“Don’t cut corners because you’re worried about losing income after the Tenant Fees Ban,” says a leading compliance trainer for letting agents.
“I fear that many agents might try to cut corners because they can’t charge tenants a fee for certain services anymore,” says Frances Burkinshaw, former ARLA President and letting agent with almost five decades’ experience in the industry who now works as an independent compliance trainer. Burkinshaw says agents who try to cut corners risk “getting into more trouble than they would have done before these changes”.
Third-party inventories could be a potential casualty of cost-cutting measures as letting agents seek to make up revenue following the Tenant Fees Ban, thinks Burkinshaw. “You can imagine people saying, ‘Oh well, I won't do this because I can't charge a fee’. But If they then use the wrong person to do the inventory and then the inventory is rubbish, then they're in trouble. Don’t expect a deposit dispute to go your way if the inventory is written on two sides of a piece of paper,” says Burkinshaw.
“You can't get around regulation. It's there and you'll have to respect it - like it or loathe it. Ignorance isn’t an excuse,” says Burkinshaw. “Agents need to make sure they’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Take, for example, the current rules for serving a Section 21 notice - if you haven't served your gas safety certificate, an EPC, the “How To Rent” guide, you cannot serve a Section 21.”
Landlords, too, risk non-compliance with new legislation due to a lack of awareness of recent changes, says Burkinshaw, which will make the support of letting agents more important than ever before. “When changes come out we're bombarded by it - articles, blogs, emails. But the average person out there doesn’t have a clue,” she says. “I worry that they will try and do it themselves, rather than using trained agents.”
She says regular training is vital for agents who are trying to keep up with on-going legislation changes. Her own courses cover everything from the Rent Act 1977 through to the Deregulation Act 2015, changes to Regulations covering Licensing of HMOs and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 including CMP, Redress and transparency of fees, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act, Section 21 and recent court cases and the Tenant Fees Act. “These changes are massive,” says Burkinshaw.
Burkinshaw knows training is a cost but says it’s one that will pay off in the long run - not only by avoiding costly mistakes, but also as a means of winning new landlords. “Advertise the fact that your business invests in its agents, that they’re regularly trained and up to date on the latest changes.”
Frances Burkinshaw is an independent trainer available nationally. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.