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The tenant fees ban – what next?

We are all aware of the impending tenant fees ban, which is making its way through the Parliamentary process, says Frances Burkinshaw. Now we need to make the most of it.

Frances Burkinshaw

Red traffic light in house image

Agents argued against this ban; some of those arguments have been taken on board, others have not.

We must, therefore, make the most of what is to come. Agents should be forward thinking about how they will run their businesses. For some there will be a gaping hole in their finances; for others the effect will be less dramatic.

It is likely that there will be even more competition between agents. The pool of properties available to let will decrease, for a number of reasons:

  • Changes to HMRC rules for landlords, particularly mortgage interest relief;
  • Additional Stamp Duty for second homes;
  • Removal of the Wear and Tear Allowance and stagnation of the property market
EXTRA INCOME?

If the pool of properties reduces, every instruction gained will become even more important. One of the ways for an agent to increase income will be to convert ‘Let Only’ properties to ‘Full Management’. Let Only lets are a good source of instant income. The monthly figure is inflated by an injection of fees covering the whole tenancy term – but what about the following months?

An agent does not have any control over a Let Only let. What about …

  • The future renewal
  • Section 21 notices
  • Maintenance issues
  • Re-letting of the property
  • Keeping out the opposition

Any of the above, and more, can be fee earners, from the landlord, which are potentially lost. Many landlords believe that letting and managing a property is a simple task. Are they aware that there are now about 160 different pieces of legislation and regulations that have to be adhered to when letting a property? Understandably many landlords choose the Let Only route to save costs but time is money and ignorance of the law can be very, very expensive.

APPLICANT EXPECTATIONS

An applicant, walking over the threshold of an agent’s office, expects that the properties available will be under Full Management. In my view an agent has a duty to explain, right from the start, which properties are fully managed and which are not. For a landlord, the danger is that the applicant may well choose the fully managed property in the expectation that the transaction will be more professionally handled and that the landlord will be kept at a distance.

Many landlords choose Let Only to save costs, but ignorance of the law can be very, very expensive.

Many applicants were once students who may well have rented accommodation privately whilst studying. I have come across many ‘horror’ stories over the years of landlords entering property at will, with no notice; of landlords leaving property in very poor condition; of landlords not protecting deposits and not returning the deposit at the end of the tenancy. Any and all of these situations can put an applicant off renting privately from a landlord in the future. The decision is then made to rent through an agent – only to find that some properties are not fully managed after all.

LANDLORD MISCONCEPTIONS

Many landlords own the property next door to their own home or perhaps they have a cottage nearby. To them it appears simple to let that property themselves at little cost. Have they thought about the tenant, who knows that the landlord is nearby, contacting them constantly without regard to the time of day or at weekends?

Instructing an agent on full management means that the tenant can be told, in no uncertain terms, that they must contact the agent for all issues relating to the tenancy – and leave the landlord to live in peace!

After all, imagine if the let property and the landlord’s home share a driveway. The rent isn’t paid for several months but the landlord and tenant bump into each other daily when leaving for work. With full management the landlord can ‘pretend’ that he doesn’t know about the problem, say ‘good morning’ politely and go about his business leaving the nasty side of things to the agent. It could be extremely stressful starting the day with an argument over rent arrears in one’s own drive!

SELLING THE SOLUTION

Agents should now take every opportunity and use every sales technique to sell full management over letting only. They may consider that it will mean much more work for not enough reward but this is not necessarily so at all. A well-managed property need not be a burden. Well-managed can equal a longer tenancy term with happy tenants and less void periods.

Agents should use every sales technique to sell full management. They may think it will mean much more work for little reward but this is not necessarily so at all.

Well-managed can mean a well maintained property with serviced appliances, regular decorating and upkeep and thereby rare maintenance disasters. Well-managed means that the property will be visited on a regular basis, by appointment. At such visits maintenance issues will be reported, the status of the tenancy can be determined and there can be a polite element of ‘big brother’ keeping tabs on important issues such as the number of occupants, pets, housekeeping etc.

Frances Burkinshaw image

Frances Burkinshaw

With compulsory Client Money Protection looming, professional agents should take the opportunity of pushing not only full management but the professionalism of their business and the fact that they have been offering Client Money Protection for many years on a voluntary basis – not simply because the law made them do so.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all letting professionals a very Happy Christmas and hopefully a prosperous New Year.

Frances Burkinshaw is an experienced independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or frances@ivychimneys.co.uk

January 11, 2019

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