Letting agents have received some bad press over recent years, whether it be failure to follow legislation correctly or losing tenant or landlord funds.
While this is occasionally purposefully fraudulent activity, it can be also be attributed to an agents failure to understand the law or making simple administrative errors.
Although it is the landlord who remains liable for all legislation, it is vital to be aware that an agent can be sued for breach of contract so oversights and errors can be costly. Therefore the importance of education becomes key in ensuring that agents are aware of, and meet the required standards.
So how do you know if you have the right things in place to service your clients effectively and efficiently?
Test your knowledge in our quick quiz below:
A robust complaints procedure
This is an area overlooked by many as complaints will tend to dealt with as they come in, however it is good practice for any business to have a strong process for dealing with complaints. Being transparent about the procedure can instil a sense of trust, even before a client relationship is born.
Letting Agents must be a member of a property redress scheme by law. The three schemes available require agents to publish their internal complaints procedure so that customers are aware of their rights. Complaints must initially be brought to the agent in writing. If the complaint is not resolved internally and the customer is not satisfied, it will then be referred to the redress scheme.
Redress schemes also provide an independent service for resolving disputes between you and your customers.
Develop, develop, develop
Continuous Professional Development (CPD), a process that many industries have adopted over recent years, encourages professionals to maintain an updated level of knowledge and skill to allow them to best perform in their sector. The lettings industry is no exception, with changes to multiple laws each year requiring on-going learning.
The key difference between the Private Rented Sector and many other industries is that in those industries, a lack of CPD might result in a degradation of performance, whereas in the Private Rented Sector, failure to stay on top of legislative changes can see both you and your landlords in court.
The added benefit of CPD is that it lets you know you and your staff are ahead of the game, but, and particularly if you are a member of a recognised accreditation scheme, it lets your potential customers know the same.
Most associations will enforce a specific number of CPD hours as a prerequisite for membership and accreditation. Not only will this give reassurance to landlords when putting their home and business in your hands, it will also result in you having a better understanding of the law and therefore minimising the number of errors made.
Client Money Protection
Letting agents handle large amounts of money on behalf of their customers and care should be taken to ensure that client’s monies are kept separate from the general day to day running of the business and not used as cashflow.
The government recently announced that compulsory client money protection schemes will be introduced for agents. Currently, although this is not mandatory, around 60-80% of agents are in a scheme voluntarily. Many associations and accreditation schemes will not approve membership without CMP, for which an agent must be vetted and approved to obtain.
For more information about how obtain and maintain the above recommendations, please complete our Agents Guide to Lettings course. This course gives you an overview of the entire lettings process, outlining all the legal obligations of the landlord and how they should be executed. The course is worth 5 basic CPD points and can completed in the classroom or online. If you would like to upgrade your 5 basic points to core points (a requirement of some accreditation schemes) you may like to complete the assessment module for a small cost to consolidate your learning.