What makes a good letting agent? Meeting the very simple (but challenging) needs of landlords – namely, to find people who will commit to a long term tenancy, pay their rent on time and not cause problems for their neighbours or landlord!
Not an unreasonable set of expectations, but success varies from one letting agent to another and that’s down to how they run their business. You’ll find lots of examples of ‘top questions’ to ask your letting agent, but none of them quite get to the heart of the issue for landlords. Let me explain.
Having the right accreditations
We’ve got a list of accreditations and memberships that runs the width of our website: NLA, UKALA, Safe Agent, PRS, My Deposits, ICO … they’re all important and should have some sway with landlords, because they stand for best practice. For example, UKALA undertakes an annual review of important areas such as our client accounts and deposit protection. As an NLA Accredited Landlord I have demonstrated my knowledge and experience by passing their competency exams. Also, many representative bodies do their best to give us a much needed voice with Government.
Like awards however, they’re no real guarantee of performance or value for money. As Groucho Marx said “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” We clearly don’t feel that strongly (!) but accreditation is no substitute for running a business with accountability at its core.
Fully trained staff
The key to a good letting agent lies in its people. It’s massively important to have trained staff – so long as the training is fit for purpose. Staff should be trained to do very specific jobs and being a ‘team’ shouldn’t mean everyone ‘mucking in’. Allowing staff to swap tasks and ‘do a bit of everything’ as the need arises is inefficient and costly. It might look like good customer service but no way is it really serving the customer.
The good letting agent sets specific roles for their staff, such as Tenant On-boarding, Account Management, Legal Compliance, Maintenance, Viewings, Applicant Progression, Complaints Handling, etc. In fulfilling them properly, we’re accountable not only to our clients but also to each other.
Our processes and systems help us to do our job excellently and we certainly don’t hide behind them. For example, we gave considerable thought to the changes we needed to make to our business during the recent COVID-19 lockdown. The best way to support our landlords and their tenants was our only goal. Our solutions ranged from virtual video tours to get vacant properties let, to step-by-step guidance for tenants genuinely worried about their financial stability … oh, and knowing when a tenant is trying it on!
However, efficient processes are no substitute for being alert, agile and dealing with tasks as they arise, rather than letting them mount up. Take the new legislation that’s waiting in the wings; landlords will be required to engage in a series of pre-action protocols before attempting to gain possession of a property due to the tenant failing to pay their rent. The good letting agent must be ready with the detail, so their clients don’t fall foul of the law. Processes only work if accountability lies at the heart of them.
Technology that works
Ah yes, technology … this is where ‘all the gear and no idea’ springs to mind! We are as automated as we need to be:
- Unique automated new tenant enquiry response system. This means we respond to every single new tenant enquiry (how many other agents can make that claim? According to Zoopla it can be as low as 40%!)
- Systemised tenant on-boarding process
- Electronic contract signing
- VoiP telecom solution
- Cloud software
Technology will only enable ‘working smarter’ if it’s customised to our needs, which in turn benefits our clients and their rental business.
Accountability makes a good letting agent
Accountability – that’s what makes a good letting agent; from charging fair fees, to being transparent and acting in the best interests of the landlord. For this reason, the large letting agent with multiple offices is not necessarily the right choice. Size of organisation might have been a ‘guarantee’ of resilience back in the day but COVID-19 has put that firmly to rest!
Neither is buying power a given. Take our market-leading Rental Guarantee & Legal Expenses Cover; we don’t qualify for this insurance through the volume of take-up, we’ve earned the ability to offer this level of cover through our success as diligent, forward-thinking letting agents.
Look for evidence of accountability and you’ll find the kind of letting agent who will help you achieve your business and lifestyle goals.