Residential lettings and property management becoming increasingly big business

With the uncertain economy and paucity of available mortgage funding for first time buyers, letting of residential property is booming, and this means significantly increased business for letting agents and property management agents.

In a recent report from Professor Micheal Ball, tasked to investigate and report on the possible issues and options for regulating letting agents, he dealt with the growth of the letting agency market and the issue of whether it should be regulated in the same way as estate agency. In fact, many would say that regulation should be stronger than for estate agency as letting agents handle a significant amount of client and tenant money, and it is perhaps an anachronism that lettings is not regulated in England but is in Scotland & Wales.

Market size

According to the report, letting agents fees are now estimated to be in the region of £1 billion a year, a rapid rise from an OIFT estimate of the market size in 2007 of £145 million. Agents are also estimated to deal with 500,000 members of the public each year, which clearly demonstrates this is a sizeable and important market with public policy consideration. Letting agents/property management agents of residential properties are estimated to deal with £14 billion of client money a year.

Regulation based on complaints needed ?

At present letting agent complaints generally go to The Property Ombudsman but there is no compulsory requirement for letting agents to be members of the Ombudsman Scheme. Some 60% are members, so the available data only relates to that proportion.

The figures given in the report are :-

  • There were  just over 7,600 complaints in 2011
  • The average compensation awarded was £300.00
  • 55% of complaints were made by landlords, 45% by tenants

On the face of it the numbers are not huge but this could be due to the fcat serious issues are taken elsewhere or landlords and tenants are unaware of their legal rights or even unaware of wrongdoing or conflicts of interest.

The major areas of complaint were found to be :-

  • Difficulty in contacting the letting agent
  • Delays in repairs being undertaken
  • Poor money protection
  • Additional unexpected charges

Checklist of tasks a good letting and management agent should commit to

  • Arrange convenient helpful viewings
  • Help choose tenant, take up references, consider and advise on rent guarantees and insurance
  • Arrange pre-letting visit to property & advise on repairs, etc.
  • Explain legal rights & responsibilities to both landlord & tenant
  • Complete suitable tenancy agreement
  • Arrange condition & contents schedules and agree with both landlord & tenant
  • Respond to calls & requests promptly
  • Provide details of utilities & local authority
  • Collect rent, regularly pay to landlord, provide statements to tenants and keep records of any outgoings
  • Explain separate client accounts & client money protection
  • Have professional indemnity insurance
  • Arrange safety checks and provide safety certificates to tenants
  • Periodically visit & inspect property
  • Arrange for routine maintenance and arrange any repairs promptly
  • Record any rent or other arrears and report to Landlord promptly and seek to find out reason from tenant
  • Serve notices in good
  • Check condition at tenancy end and seek to agree with Landlord & Tenant
  • Return deposit less any costs
  • Arrange repairs at tenancy end
  • Collect keys & sign-off property

 

For additional help and advice on any residential property legal issues, we would be happy to help at Darlingtons Solicitors. You can also visit our specialist lease advice website.

How to avoid a household disaster this winter

If you want to enjoy Christmas and New Year without worrying about your central heating system or waterworks – it’s time to get your house in order sooner rather than later. A little DIY and a few repairs don’t take long, but they could save you a lot of bother further down the line.

Arrange a boiler service

With the temperatures set to plummet over the next few months, arranging boiler cover should be at the top of your to-do list. An engineer will check that everything’s working properly and will repair your pilot light, or control settings if necessary. They will also inspect all ventilation routes and make sure you are not at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which affects hundreds of people each year.

Insulate your water pipes

If a part of your water pipes freeze, it can create a burst that might cause extensive damage to your home. This can be disastrous – particularly if you have no-one to help you out – so you must insulate your waterworks. To do this, buy some high-quality foam from a nearby DIY store and wrap it tightly around each and every pipe. This will lock the warm air in and prevent the liquid inside from turning to ice.

Thaw out your condensate pipe

The condensate pipe carries condensation from your boiler to an outside drain and is prone to freezing – particularly if it’s exposed to the elements. If this happens, the blockage can cause your central heating shutdown, so it must be thawed as soon as possible. Pouring hot water over the pipe should do the trick, but if that doesn’t work fast enough, you can also use a hot water bottle or heat pack. If this doesn’t solve the problem, heating engineers are on hand to help.

Keep an eye on your thermostat

If your boiler thermostat is off or is set too low, you will have problems heating your house. Your radiators won’t get warm and there will be no hot water to take a bath or shower. This can be very inconvenient when there’s snow on the ground, so keep an eye on your temperature settings and check that the pilot light is lit. If you can’t detect the problem, call for help before your lips turn blue.

Bleed your radiators

Your central heating system should warm your house quickly, so if you’re not feeling the benefits there may be an airlock in the system. Pockets of gas often get trapped in the radiators, so learn how to bleed them and see if that solves the problem. If things still don’t improve, check that your timers and programmers are working, before calling for professional help.

A boiler breakdown or heating hiccup can be embarrassing if the in-laws are round, so know how to make basic repairs and organise a gas safety check.

Landlord liability and accident claims

We are all aware that accidents can happen at any time but how does this situation affect landlords? As someone responsible for the safety and general upkeep of a building in which others live, it is your responsibility to ensure that no unnecessary dangers are present – and this means any accidents which occur in the property could be your fault.

Whilst investing in liability insurance can help protect you from accident claims, it is important that you take necessary action to protect your tenants. This means providing them with a safe place to live and communicating with them regularly.

You also need to know a few facts surrounding accident claims and landlords. If you have liability insurance then any compensation will usually be taken from this policy – so you won’t necessarily be out of pocket.

 Accident claims solicitors

Accident claims solicitors are there to help make everything easier for the claimant. Some accident claims solicitors specialise in certain areas of accident claims. This may be medical claims or criminal injury claims and may affect the way in which they handle any cases against you.

Whilst people were often worried about filing an accident claim due to concerns over cost, this is now largely removed.

Many solicitors now operate on a ‘no win no fee’ policy .If they win their case against you then their fees are usually covered by your insurance, so the claimant pays nothing.

Staying safe

Whilst there is little you can do to prevent an accident claim against you once it has been filed, it is important that you continue to provide a safe environment for your tenants – regardless of whether they are claiming damages against you.

All properties which you own should be inspected regularly and you should keep a detailed inventory of any damages already present on the property. Any damages caused by your tenants can be billed to them but any structural issues or other problems are your responsibility to sort.