Are you prepared for the year ahead?.. time to get your ducks in a row!
We are all painfully aware that the cost of everyday items and services has already risen substantially, and with the 10th (at the time of writing) consecutive rise in interest rates, and inflation still rising, it is set to be a very challenging year ahead.
Understandably many agents will be primarily concerned about their tenants’ ability to pay the rent and heat their homes. However, as some landlords consider selling up and the ONS report an increase of 19% in the number of property businesses over the last 5 years, agents must also be proactive and take action to find new business as well as retain their existing clients.
Looking after your landlords and tenants
There’s a host of useful resources out there providing guidance about how you can help your tenants keep on top of their bills and get financial support e.g www.gov.uk/cost-of-living .
You can also help by just keeping the lines of communication open with your tenants and your landlords – this way you will be on the front foot should there be any issues.
For new tenancies you may now want to seriously consider offering a Rent Guarantee if you don’t already. This will give your landlords some peace of mind and is a great selling point.
Encouraging new business
One way to entice new clients and keep your existing landlords is to reassure them that their properties and money are in safe hands with you.
Are you confident that your handling of client money is being done correctly? Are your landlords being paid on time? – if you are struggling to provide the level of service that you’d like, then consider outsourcing this aspect of the business to a Client Accounting Service Provider (CASP) **.
It’s also vital that you are compliant with current regulations and up to date with upcoming changes in legislation.
Demonstrating your knowledge and professionalism will go a long way to reassuring your clients and making you stand out from the competition.
Your business compliance: Last year we wrote an article with an overview of the basic business compliance requirements for new and established agents. You can read this here
Staying in the Loop: To keep up to date with upcoming changes in legislation sign up to an industry body’s regular newsletter or other trusted sources such as our own monthly newsletter (which you can sign up to here). It will not only keep you in the loop but will make you feel more connected.
What’s hovering on the horizon?
Staying informed is just part of it. Once you know what is coming you need to ensure that you are on target to comply with any new requirements. Getting ahead of the game will reduce stress levels down the line!
Last year National Trading Standards introduce a 3-phase project to define what constitutes ‘material information’ for property listings. ‘Part A’ said that, for letting agents, a property’s council tax band or rate, rent and deposit must be included on all property listings, inc. agency website, window cards and property portals. Portals will flag any listings where details are left empty by the agent.
‘Part B’, expected to follow this year, will cover information which could affect the consumer decision to look any further at that property. e.g if the property uses a septic tank rather than mains drainage
‘Part C’ will cover additional information that may not be applicable for all properties but should be included if it is – for example, if a property is at risk of flooding due to its location.
We don’t yet know when Parts B and C will go live, but it would be worth starting now to ensure that you’re collecting and recording this information.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
Have you checked the EPC rating of all of your properties?
Currently regulations state that a new tenancy cannot be granted if the property has an EPC rating of F or G, unless the property is registered on the PRS Exemptions Register. However, from 1 April 2023, this will apply to all properties and carry a penalty of up to a staggering £150,000 per breach (based on the rateable value of the property).
What’s more, the government released proposals to up Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for private rented homes, to an EPC band C on all new tenancies from 2025. And they want to go even higher; to a band C by 2027, although this is currently just a proposal.
As agents, it’s essential you understand the impact of this on your clients and business. Ensure you are aware of all your portfolio’s EPC ratings, especially if you’re managing the properties.
Assessing the cost to bring properties up to the new standard on any new or renewing EPC should be done if the property is being rented. However, it would be advisable to do so on all properties, even if they’re being sold to a private owner.
Help your landlords source tradesmen qualified to do improvement to properties and point them towards any potential source of funding, or information. Local authorities have grants for low income and vulnerable tenants, which you may be able to access.
Show your landlords and potential new clients that you understand the changes required and are able to help them through.
The renters’ reform agenda is due to be implemented this year, at least in part. Legislation will be laid very shortly and whilst this will take some time to progress to law, the framework will be outlined.
The reforms are to include phasing out no-fault evictions (Section 21s) and replacing all current tenancies with universal periodic tenancies, lifetime deposits and a landlord database. Also, last October a government consultation ended to seek views on how to apply the ‘Decent Homes Standard’, which currently applies to the social rented sector, to the private rental sector and how to enforce it.
Whilst all changes will likely have a transition period, the new regulations could come in faster than anticipated, and agents will have to adapt quickly.
Make sure you follow all the news on this and have a plan on how you will adapt when the changes come in.
Shout about it!
One thing that definitely should not be overlooked is promoting your business. After all, you want people to actually find you and hear about what a fantastic service you offer!
The majority of people looking for a service will investigate potential providers online by checking out their website and social media, as well as review sites.
Without doubt all agents should now have an online presence and this should reflect the professionalism of your agency. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a web designer these days but you do need to think about the message you are sending out with your online presence.
Websites and social media are a great way to engage with potential new clients and to share news about your agency and the services on offer.
So, make sure your website is up to date, display your industry body and redress scheme logos with pride, ensure you CMP certificate is current, and show prospective clients that you are professional agency and why they should choose you over the one down the road.
** The Letting Partnership is a CASP (Client Accounting Service Provider) who can remotely process all of your payments in and out so you can be confident the client accounting is being done correctly and landlords are paid on time. We can also set up a ring fenced client account for you if you are experiencing difficulties with your bank. For more information give us a call on 01903 477900 or email us
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