When things go wrong London Landlords turn to us- here's why
Our 'new landlord' demographic is dominated by two groups- around 70% of our new landlords are through referrals and the other 30% come from those that have had a bad experience with another agent, tenant or both. We'll talk about referrals in another blog but in this article, we will cover the area of mistreatment and here's why...
When a landlord, whether they are located in Shoreditch, Bow, Canary Wharf or any other locality in or around East London chooses their first letting agent or property management agent there are some very common patterns. The choice is almost certainly driven primarily by several of the following:
•Lots of local estate agency boards
•Multi-page spread in magazines
•Most properties listed online
•Big swanky high street office
•Fleet of branded vehicles
The trouble is, none of these are an indicator that the agent is actually any good. In lettings, contrary to what many landlords may think, finding a tenant is usually the easy bit! It's everything that comes after an offer is received that is what's really important.
Many landlords (sadly) don't realise this until it's too late. It's when things go wrong that landlords suddenly realise how complex letting a property and choosing a letting agent and how irrelevant these 'early attractions' really are....and that's when they come knocking at our (virtual) door.
Lettings have changed dramatically in the last decade. So much so that it is now almost unrecognisable. Despite ongoing attacks in the media, the lettings industry (whilst not licensed) is one of the most regulated on the planet. In fact, landlords and letting agents have to comply with 400+ pieces of legislation to be legally compliant. Many of these carry hefty fines and even the possibility of imprisonment. In fact, a recent case has seen an agent/landlord fined £235,000 and is facing- failure to pay could see them face up to 2 years & 30 days in prison (read the article on Letting Agent Today here).
This means that the 'good old days' when an agent or landlord could find a tenant, have them sign a contract, do a gas safety and move them in are long gone. If this is all you or your letting agent does- then it's only a matter of time until you get in big trouble. However, a lot of agents haven't changed their approach. In fact many are flaunting numerous legislations leaving themselves, the tenants and importantly their fee paying landlords woefully exposed. What a lot of Landlords don't realise is that even when using an agent, they still have a legal responsibility to ensure their property and tenancy is fully compliant. However this usually comes to light when things go wrong....and nowadays, things can go VERY wrong.
So, when a landlord can't serve notice on a difficult tenant due to non-compliance, or can't evict them for arrears for the same reason, or receives a hefty fine or jail time or all of the above....what does a landlord do?
They change estate agent! Importantly, however, HOW they now search for an agent changes dramatically. Suddenly none of the things in the earlier list are important. So how should a landlord find the right agent? After reviewing our landlords here's what they told us:
Independents treat you like a person
An agent with loads of offices, staff & properties is appealing at first and seems impressive- after all, they must be great to have gotten that big right? However, the reality often means that you are one of the thousands, or even tens of thousands, of clients and this means you are far more likely to be treated as a number and not a person. As is true in almost any industry, an established independent brand, especially one run by hands-on owners, usually give a far more personal & accountable service. No 'corporate disclaimers'. No 'buck passing'. No 'I'm sorry there are no notes about this on the file'. No 'you need to speak to a different department yet no-ones available'. No.....well you get the picture.
Base Property Specialist are just that SPECIALIST!
At Base, we understand that each clients' needs and requirements are different to the next. By knowing each of our clients we are able to give a professional and personal service, which is really important to us. In fact, our clients' satisfaction is more important than growing as fast as we can. That's why we cap the number of new clients each year to ensure our standards don't slip. We call it 'be the one' to make sure that our clients' needs are met.
Knowledge & expertise
Agents boasting about market share, or number of boards, offices, staff or cars may sound impressive but is, ultimately, often meaningless when it comes to the QUALITY of the offering. Landlords soon realise that experience, knowledge and expertise are far more important and in fact vital- especially when renting our your property. By that, I don't mean the erroneous 'years of experience' some agents tout by adding all their staff together. No, expertise is displayed in a few key areas- namely:
•Comprehensive nature of the service offered
•Transparency of operations & legislation
•Informed & expert content provided through materials, website, blog & social media
Why landlords choose base - we challenge any UK letting agent to prove they include more in their Lettings services than we do. We consider our offerings to cover almost every eventuality a landlord can face. Examples of this include free rent & legal warranties on all tenancies but also unique offerings like 'free emergency appliances' and our 'maintenants' guide providing tennats with a free tutorial on the life skills to maintain their rental properties. What's more, we're totally transparent about the process of renting a property as well as 3rd party costs (such as cleaning, inventories and maintenance) before a Landlord ever signs with us. We also actively use our blog and social media channels to educate and inform landlords & tenants alike on legislation and suchlike.
Reviews- but be cautious
Independent reviews can also be a great way to assess an agent's competency but aren't as reliable as they once were. The popularity of review sites in our industry has meant that many agents, especially large ones, have learned to 'game the system' so you have to be cautious. Remember most agents will invite reviews- but how likely is it that they will ask disgruntled Ms X to put one up? Factor reviews into the decision process but don't rely on them exclusively.
Why landlords choose Base- we were one of the very first agents to adopt and promote independent, online reviews. However, keeping our landlords & tenants happy is far more important to us than them writing about it. What's more, with a smaller portfolio and many of our tenants staying at each of our properties for over 3 years at a time, we don't get too many opportunities to gather large volumes of reviews. We are very happy with this and wouldn't change a thing.
Awards can be great
Awards, like reviews, can be great- but, again, should only form part of your decision process. We are fortunate and proud to have won many awards in our short history and we hope to still win many more. However, awards mean many things. Some are 'industry accolades' decided by an array of experienced agents, regulators and suppliers and these tell you how they think you perform in the marketplace. These include the (now ceased) Times & Sunday Times 'Letting Agent of the Year Awards', the 'Negotiator Awards' and the 'Landlord & Letting Agent Awards'. Others, such as The ESTAS or Estate & Letting Agent Awards are decided exclusively by votes submitted exclusively by fee-paying clients and rent paying Tenants- offering an alternate perspective.
Friendly, transparent communications from the offset
However, the biggest reason above all, that new landlords gave for joining us after a terrible experience elsewhere was our immediate & transparent communications. The fact that we were prepared to discuss anything and everything, in detail, before signing up or even undertaking a valuation. When a Landlord gets burned, they want to know it's not going to happen again and that can mean a lot of questions- about procedures, processes, legislation and more. We understand this and have always felt that every Landlord should understand exactly what their responsibilities are as a Landlord from the offset and the amazing steps we take to fulfil these for them and to protect them as best we can.
If this sounds like the London Letting agent you want working for you then please contact our friendly and professional team. If you are not a London Landlord then I hope this will help you choose the best possible letting agent to take care of you and your rental property going forwards.