Lettings is my life. I would almost go so far as to say it’s all I know. Having started my original letting agency in 1990, and then assisted many in starting up letting agencies when there was no internet and when everything depended on the newspaper and cards for record keeping, I’ve lived through the whole journey, done the long hours, felt the pain and lived every element of change that has come along the way.
The world has changed but the key fundamentals of what we do and how we run a letting agency has not. We just have a few more gadgets to help us manage teams and get the message out there now to what we had before and the market is now because of this bigger.
Many people ask me “Sally, what is the key to starting a letting agency business and running a successful lettings branch?” Lettings is, if nothing else, a people business. We have to know how to manage our team and our clients, including landlords, tenants, neighbours and contractors. The natures of all these relationships have many trigger points in which they can fall out and as agents we have to know how to keep all this on an even keel.
To do this we need to be able to communicate and keep people informed all the way. Customer service is so important and this must never be lost sight of. Even if you have a funky computer system that can send our automatic reports, you can’t replace calling a landlord when their tenants have fallen into arrears. They will definitely appreciate you just having a chat with them to talk them through what happens next.
Our job is to be a mixture of 3 roles, we are like an estate agent at the beginning, solicitors and contractors in the middle and a manager at the end. In fact this is so much the case, that when we employ people for our various departments, we need 3 different types of people and they very rarely cross over from one department to the other.
As you walk through the building the contrast is so visible.
- The sales department is loud and motivational and exciting, with bonuses and targets to be hit and bells ringing.
- The management team is serious and practical and can fix any problem or issue that arises.
- The accounts team is almost silent, they need peace and quiet, to concentrate and make sure that everything is in the right place.
In the relationship in which we trade, firstly we have to figure out how to find new landlord clients, Tenants of the landlords and our employees. To understand our job, we have to understand the contracts that we have in place and our duty to all of them.
As the landlords are our clients, when starting a letting agency business,, you will need to consider that you have a duty to protect your landlords interests, this is their asset (their property) and how will you put in safeguards to protect them or potentially be liable. you may need to seek advice and guidance on how you can do this, so seek specialist training on starting a letting agency early on. To do this we provide them with a comprehensive tenancy agreement and other safety and tenancy legal documentation, but also sometimes this means stopping them from doing something they may want to do, when emotions have got the better of them, that could leave them with a legal claim against them, for example unlawfully removing a tenant without going through the proper procedure. We must explain to them what needs to be done and ensure they are clear and happy with the proposed course of action and confident that we will be seeing this through for them.
The tenants are not our clients, but we do have a duty of care to them. This means that if they are in any way in danger we must act to endeavour to correct whatever is the issue, for example if a tenant calls with a gas leak, we must instruct Transco immediately (not a day later) and ensure rectification works needed are done. If a landlord client refuses to do essential maintenance works, which may in turn leave him liable to a claim, then we should have in our contracts with the landlord that we can carry out emergency works, but if he still refuses, then our only course of action is to remove ourselves from the arrangement and de-instruct ourselves as we work for the landlord and by not carrying out essential works, then we would too be liable. In severe cases we may need to take further action. We also need to ensure they are allowed to have “quiet enjoyment” of their property free from harassment from us or their landlord at all times too.
With our employees who work for us as agents, we must have a contract with them too, this must ensure that they are contracted to do all the things that as agents we have to do. We must ensure that the staff are adequately trained to provide the level of service that our landlords expect and to recognise danger signs like going on an inspection and noticing a tenant using a lounge with an open gas fire as a bedroom, and therefore knowing exactly what course of action to take next. Also legally they must all be to a good standard as we are unofficially an centre for advice from all that we deal with , neighbours about noisy tenants, landlords about contracts and contractors and tenants about previous managing agents issues and LHA (local housing allowance) claims. It is also important that all of our team from negotiators to Check out clerks are trained to look for dangers in properties, like frayed carpets, loose handrails and low windows, to name a few and that they are aware of any recommended course of action.
If we keep in mind what we are all contracted to do for whom, have an attitude of how would we like to be treated and to treat all others in the same way, and keep our team trained and developed accordingly, with every task allocated to someone in that team, then the whole process should run very smoothly indeed.
Fostering the rights types of relationships in lettings and with whom is a huge part of my work with Property Agents Circle, my sister company that assists UK letting agents with business growth. As part of my 5 key elements for success, I consider it of utmost importance to inspire your team to hit the correct KPIs, generate more leads, and earn the trust of long-term clients.
If you own a letting agency and want assistance with motivating your team for success, why not have a look at our 10 secrets guide for running a successful letting agency, or look at our other resources and events at www.propertyagentscircle.co.uk
Sally Lawson is a Leading authority on Residential Lettings in th UK, Sally has ran Lettings Branches since 1990, and let over 5000 properties during that time. She has also worked as a consultant and trainer to Letting agents nationwide. Sally is actively involved with ARLA (the association of residential letting agents) as a regional representative and Media Spokesperson for the group, and runs the rapidly expanding nationwide Concentric Lettings operation and Franchised network. www.sallylawson.co.uk