The Tenant Fees Act was the catalyst for a radical transformation in the way one agency approaches its relationship with tenants. “We realised that the government was making changes for a reason, because they felt that this particular group of customers wasn’t having the experience that they should have been having,” says Adam Charlton of Homes Partnership in Crawley.
“We knew there was a chance that some agencies would lower their service level because tenants would no longer be perceived as a customer,” he says. “We could have done that - looked at the financials and decided to lower our service levels because tenants weren’t paying us anymore - but we decided that, instead, we would try and to live up to the standards that the government was trying to achieve with this legislation, rather than penalising tenants for a decision that they didn't make.”
The agency identified ways they could “go against the grain” and improve their tenants’ experience with them. Homes Partnership has long focused on building lasting relationships with its buyers, sellers, and landlords, which go beyond a one-off transaction. They decided it was time that they took the same approach with their tenants.
“When I ask a tenant, ‘What's your plan for the next five years?’ they often say, ‘Well, I've been renting for years. No one's ever asked me that’,” says Charlton. “But we ask every buyer, seller, and landlord that question. Why shouldn’t we ask tenants too?”
Now, when the team from Homes Partnership talks to their tenants, they don’t just ask them about the kind of property they’re looking to rent. “We talk to them about their life goals and what they want to achieve. Do they want to buy in the next five years? We can start to provide them with guidance, for example how to get a credit rating, all these things that are going to help them in the long term,” says Charlton.
“We’re really aware of the housing lifecycle, particularly in our area because people tend to stay here. Our landlords of today are our sellers of tomorrow. Sellers of today are buyers of tomorrow. Tenants of today are our landlords of tomorrow. If we treat them well, hopefully they’ll be under our banner for a long time to come.”