The Private Rented Sector - Raising the Bar
Anyone working in the Private Rented Sector at the moment is probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of documentation coming out of The Department for Communities and Local Government. Hot on the announcement that the Government is going to ban all fees charged to tenants, Sajid Javid MP (the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) is now ‘on a roll’ and in the past few weeks we have received:
- Draft Tenant Fees Bill
- Mandatory Client Money Protection Schemes for Property Agents – Consultation Paper
- Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market – Call for Evidence
- Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector – Working Group Report
Forget Location, Location, Location – it really is Regulation, Regulation, Regulation these days! That said, the general consensus amongst industry professionals is that this is all a move in the right direction. There has long been a call for the lettings industry to be regulated and when you consider that as property professionals we have to be familiar with over 700 pieces of legislation, it is staggering that until now, the industry has been completely unregulated.
The rules cover everything from gas, fire and electrical safety requirements, Right to Rent checks, tenancy deposit protection, consent to let from mortgage providers, Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), tenancy agreements, and the law on access and notice periods to name but a few. Selling property seems perfectly simple in comparison!
One thing I will never understand is why, when property is for most people their most valuable asset, so many Landlords base their choice of Agent on price and not on quality of service. You wouldn’t choose the cheapest nursery for your child so why choose the cheapest agent?
And therein lies the problem. Sajid Javid’s opening comments in the Draft Tenant Fees Bill state that the ban will “sharpen and increase letting agents’ incentives to compete for landlords’ business, resulting in a better and more transparent service for everyone”. I don’t agree. The market is already very competitive and the unintended consequence of the fee ban is that agents will be forced to look for other ways to meet the shortfall. Higher levels of service come at a cost and this should be recognised.
We wouldn’t instruct a lawyer, architect, or accountant and not expect to incur a commensurate bill. Letting agents provide a valuable service in ensuring that landlords comply with their legal requirements and that properties are safe for tenants to rent. As a general rule, people fail to appreciate the level of knowledge, skills and expertise required of letting agents. On the back of all the recent changes to improve standards, as an industry we need to re-define our position as professionals and raise the bar to make a clearer case as to what is a fair and reasonable fee for our work. I would urge the Government to consider what it thinks is reasonable for a letting agent to charge because quite frankly, most letting agents could earn more as cleaners!
Owner, Piccolo Property Services