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Never stop learning to let

Does training really matter? Does it pay? Yes, it most certainly does, says Frances Burkinshaw, especially in the lettings business.

Frances Burkinshaw

Frances Burkinshaw imageThe rental market is now constantly in the news; headline after headline whether it be government policies or rotten landlords, rogue agents or bad tenants – yes, they exist!

Staff training imageIn the past lettings hardly got a mention other than to scorn slum landlords such as Peter Rachman.

Way back in the ’70s it was said that doing lettings was for “Ladies who lunch”! That wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true today. If you treated it like a hobby you would, more than likely, get your fingers burnt and find yourself with a ‘sitting tenant’.

It certainly did sound easy… all you needed was a) an empty property and b) a person needing a home for a few months and bingo, put them together and you were a letting agent.

Gone are the days when it didn’t matter if a property wasn’t ‘safe’. Get it wrong today and the cost can be severe, agents can be banned from practising.

There were no specialised training courses for lettings; there were few, if any, specialised solicitors to help so there was a lot of trial and error. Some say that it the best way to learn but it could be very expensive. A property with a ‘sitting tenant’ could lose up to two thirds of its value.

If you were lucky, as I was, you did find a solicitor with a particular interest in this field. I was also really, really interested in lettings and did not want to be an ‘estate agent’. My solicitor and I poured over legislation and I absorbed as much information as I could. Knowledge was power; ignorance meant a potential lawsuit so was to be avoided at all costs.


Much later, in the late 1980s ARLA propertymark as it is now, started to run training courses for letting agents and landlords. Other courses followed run by other associations and law firms. Periodicals and magazines were written to guide people through the mire of new regulations within the industry.

Without a doubt there was a thirst for learning; in my view the workshop format always works best – about 15-25 people in a room giving them the opportunity to engage with the trainer, ask questions and be part of the day, rather than just listening to a lecture.

As an ARLA trainer for many years and subsequently an independent trainer working principally with a large corporate training staff I find delegates are most engaged when you can relate information to real-life experiences – and I have plenty of those.

Comments received ran along a theme – “the trainer was extremely knowledgeable and experienced, being able to give personal experiences as a means to demonstrate further”.


There are, of course, new ways to train; many simpler and cheaper, but do they really engage the delegate? Reading from a manual does not bring the subject to life; neither would watching a webinar.

Investment in training is never wasted. I was lucky to meet my students on several occasions, so we developed a relationship. It is so satisfying to shake someone’s hand at the end of a course and receive a sincere ‘thank you’, sometimes a round of applause! Students left with a real sense of professionalism and the knowledge that they could go out there and ‘smash’ the opposition, gain the instruction. They would have the necessary tools to answer the clients’ queries and alleviate their worries sure in the knowledge that what they were saying was legally sound. This new assertiveness would pay for their training several times over.


Lettings today appears to be propping up the property industry. Gone are the days when an estate agent had a list of two or three properties on a piece of paper in the back office; when it didn’t matter whether the property was ‘safe’ or; when tenants didn’t have a leg to stand on if the landlord decided to hold onto their deposit at the end of the tenancy. Get it wrong today and the cost can be severe, an agent can even be banned from practising.

Agents and landlords must know their trade and that involves training – and yet more training. Years ago one could deliver a course to delegates over one day from say 10.00am to 4.00pm with time for lunch and feel that they would have learnt enough. Not so today – it takes several courses to achieve the same result as there is so much more legislation and regulation for the industry.

You will see that I am biased and perhaps a bit old-fashioned in my approach, well, in this modern technical world isn’t there still room for some good in-depth discussion and debate?

Frances Burkinshaw is an independent trainer available nationally for in-house training or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or [email protected]

July 14, 2017

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