In just a few months, the property management landscape in England will change significantly.
The introduction of the Tenant Fees Act on 1 June 2019, resulting in a ban on letting agent fees, represents a massive shift in our sector.
And while the government may feel it is justified in changing regulations as it sees fit for the perceived betterment of the community, letting agents are also justified in feeling anxious about the impact of these regulatory changes.
Since the ban on letting agent fees was first proposed more than two years ago, our industry has been consistent in its advice to government: the policy will not deliver the stated objectives; rather, it is more likely to result in unintended consequences.
The government says it is implementing the ban to make housing more affordable and to increase transparency in the letting process.
Yet if the concerns raised by our industry are realised, the exact opposite could happen: rents could go up, and the costs of housing previously disclosed through letting agent fees will be concealed, getting absorbed into rents without any clarity.
Start preparing now
If our industry’s concerns eventuate, the government will have a major communications issue on its hands. For letting agents, a major communications issue exists, regardless.
That is because the very introduction of the Tenant Fees Act will result in a significant change in the sector, with substantial impacts on both tenants and landlords.
So despite the long lead-in time for the policy change, letting agents should be giving serious thought right now to how they are going to prepare their landlords, and their tenants, for this massive change.
Firstly, they need to familiarise themselves with the changes to ensure they fully understand what awaits them on 1 June. Various industry associations are holding information sessions – book into at least one without delay.
But more importantly, agents need to be planning to communicate the changes with landlords and tenants well ahead of the change.
Do not assume
Do not assume that landlords and tenants have been engaged in the policy debate. In fact, experience tells me that it would be wiser to assume that both audiences know very little about the changes.
These two audiences – tenants and landlords – require vastly different messages in relation to these changes.
Depending on the amount of communication you already conduct with your tenants and landlords, these changes represent a great opportunity for letting agents.
This is an opportunity to improve the level of communication between agents, landlords and tenants – and improve levels of customer service at the same time.
Software now exists that make it easier to communicate regularly in a meaningful way with tenants and landlords. This includes IRE (InspectRealEstate), which has been designed and developed by letting agents
for letting agents.
IRE was first developed in Australia, where letting agent fees are not charged. In this environment, letting agents are always on the lookout for better, more efficient ways to streamline their operations while providing better services.
By automating many manual day-to-day repetitive tasks, IRE frees up agency staff and allows them to focus on delivering the personalised aspects of customer service and closing deals. From generating more leads and seamless listing to lead and key management, genuine agent/customer viewing co-ordination and customised client updates, IRE will greatly improve an agency’s efficiency and customer service – from listed to let, no sweat!”
Focus on changes now
Agency owners and department heads are constantly trying to find ways to improve efficiency, lift customer service levels, and ensure their business has a strong and sustainable future.
With the imminent implementation of the letting agent fee ban, the time for agency owners and department heads to focus on finding efficiencies is now. Keep in mind that the fee ban will kick in at the same time as the peak period for letting agents.
If agencies are not ready with robust and responsive systems in place, they risk being confronted by the twin challenges of rising tenant enquiries and the rising temperatures of landlords adjusting to a new, potentially antagonistic, operating environment.
It is vital that your communications processes are clear and reliable to meet these challenges.
**This article was written by Milton Jannusch, General Manager, IRE UK