Sometimes letting agents get bad press, portrayed like gun-slinging bandits of the property world. So much so that the pressure on the private rented sector (the PRS) has led to an increasing number of government interventions in the last few years.
This includes the mandating of property redress in 2014, fee transparency rules in 2015, and the roll-out of Right-to-Rent in England in 2016. We’ve also seen banning orders introduced to prevent repeat offenders from letting out property, as well as the recent confirmation of plans to make client money protection (CMP) insurance a compulsory requirement.
And who could forget the Government’s proposals and consultation to ban the charging of fees to tenants, which contains numerous inferences to a desire to go even further with regulation.
The message seems to be clear: the game is finally up for the cowboys, and the continued focus on letting agents is unlikely to abate post-election, whichever leader is resident behind the famed black door of Number 10.
The message is clear – the game is finally up for the cowboys and the continued focus on letting agents is unlikely to abate, whichever leader is resident at Number 10.
UKALA’S MAGNIFICENT SEVEN OF MEMBER BENEFITS
Yet there exists a sizeable chunk of agents – good and bad – that remain reluctant to join a trade body, despite half of tenants saying they’d be more likely to use one that is (1). So with all this in mind, perhaps now is the perfect time to take another look at what you are missing out on, or to reassess whether you might be able to a get a different and better deal. If you haven’t considered joining UKALA, let us present the magnificent seven of membership benefits.
UNRIVALLED ACCESS TO LANDLORDS
In order to gain that competitive edge and set yourself apart from other agents, UKALA offers you something that other trade bodies cannot. Only we have a unique relationship with the National Landlords Association (NLA) – the UK’s leading organisation for private-residential landlords – giving you unrivalled access to a network of around half a million properties. (2)
The relationship allows you to attend NLA branch meetings that take place throughout the UK, and no other representative body for letting agents offers the potential to generate business opportunities and to promote yourself directly to local landlords in this way.
Furthermore, if you join UKALA you’ll automatically become a member of the NLA’s Recognised Agent Scheme. This exclusive benefit is worth £2,500 per year and works as a business recommendation from landlords that enhances your industry status and credibility.
TRUSTED AND EXPERT ADVICE
Of the many services provided by UKALA perhaps the most useful is the help and assistance offered by our Advice Line, which is manned by a host of trained advisers offering practical and pragmatic guidance on any and all issues to do with running your lettings business.
We receive calls each year from agents who have come unstuck and need our help, covering a wide variety of problems, including how to regain possession of a property, how to deal with rent arrears, and how to navigate tricky contract law matters.
Why waste your time trawling through online forums for the information you need or spend more than you need to on solicitor’s fees, when expert advice is just a call away with membership? UKALA agents benefit from access to the Advice Line, which means that in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, you can take great comfort in having the sympathetic ear of a trained adviser in a matter of seconds.
CLIENT MONEY PROTECTION (CMP)
Agents hold a whopping estimated £2.7bn in client money (excluding deposits) but, despite wide support for mandatory CMP within the industry, this protection currently remains a ‘nice-to-have’.
However, the ability to market your services as CMP compliant before it is an obligation will help set you apart from your competitors, and demonstrate that you opt for a higher standard of service before it is forced upon you. It’s simply a matter of trust, which is why agents who join UKALA are provided with client money protection through UKALA’s arrangement with Client Money Protect, so long as you don’t already have cover arranged elsewhere.
Standalone CMP cover costs in excess of £300 or even more if obtained through other trade bodies, so UKALA membership is a snip when you consider the additional benefits on offer.
A ROUTE TO INDEPENDENT REDRESS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
The ability to handle complaints swiftly and professionally has the power to enhance your business, but unfortunately there will always be occasions when your customers are simply unsatisfied with the outcome. Third party redress is already a legal requirement for agents who operate in England, with the redress scheme providing reassurance to your landlord or tenant clients that they have access to an independent decision if they are unhappy with the outcome of a complaint.
All UKALA agents in England benefit from automatic membership of the Property Redress Scheme, one of the three independent schemes authorised by the Government to resolve complaints from consumers of letting agents in the country.
UKALA agents have direct access to the Advice Line – in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, you will have the sympathetic ear of a trained advisor in a matter of seconds.
COVER IN CASE YOU’RE SUBJECT TO A TAX INVESTIGATION
If HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) suspect that your tax returns are inaccurate, you could be subject to a tax investigation. However, did you know that investigations by HMRC are often conducted at random, which means it can be a highly stressful and costly process, particularly if you require professional representation.
Luckily, UKALA has you covered should you find yourself the subject of an investigation. Tax investigation insurance can cost over £100 per year, but is included free of charge as part of UKALA’s membership package.
ACCESS TO PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AT DISCOUNTED RATES
Staff development is central to running a successful lettings business and it is the best way to improve knowledge and competence across the entire agency. But did you know that six in ten tenants think that agents would benefit from more training or professional qualifications? (1)
UKALA provides a variety of trusted and recognised training courses and gives you the option of attending face-to-face courses conducted in-house by expert trainers, or undertaking training online for free.
With UKALA you choose the option that’s most convenient for you, while potentially benefiting from discounts of up to 22% (3) per course booking. Our relationship with the NLA also gives you access to NLA-run training courses at similarly discounted rates. If you want to develop a better understanding of the lettings industry then look no further.
UKALA members also get free 24/7 access to the Online Library – one of the most comprehensive resources for agents, which doubles up as a structured learning tool for recording your or your staff’s individual development progression. It is continually updated to reflect the most recent changes in the law and provides essential advice on best practice, ensuring that you can keep up with your responsibilities to tenants and landlords.
DISCOUNTS ON A RANGE OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
We understand how important it is to offer good, reliable and cost effective products and services to our members, so much so that we decided to develop our own. All of our products and services are designed to take the hassle of running your business, and UKALA agents can save up to 25% on tenant and credit checks, helping you to reference new or existing tenants and take some of the risk out of renting.
UKALA agents also benefit from significant savings when protecting deposits with mydeposits’ Insurance Scheme, offering a 50% saving on the cost of annual membership (£50 plus VAT), and a massive 75% discount on each and every protection (£10 plus VAT), if you have CMP.
JOIN UKALA TODAY
UKAKA is the only association for letting agents that offers members a low-cost and more flexible monthly instalment plan to help manage the cost of running your business.
Join today by calling 020 7820 7900 or visiting www.ukala.org.uk to receive unrivalled access to landlords and our full range of benefits and services.