quickly but one that is properly vetted to ensure that they will fulfil their tenancy obligations and will not cause problems during the tenancy. As investors we consider your property to be an asset as we would our own and therefore we manage it as such. We don’t just look at what the tenant is doing to maintain the property, we offer advice as to what you need to do to maintain your investment. Not only are we experienced in refurbishing properties, we offer an acquisition service to help you grow your portfolio and the more properties you have with us, the less it costs you.
We have experienced Property managers who have over 100 years of collective experience within this industry dating back to before the Housing Act 1988 came into force. Experience and knowledge are an essential element of an effective property manager. We have the experience to know how to deal with a repair properly, to be able to resolve the issue in the best way to suit both the tenant and the landlord. We have the experience and knowledge to understand the law both current and historic.
Our staff are our strength and we have in-house induction training for every employee. We assess each employee’s development throughout the employees’ time with us. We invest in external courses to keep our staff up to date with legislative changes. We have a comprehensive way in which we manage properties for clients, providing each client with a service which they expect, every step of the way, leaving no issues for the client to address.
Most importantly we see value in high standards of customer service, we understand and appreciate what Landlords require and how to deliver it. Strong emphasis is put on how we deal with tenants and landlords alike and we take complaints very seriously and see it as a way to improve our service.
We are mindful that not all agents are like us and we have dealt with many Landlords who have found themselves inheriting an agent, through acquisition, who does not have their best interests at heart. Indeed, over the last year we have taken on a number of portfolios from clients who are unhappy with their existing agent and on all occasions, we are pleased to say that the clients themselves have been more than impressed with how we have dealt with matters both during the transfers and also the management of their portfolios thereafter.
If you find yourself in a similar situation to one of these clients and are not happy with your current agent, I am sure that we will have the solution for you and we will be able to manage a smooth transfer from your current agent to ourselves at no cost.
Its a new year, so why not consider your options if your current agent is underperforming and either call us or come in to either office for an informal discussion about your specific requirements and how we might look after your property more efficiently.
We will of course be pleased to put you in contact with any of these clients mentioned above in order to alleviate any fear you may have in changing agents.
A new report from the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), states that both landlords and tenants are failing to submit the necessary evidence for a successful deposit dispute. Indeed, for the layman, the regulations may seem complex and there are strict time deadlines for submitting evidence through any of the deposit schemes and this latest report demonstrates that both parties are either missing the deadlines, or failing to prove any evidence at all to the adjudicators.
As professionally regulated agents, we endeavour to arrange all end of tenancy checkout inspections face to face with all out-going tenants, rather than by the tenants just handing the keys in. This ensures that any issues can be pointed out, discussed and normally agreed there and then at the property, rather than being discussed at a later stage away from the property, which is often not effective. This has seen a dramatic improvement in the number of deposit disputes.
We also believe that the key to successful dispute resolution lies with the production of a detailed Inventory and Schedule of Conditions, which should be prepared at the start of a tenancy and signed by the tenant, so that they acknowledge the condition and contents in the property and there is nothing left to chance. Our inventories are prepared in-house by experienced staff who have the knowledge of each particular property. We have extensive knowledge about industry expectations where 'wear and tear' is concerned and about the tenancy deposit scheme dispute procedures, which ensures that very few checkouts go to adjudication.
Unfortunately, we have had clients come to us in the past, who have had either, very basic or poor inventories prepared (which do not give enough detail about condition) and inventories that are not signed by tenants.
The tenancy deposit scheme regulations, which came into effect in 2007 have given tenants more protection, both to ensure that their deposits do not 'disappear' and to offer impartial adjudication for any end of tenancy disputes about deposit deductions. The Scheme's view is that ''a deposit is the tenants and it is for a landlord or agent to prove that they are entitled to deductions from it''
We therefore feel that if the end of the tenancy is handled correctly by a professional agent, then a landlord has a strong chance of winning fair proposed deposit deductions, often without having to involve the tenancy deposit scheme. Therefore, an experienced and proactive letting agent is worth employing in this scenario.
After we had audited a clients’ portfolio, who had recently transferred his properties from another agent, we discovered several anomalies which did not comply with current legislation. The landlord was shocked to hear of the changes that had been made in the last two years and was grateful for our expertise to eradicate any concerns.
I told our new landlord that there are amendments in residential lettings legislation quite frequently, but they are not always publicised in detail in the wider media. His previous agent was not affiliated to any government body and therefore this may have been why they weren’t aware of the legislative changes. As we are both members of ARLA and RICS we become privy to the mandatory changes which come into force on a regular basis.
Prior to his previous agent our new client had always managed his own portfolio, often seeking guidance from his local agent on how to do things correctly so that he compiled with statute. Despite this, we still found things had been missed or not executed properly. I explained that he could have found himself in a difficult situation, had his tenants known their rights and been savvy enough to enforce them.
Some of this investor’s properties didn’t have an inventory and he explained that he really didn’t understand the importance of an inventory & schedule of condition when his property was unfurnished. I explained that not having an inventory on a property, would have proved not so necessary in times gone by when the landlord was able to decide what he wished to claim for. However, government changes have meant that the law is more and more on the tenant's side and that means that a landlord needs to be more prepared than ever. I went on to say that without an inventory the schemes which protect a tenants deposit will not refund anything to a landlord, as without proof of what the condition of the property was like before a tenant moved in, they cannot make a judgment on damages.
The launch of the deposit schemes not only meant that each deposit needed to be registered, but they each had to have prescribed information served upon them in the correct form and in accordance with the scheme being used. The worrying concern for our landlord was that without the prescribed information being served within 30 days of the commencement of the tenancy and also being served again when each of his tenancies became statutory periodic, he would not only be unable to gain possession of his property, but his tenant could claim up to 3 times the deposit as compensation, even though they still resided at the property or even after they had left the property.
I explained to the landlord that over the last few years, it has become quite involved to ensure that a deposit is protected correctly without leaving him open to a failed possession case or compensation to the tenant and that many agents didn’t consider that a statutory periodic tenancy was in fact a new tenancy. It is only case law that has brought these types of issues into question, which are now being used as a precedent by the local county courts.
In this particular case, our new landlord's portfolio had some tenancies that had never had prescribed information served upon them and others had fallen into statutory periodic and had never had new prescribed information served either for the new tenancy. Recent case law has now also confirmed that even tenancies prior to 2007 when the deposit protection legislation came into force, should be registered with a scheme, otherwise the landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice and get lawful possession.
Without doubt, residential lettings is a legislative minefield and if you or your agent is not aware of how to execute things properly, it could cost you dearly. We have helped many landlords over the years and would welcome the opportunity to set you on the right track too. We have a wealth of experience in both of our offices and would be happy to give any landlord who has not received a service of this standard, the guidance and reassurance that they require to solve any current or ongoing issues.
Why not come in and see us at our Free Landlord Clinic or just give us a call, we’ll be happy to help.
Any agent can take photos and upload them onto a website portal or attend a viewing with a prospective tenant. But how do you differentiate a good agent from a bad one? We believe that high levels of customer service coupled with knowledge and understanding are key to proving our worth to both landlords and tenants.
Would you be satisfied with your agents answers to these 5 questions and confident in their replies?
1. What are the options for a landlord who holds a deposit taken in 2002 which has never been placed in a deposit scheme? (tenancy has been statutory periodic since 2003)
2. How many of your agent's staff have the ARLA qualification or more than 10 years experience in Residential Lettings and Property Management?
3. Does your agent ensure that the relevant insurance and systems of safe work are in place for their contractors who work on your property?
4. How often does your agent pay rents to you and what do they do if a tenant falls into arrears?
5. How involved does your agent get at the end of a tenancy and do they use external inventory clerks who do not know the property or you ?
We have provided the answers to landlords when other agents have failed. We have recently taken on a Landlords portfolio and were shocked to learn that basic legislation had not been adhered to. It also proved that they did not have a wealth of knowledge in their organisation, as they didn’t know how to deal with rent reviews or a landlord and tenants rights for tenancies which commenced prior to the 15th January 1989.
We pride ourselves on knowing the law and endeavour to protect our landlords from the pitfalls that changes in legislation and case law can bring and we train all of our staff not only in the practicalities of the job, but we also provide them with the knowledge to protect your interests.
Every day contractors enter the properties we manage to carry out repairs and we therefore ensure that all of them are correctly vetted and without the correct paperwork in place, including public liability insurance and health & safety requirements we don't use them.
I am sure that as a landlord, you will agree that timely rent payments are very important and therefore, we endeavour to pay all rents within 7 days of funds clearing in our account through our bacs payments twice a week. When there becomes an issue and a tenant fails to pay, we have dedicated staff who are experienced in dealing with such matters, who make every effort to make contact with the tenant at work, home and in person, often outside office hours, to ensure that they are resolving arrears situations quickly and you are made aware.
We think it is important to carry out checkouts with the tenant face to face on the last day of the tenancy, as any problems that may arise can often be discussed and agreed there and then rather than leaving them to a chance difference of opinion after the event. Indeed, this coupled with thorough inventories prepared at the outset by experienced staff, has led to over 95% of all our checkouts being completed to the satisfaction of both landlord and tenant without having to go to adjudication.
If you have problems with your current agent or are looking for guidance on an existing concern, please contact us, or why not come in and see us at our Free Landlord Clinic, we’ll be happy to help.
Moving house can be a traumatic and stressful time for most as it is usually coupled with a scenario which can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Although each tenant’s situation varies considerably, PWR try to ensure that the transition into their new home is a joyful occasion. Emma Barnes of PWR Lettings, who handles all the applications at the Mansfield office has had a particularly memorable month this month. Every day we get people whose situations are difficult and they look to us to be the calm amongst the chaos affecting their lives.
Until you undertake the required checks on a property you can’t determine whether or not there is a fault and when these defects are too large to rectify quickly, the move-in date has to be put back until they can be resolved. For a tenant who needs to move quickly this can be a devastating blow and it is here why PWR is a good choice to rent through, as we will go to the nth degree to find these people a home.
This month PWR have housed a couple who were relocating from abroad when they were told that urgent electrical works were needed to be done to the property that they were due to move into, in order to comply with the regulations. PWR found them a new home within 24 hours of us receiving the distressing news and they are delighted with the high standard of customer service they have received.
Over the years PWR have seen happy tenants turn into new landlords, but very few of our landlords turn into tenants. This month one of PWR's landlords has needed to do just that, as they had sold their own property and hadn’t completed the build on their new house. These landlords have been delighted with PWR, as the service that they have provided took all the strain out of their temporary move into rented accommodation.
You can’t of course, please all of the people all of the time, as the old saying goes. When processing an application, it can sometimes be subject to the constraints of the slow return of an applicant’s references from their employer, but when someone is relying on you to get them into a property when they need to move, how hard an agent is working to achieve this is fundamental. PWR have recently scored a perfect 10 in all aspects of their service from one happy new tenant, which is testament to our knowledgeable staff and standard of service.