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Ask Nick: Spilling the beans on the lettings industry

How long have you been in the lettings industry for?

I’ve been in the property industry for over seven years, I have worked for mainly corporate offices and started out in the admin centre of countrywide on the new lets, terminations, and credit control teams. This experience taught me what we need to do at the start of the tenancy, at the end of the tenancy, and what to do when things go wrong!

What do you get up to on a daily basis?

In short, I manage the day-to-day running of the branch including managing payments from tenants and paying our landlords (one of the most important jobs here). I manage a team of excellent staff and help them with their individual tasks by sharing my knowledge, guidance and expertise. I carry out market appraisals and viewings for both sales and lettings, and also make my own drinks – I’m not at the level to need a PA yet!

What got you into lettings?

I’ve always loved selling things, I started life in an office supplies shop and I would love listening to peoples wants and needs and be able to provide them with a solution to what that might be. Whether your selling a printer or a house the fundamental thing is listening to what people want and being able to deliver accordingly. The main reason I wanted to get in to property was that when I was selling a pen I wasn’t really having an impact on that persons life. When I’m renting out a property I am providing somebody with a home for them and their family which is a massive privilege.

What is one of the major changes you have seen in the industry since you started in your career?

Legislation, legislation and more legislation… In the past three years we have had challenges to overcome in our industry such as the additional stamp duty charge, the deregulation act and going through parliament is the tenant fee ban. We have had four housing ministers in the past two years and nobody in that position seems to understand even the basic principles of what our industry needs. The industry needs regulation and I agree wholeheartedly with that but at the same time the government needs to understand that we offer a service which costs us a tangible amount of money as a business. Businesses are made to make a profit but some agencies have taken advantage and now the whole industry is being made to pay the price as well as the landlords and tenants they are trying to help.

What is one of the funniest stories you have encountered in your career?

I’ve had people come to Belvoir for help because they’re sick of living with their parents or just because they need something bigger. The strangest reason I’ve ever had someone come to me for help was because their next-door neighbour would look through their window into the everyday at the same time completely in the nude! Safe to say, we made sure we got them a new property!

What’s your favourite thing about running a Belvoir branch?

Freedom, when I worked at corporate offices I constantly had figures spreadsheets to fill out or had to justify why I had charged a certain fee to a certain landlord. One of the offices I worked at had an area manager who would call or come in to office on a daily basis asking me about viewings, market appraisals, managed units, tenant fees, landlord fees, rightmove calls, leads and so on. I spent so much time talking to them about these things that I couldn’t effectively manage them. Walt Disney once said that if you take care of the people, the profits will take care of themselves. I believe 100% in that statement and I have never been served wrong by it.

What’s the best advice you could give to landlords when looking for an agent?

Ask the agents if they get paid commission for each let and then ask them if they have a separate property management department. Part of the issue with some agents is that Mr (or Ms) Letting Agent gets paid a commission when they move someone in to the property then if something goes wrong they don’t want to deal with you anymore and pass you on to a “property management team” who have no knowledge of you or the property other than what’s in front of them on a computer screen. I’m not saying they all do that but I know that in this office I can be confident that the people we move in are the right people in the right property. I only want people in our properties who are going to a) look after the property like it’s their own and b) pay their rent in a timely manner without having to be chased for it.

What’s the best advice you could give to tenants when looking for an agent?

The issue tenants have is that they don’t really have much choice with agents. If they want a particular property they need to go through the agent it is advertised with. My only advice would be to ask what professional body the agent is accredited with. All agents must be an accredited member of a professional body in order to provide a lettings service in this country.

Do you have any predictions for the future of the lettings industry?

With the tenant fee ban looming over us I’m concerned that agents will pass this loss of income on to the landlord. If this happens (which is what some agents did in Scotland when their tenant fee bans came in) some landlords then may decide to manage the property themselves where they aren’t being advised by an agent of the new legislation which is coming in all the time.

This would then leave the landlords open to all manner of different penalties if they don’t comply such as not being able to serve notice on tenants, financial penalties, or even in some cases prison time. The other thing to think about is that with managed properties these extra costs to the landlord are in turn passed back to the tenant in terms of increased rent. The irony is that this ban is supposed to make renting a home more affordable for tenants and this would have the exact opposite effect.


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