I STARTED in lettings in 1971, working for a local estate agent who, it has to be said, didn’t have a clue about lettings. My training was as an interpreter but I fell into lettings when I thought I should stop travelling and do a sensible job! In those days most people did ‘fall’ into lettings.
My boss wasn’t interested in lettings, only sales. The few rental properties we had were offered as a service to clients who bought or sold through the agency. I (and others in the office) made several bad mistakes over time, but it taught me that there was far more to lettings than I imagined.
The Housing Act 1980 gave us Protected Shorthold Tenancies, with very strict rules for the landlord… but tenants could give just one month’s notice!
I left the agency to have my first child just as friends were posted to Hong Kong; they asked me if I would let and manage their home. I was staggered as one of my bad mistakes had been with their parents’ home! My friend said, “You’ll never make those mistakes again, will you?” And I never did. Throughout my years as a trainer to the lettings industry I have used those my early mistakes as examples to delegates.
TIME FOR BUSINESS
So, in 1974 I started Frances Burkinshaw Property Management. It was a time when young couples would go abroad to find their fortunes. The Labour party was in government and there was a car sticker around which said, “When you leave the country please turn out the light.” I said I’d stay behind, look after everyone’s homes and would eventually be the one to turn out the light.
Other friends went abroad and asked me to manage their homes and I realised that I had a small business which I could develop. I placed an advert in the local paper and the phone rang; a stranger this time inviting me to their home. I won that instruction and several more.
There were no training courses to attend in the 1970s, I had to learn by trial and error and by listening to my solicitor – a young man fascinated by Landlord and Tenant legislation. He taught me so much, I am eternally grateful to him.
We were bound by legislation – the Rent Act 1965 and the Rent Act 1977. The only property one could let safely was one’s home and only then if you actually wanted to re-occupy it after the tenant left. If you let any other type of property – an investment or inherited property – the tenant could automatically become a sitting tenant and the value of that property would drop by 60 per cent. Luckily for me, many people left the UK to find fortunes elsewhere. My business grew like Topsy.
Time marched on and so did the government. The Conservatives arrived. I am not political but it, in my view, the lettings industry is where it is today due to the fact that the government didn’t change for 17 years. It is so often the case that that one side introduces legislation and before you know it the other side gets into power and changes things again so that some changes never have the chance to ‘bed in’. This was not the case with the Housing Act 1980.
The Housing Act 1980 gets little or no publicity but I always say ‘thank you’ to this act when running training courses as this Act was the forerunner to current legislation and was the first time that we could let second/investment homes safely – as long as you followed the very stringent rules.
This Act introduced Protected Shorthold Tenancies – the first time that the word Shorthold entered the language. There were very strict rules… at least three days prior to entering the tenancy you had to serve the tenant with a notice warning them to seek advice as this tenancy was not like previous tenancies under the Rent Act 1977; you could only let the property for a period of one year of more; if you wanted the property back you had to serve the tenant with three months’ notice; that notice had to be served at a particular time – miss the deadline and the tenant got an automatic further year’s tenancy!
The tenant, however, could, at any time, give the landlord one month’s notice to leave.
This legislation gave me a great start. I was able to persuade many local farmers and shopkeepers to let cottages and flats over shops. They were naturally nervous especially as the Labour party were promising to introduce retrospective legislation turning all these new tenancies into Rent Act 1977 type tenancies. From a lettings point of view thank goodness they didn’t win the next election.
Frances Burkinshaw is an independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or email: [email protected]