With more legislative changes on the way, Belvoir Colchester says ‘seek out expert local help in 2016’
For landlords and investors looking to manage their properties through a lettings agent it is important to choose one that provides the most targeted and relevant service for individual specific needs.
There are over 10,000 residential lettings companies in the UK – ranging from the larger corporate groups comprising hundreds of agencies, through to smaller independents operating from a single office.
Along with size goes regional variation. In reality, the UK’s ‘national’ residential lettings industry is a composite collection of hundreds of separate, local and regional markets.
Within each of these exists the broadest range of property types, from city flats, student lets (very often, but not exclusively ‘houses in multiple occupation’) through to new-build apartment blocks, town and urban detached, semi-detached or terraced homes, through to country dwellings and older period properties.
Furthermore, the 10 million UK tenants who call these properties ‘home’ range across every conceivable demographic sector in terms of age, employment, social, marital and financial status.
It’s a complex and often fragmented picture and Julie who owns the Belvoir office on Eld Lane in Colchester says: “In such a broad and diverse sector it goes without saying that not all lettings agents are the same.
“Most will offer the core, buy-to-let services of ‘letting only’, ‘letting and rent collection’, or lettings backed by full on-going management, but in addition many will have specialisms particular to their own local or regional area.
“For example, a growing source of demand comes from ‘accidental’ or ‘reluctant’ landlords – people who inherit property and choose to rent it out prior to sale – or home owners who suddenly need to work abroad or out of commuting distance, forcing them to rent out to cover costs.
“No matter what the local offering may be, the critical considerations when using a lettings agent, either as a landlord or tenant, are the levels of care and professionalism that will be provided.”
Dorian Gonsalves, Managing Director of Belvoir’s nationwide network of over 160 independent, franchised offices, adds: “Against the current backdrop of cries for more housing to be built in this country, the lettings industry continues to increase capacity at a rate of knots. This means that now, more than ever, reliable and reputable property management agents become an essential part of a landlord’s tool-kit.”
Julie continues, “Even before the start of 2016 there was an existing and growing list of more than 100 compulsory rules and regulations to adhere to in the lettings industry, with health and safety checks, tenant referencing, client money protection and licensing amongst them. These rules can change regularly and be quite complex and expensive for anyone who does not have access to a qualified and experienced lettings professional whose role is to navigate a safe passage through this ever-changing legal minefield.
“Over the opening months of 2016 a new swathe of proposed rules and legislation in the rented sector is on the way, including ‘right to rent’ checks, which apply from 1 February, in which landlords will be required to ensure their tenants are in the UK legally.
“In addition, a new Housing and Planning Bill is gearing up to tackle poorly and illegally rented property. Moves are also being made in terms of licensing certain properties, creating a database of rogue landlords and lettings agents, and the potential banning of ‘unfit’ landlords. Conversely new steps are also being taken to help good landlords recover properties from errant tenants without the need to go to court – a move openly welcomed by the industry.”
North of the border, the Scottish Government has recently concluded a period of consultation regarding the compulsory regulation of all lettings agents, including proposals for a draft ‘Letting Code’ and statutory training requirements for Scottish lettings professionals.
And in March 2016, new EU legislation – the ‘European Mortgage Credit Directive’ comes into force across the whole of the UK. It could affect any home owner who becomes an ‘accidental landlord’ by preventing them switching from a mainstream house mortgage to a specialist landlord loan.
Julie adds, “Our local office, and all others in Belvoir’s 160-wide national network are right behind positive measures to bring the entire sector up to peak professional standards and help drive out of business the small minority of rogue landlords and agents that unfortunately do still exist.
“As a company that is consistently recognised and awarded top national industry honours for its professional and ethical approach, we are passionate about taking the day to day demands of property management off the shoulders of landlords to deliver great levels of customer service to both them and their tenants.
“Until some of these proposed changes make it into statute, we believe that not all lettings agents can yet be the same. But we look forward to the day when increased scrutiny, attention to professional standards and ethics and UK wide regulation play a part in helping to create a new industry standard that meets the various needs and demands of quality private and social rented housing in the UK.”
For further advice or information on any of the issues featured, please contact your local Belvoir office for an initial free consultation.