Competition for landlords is fiercer than ever. Landlords are facing a raft of changes and will likely be reviewing their current services, which means providing them with an incomparable level of service will be essential to keeping them both in the market and on your books. The foundations of this service will be continuing to give your landlords the right advice and support to manage legislative changes; finding and retaining the best tenants, who will pay their rent on time and treat their landlord’s properties as they would their own home; and, ensuring landlords have the right insurance policies in place to protect them in a worst case scenario.
A fifth of landlords expected to reduce the number of properties in their portfolios in 2019, as a direct result of tax and legislation changes. However, this increasingly challenging environment also provides letting agents with an opportunity to prove their value, because there will be a greater demand for industry professionals who can provide them with guidance and support - a fact reflected in the increasing number of landlords who are choosing to use professional letting agents rather than going it alone.
Landlords who choose to stay in the market are going to need to lean on property professionals more and more, for help with everything from tax advice and estate planning, mortgage solutions and property insurance, to understanding how important changes to the industry will impact them, such as the Deregulation Act and HMO regulations and the changes to EPC regulations, which make it illegal to rent a property with an EPC Rating of F- or G-, which currently applies to all new lets and renewals of tenancies and will apply to all existing tenancies from 1st April 2020.
This means it will be even more important for agencies to create secure, consistent compliance processes where possible to ensure they’re keeping their landlords’ portfolios compliant - whether that be by automatically sending up-to-date How to Rent Guides and deposit-prescribed information, or updates to tenancy agreements in light of the tenant fee ban.
Helping your landlords stay abreast of changing legislation will go a long way towards allowing you to elevate your current offering to landlords and cementing yourself as their trusted advisor.
This might ultimately prove a deciding factor as to whether a landlord decides to stay in the market and continue using your services, or even refers other landlords to your agency.
A high turnover of tenants has traditionally been regarded as a good thing by letting agencies who have relied on tenant fees making up a substantial portion of their revenue.
However, this is no longer be a viable business model as a result of the Tenant Fee Ban, which is why many agencies are now trying to find quality tenants who want to stay in properties for the long-term. Longer tenancies are actually more beneficial to landlords, says Michael Scrase-Hollamby of Ezytrac Property Manager.
“The more tenants you have coming in and then leaving results in more wear and tear and dilapidation on a property. But if you have just one tenant who's going to be in there a longer time, they tend to treat it better. They tend to look after it more as their own home, which reduces wear and tear,” he says. “Landlords want the standard of their property to be maintained, so their investment is looked after better if we can get the right tenant and they stays longer.”
Samuel Fitz-Hugh of Settio Property Experience in Manchester agrees and tries to keep his tenants "forever". “The best tenant is one who stays for ten years, increases their rent every year and never has any problems. That’s the optimum tenant,” he says. “Every time a tenancy ends, it costs time and money and more importantly prompts the client to consider a change of agent. So, offer your landlords value for money and push to keep your tenants forever.”
Rent protection insurance is one of the most important ways an agency can ensure they’re looking out for the best interests of their landlords, in helping to protect landlords against the risk of letting out an investment property. It’s vital, therefore, that letting agents ensure their landlords have rent protection insurance in place and regularly take stock of their policies to ensure their landlords are properly covered.
Letting agents need to look for rent protection policies that will not only provide their landlords with appropriate levels of protection should their tenants default on rent and need to be evicted from a property, but also make the claims process as simple as possible, and make sure they explain to their landlords what protection is included.
Offering your landlords a more comprehensive rent protection insurance policy could cost them slightly more upfront, however, it could also save them thousands of pounds - and be the difference between retaining or losing your landlord in the long run.
“Unfortunately, there have been times when not having insurance has cost landlords quite a lot of money,” says Daniel Glewis of Shaws Kensington. “The reason we wanted to offer rent and legal protection is to make sure that our landlords are fully covered in the worst case scenario. It is the best thing an agent can do.”
Good letting agents will already be aware they need to maintain a high level of service to keep their landlords happy, however, they struggle to provide that service and keep up with the administration requirements of a large portfolio.
That is why many agencies are now looking at the technology options available to help them manage some of that administration and let them focus on strengthening their relationships with their landlords instead. “We don’t want to replace people, we want to do some of the jobs digitally that able us to liaise with clients better and more often,” says Jon Werth of LiFE Residential in London.
Choosing the best technology, in addition to offering your landlords market-leading products and services, will help to set your agency apart and show that you’re serious about improving the services you offer both landlords and tenants. “We’ve got to look at ways we can offer more to our landlords,” says Werth. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing the best for them.”
Oh Goodlord Limited is an Appointed Representative of Goodlord Protect Limited for general insurance products and credit broking. Goodlord Protect Limited is directly authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, registration number 836727. You can check this information on the Financial Services Register by visiting www.fca.org.uk/register or by telephoning 0800 111 6768 (Freephone) or 0300 500 8082 from the UK. The FCA is the independent watchdog that regulates financial services.