Posts with tag: letting agents

Letting agents also at risk of prosecution for managing unlicensed properties

Published On: October 23, 2019 at 9:24 am


Categories: Law News

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The licensing scheme for landlords can also hold letting agents accountable for failing to license properties on their books, according to David Kirwan, from Kirwans law firm.

David Kirwan said: “Councils such as Liverpool have made it clear that they will go after managing agents that they deem to be flouting the rules and will not hesitate to prosecute where they feel it is appropriate.”

A managing agent was fined £4,000 and handed a criminal record back in September 2018, after pleading guilty to renting out 12 properties without a licence from Liverpool City Council.

At the time of this case, the council was reported to have served 1,700 legal notices since the city’s landlord licensing scheme started in April 2015. At the time it was also considering almost 1,300 cases for prosecution.

Earlier this year, the National Landlords Association (NLA) made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, revealing that Liverpool City Council was the frontrunner when it comes to prosecuting letting agents. It had made a total of 13 prosecutions in the four-year period between 2014/15 to 2017/18.

In comparison, 53% of the 20 councils questioned had yet to prosecute a single letting agent, with a further 32% having prosecuted three or less.

A landlord and their managing agent were also caught out in Canterbury during May this year. Magistrates ordered them to pay a fine of £1,000, in addition to costs of £120 and a victim surcharge of £100 for renting out flats without a selective licence from Thanet District Council.

Kirwan also commented: “Section 88 of the Housing Act 2004 states that the proposed licence holder is ‘out of all the persons reasonably available to be licence holder in respect of the house, the most appropriate person to be licence holder’. It also states that the proposed manager of the house is either ‘(i) the person having control of the house, or (ii) a person who is an agent or employee of the person having control of the house’.

“Clearly the legislation anticipates that someone who is managing property, the subject of licensing, can also apply for and be granted a licence instead of the owner.

“In my opinion, many of the managing agency agreements which are operated by estate agents etc all over the country come within this bracket.

“It is, of course, a matter for the owner of the property who can – and often does – obtain the registration in his own name, particularly in cases where there is only a small portfolio of properties.

“Alternatively, if the property is being managed in every sense of the word by a letting agent, there is nothing to prevent these owners delegating this function to the managing agent who then applies for the licence. This surely is what an owner/landlord is looking for when he pays his commission to the managing agent?”

According to Section 95, Kirwan highlights, a person commits an offence ‘if he is a person having control of or managing a house which is required to be licensed under this part but is so not licensed’.

He added: “Managing agents need to be on their guard and ensure that all properties on their books are covered by the relevant licences to safeguard themselves against legal action, while landlords should check the agreements and terms of business set out in the contracts with their agents.

“However, if the agent has agreed to apply on behalf of the owner of registration then it does not matter if that is not specifically referred to in the agreement.

“It would be better, though, to have such a provision that in the terms of the ‘management’ of the property, the application for and compliance of all the terms and conditions of any subsequent registration licence is included as an agent’s responsibility.”

Life insurance for renters next step for letting agents to beat the fees ban

Published On: October 22, 2019 at 9:48 am


Categories: Lettings News

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Life insurance for renters is becoming increasingly a necessity to close what is known as the ‘Protection Gap’, according to Tenant Shop.

The ‘Protection Gap’ refers to the lack of cover many long-term renters have in place due to having so far missed out on the traditional life insurance trigger when taking out a mortgage.

Glenn Seddington, Managing Director of Tenant Shop, says: “We have listened to the feedback from our agents and they are telling us that this is something renters care about and something that they are looking to introduce to their customers.”

Tenants are worried about lack of cover

Research released by Sainsbury’s Bank earlier this year has revealed the extent of this problem.

It revealed:

  • Only 26% of tenants are likely to have a life insurance or critical illness policy, compared to 41% of homeowners.
  • Despite this, 54% of tenants are more concerned than homeowners (48%) about the financial implications, should they pass away before old age.
  • 21% of renters said they worry about this scenario on a weekly basis, compared to just 16% of homeowners.

Seddington says: “There is a clear appetite among tenants to get the life insurance and critical illness policy they need, but they appear not to have the same level of access as homeowners.

“Whether renting or buying, moving home is a key life event and the perfect opportunity to arrange cover.

“Therefore, while renters are considering the best options for their broadband, energy tariff and contents cover, they should also be thinking about life insurance too.”

Beating the fees ban should remain a priority

Despite the Tenant Fees Act being introduced over four months ago, it still poses a challenge to letting agents. Therefore, they should continue to explore ways in which they can limit its impact.

Tenant Shop points out that agents are often being advised to look at their business processes and consider the overall offering to tenants.

Seddington explains: “Access to additional revenue routes will be a key component in this new landscape that we find ourselves in. Products like income protection, life insurance and critical illness cover will become increasingly valuable to agents as renting becomes a lifestyle choice for many families and older people.”

Another line of business for letting agents

Tenant Shop has highlighted that online life insurance for renters can be offered by their letting agents.

Seddington comments on Tenant Shop’s own product, Cignpost Life: “Busy tenants’ need for quick and simple life insurance is greater than ever before and this should now be a solution offered by all the best modern letting agents.”

Estate agents should have flexible working options, including working from home

Published On: October 8, 2019 at 8:29 am


Categories: Lettings News

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Flexible working options for estate agents, including more opportunities to work from home, should be considered, according to Agent & Homes.

The prime London hybrid agency believes that as flexible working has been welcomed across a range of sectors, a similar opportunity in the property industry is bound to improve efficiency, productivity and staff morale.

Recent ONS Labour Force Survey figures show that more than 1.54m people work from home for their main job, which is up from 884,000 ten years ago. This survey is the largest study of employment circumstances in the UK.

The number of people working in different places but with their homes as a base has also increased. It has risen by 200,000 to 2.66m between 2008 and 2018.

On top of this, an analysis from the BBC suggests a 74% rise in the number of people working from home over the same period. 

Also, a survey of remote work by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed found 55% of workers said increased flexibility was the biggest advantage of remote working.

Bob Crowley, co-founder of Agent & Homes, says: “Being flexible means agents can work more closely to the needs of the modern consumer, who is likely to be time poor and predominantly available during evenings and at weekends.

“It therefore makes logical sense for agents to make themselves available at these times, rather than being chained to rigid traditional office hours.

“We believe there is no point in agents sitting around in dead high street offices all day when they could be providing a more pro-active, hands-on, efficient service at the times that suit their clients.”

Agent & Homes co-founder Rollo Miles comments: “Allowing staff to work more autonomously, organise their own schedules and work to their own targets will make agents more motivated.

“These days, it’s increasingly recognised that it’s important for people to have a good work/life balance with the opportunity to take holidays and time off.”

“Estate agencies should be no different and it’s no secret that a happier team are likely to be more motivated.

“In order to remain profitable and meet the changing needs of modern consumers, agents need to embrace the flexible working structures adopted by many other sectors.

“Providing a professional and expert service which isn’t constrained by a high street office or traditional working hours really is the future of estate agency in this country.”

What does a good letting agency look like? Tenants need to know!

Published On: October 2, 2019 at 10:28 am


Categories: Lettings News


It’s important that good letting agencies are making sure their tenants are aware of what to look for in a company and how others may be breaking the law, says PayProp.

The lettings payment automation provider highlights that by demonstrating their own compliance, agencies can spread the work about industry rules that must be kept. Being seen to honour such rules will help them to raise industry standards.

This will also help renters to have a better understanding of the tell-tale signs to look out for in order to avoid non-compliant agencies.

An alarming level of non-compliant agencies

A huge number of agencies in London have broken the law, according to research by London Trading Standards.

1,922 firms were inspected in the 15 months to June 2019. 46% of them failed to comply with either the Consumer Rights Act or their obligation to join a redress scheme.

This led to £1.2m in fines being issued as well as 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences.

Neil Cobbold, Chief Operating Officer of PayProp UK, says: “The number of London agencies that have failed to comply with their obligations is a cause for concern as the industry’s proportion of law-breakers is often described as a ‘minority’.

“It’s positive to see that Trading Standards is taking a proactive approach to enforcement. However, following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act and compulsory Client Money Protection scheme membership earlier this year, there is now more regulation for them to police.

“If everyone associated with the industry was equipped with the knowledge of what is required, we could avoid non-compliant agencies and improve industry standards as a whole.”

Are tenants aware of what to look out for?

Widespread abuse by rogue operators has been highlighted by these efforts from Trading Standards, but the body still needs help from the public, particularly consumers with first-hand experience.

However, PayProp is concerned that many tenants may not be aware of what they need to look out for. This includes agency’s fees templates, CMP certificates and redress scheme memberships prominently on display.

Cobbold continues: “Although the average renter will be aware of poor service when they come across it, they may not be aware of all the little things which could mean an agency is breaking the law.

“That’s where the leading agencies can help by demonstrating to their customers how they are fully compliant and committed to transparency. This could have a knock-on effect of raising awareness among renters and landlords.”

Protecting the image of the industry is crucial

Although it only focused on the capital, Trading Standards’ compliance research could have negative implications for the reputation of letting agencies across the country.

Cobbold goes on to conclude: “These statistics should act as a wakeup call for the industry to get their house in order and distance themselves from wrongdoing – more agencies are operating outside of the law than many people may have previously thought.

“At a time when the lettings sector is in the spotlight due to its growing size, the huge number of private renters and its political importance, agents must do everything they can to protect their public reputation.

“This can be done by improving consumer knowledge of what agencies do and what is required of them, as well as operating professionally and transparently at all times.

“This year’s new legislation combined with Trading Standards’ increased commitment to enforcement, can help to identify and punish more rogue operators.

“This will leave the compliant agencies who prioritise customer service to reap the benefits of a growing and increasingly regulated market.”

How can letting agents and landlords help older tenants and family renters?

Published On: September 12, 2019 at 9:09 am


Categories: Landlord News

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Letting agents and landlords can benefit from being particularly attentive to the needs of family renters and older tenants in the private rental sector (PRS), says Tenant Shop.

The provider of products and services for letting agents and tenants is pointing out that renting has become the choice of tenure for even more people living in the UK. As well as young professionals saving for their first home, there are many other tenant types choosing to stay in the PRS.

The proportion of private renters aged 55-64 increased to 9% in 2017-18 from 5% ten years previously, according to the most recent English Housing Survey (EHS).

Meanwhile, the previous year’s EHS documented a 1.8m rise in the number of family tenants over a decade.

Various other studies and research in recent years have also revealed an increase in the number of middle-aged renters, with or without children, as well as older people renting for lifestyle reasons.

Glenn Seddington, Managing Director of Tenant Shop, comments: “More people from all demographics are choosing to live in the PRS for the long-term. This is due to a number of reasons, including the flexibility and affordability it offers.

“This development has provided agents and landlords with the chance to work with new age groups and those that cater to older tenants and family renters within their service offering can reap the benefits.”

What are older tenants looking for?

Tenant shop highlights that older tenants or middle-aged renters will be looking to work with agents and landlords who can provide them with a reliable and comprehensive customer service.

As well as being able to use efficient and easily navigable online communications processes, they’ll also be keen to meet in person or speak on the phone when necessary.

Seddington explains: “Older tenants may also be looking for insurance products to protect their most valuable belongings and their families, and an alternative way to access the utilities market.

“By working closely with our agent partners, we have been able to support them further following this shift in market activity. And those that always like to be at the cutting-edge of the trends and lead the way with customer service are understood to already be yielding results.”

How can agents and landlords help family renters?

Typical family renters are likely to live busy and hectic lifestyles, balancing school runs, work commutes, meal times, house cleaning and more. Therefore, they are likely to be interested in a low-stress and hassle-free service from property professionals.

Seddington continues: “Tenants with young children are more likely to be under financial pressure, so they will be looking to keep bills down through introductory offers and deals when it comes to utilities.

“Agents who can make key introductions, as well as providing expert advice on things like contents insurance, can start to build long-term relationships with these tenants who will become the buyers, sellers and landlords of the future.”

Rogue letting agent and landlord database should be opened to industry

Published On: September 10, 2019 at 8:38 am


Categories: Law News

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The national blacklist of rogue letting agents should be opened up to the industry, says ARLA Propertymark. It’s important that agents have access to this information to avoid hiring crooked staff.

The database contains names of rogue letting agents and landlords. It can currently only be accessed by local and central government.

ARLA has highlighted that a local council will know that an agent on the blacklist is banned from the industry, but potential employers will not.

A consultation was launched over the summer by the Government discussing the possibility of opening the database to tenants and prospective tenants. This would be useful to all looking to research an agent or landlord before committing.

In ARLA’s official report it states that the Government should go even further and allow access to membership organisations and letting agents. It wants the individual agents to be ‘named and shamed’ rather than the firms.

The organisation stated in its response: “ARLA Propertymark believes that letting agents would greatly benefit from access to the database.

“This is because they will be able to properly vet potential employees before making any recruitment decision.

“Currently as the database stands letting agents are concerned that because only the local authority can view entrants, they may be at risk of hiring a banned letting agent.

“For this reason, we also think that it is vital that the database focuses on individuals rather than the agency that employs them.

“This is because, if an estate agency business receives a database entry rather than the individual working within it, there is nothing stopping the rogue letting agent from setting up another company or working in lettings elsewhere.

“Placing the focus on the individual agent would limit this.

“By making the database open and transparent, access to the details of banned letting agents would be a greater added protection to employers than just receiving employment references.”