Monthly Archives: August 2010

You are browsing the site archives by month.

By Steve Roulstone

The future is on line.

One of the most important principles that any Letting Agency has to understand in today’s cyber community, is not only the importance of the Web but how to control and appear in the web to all potential customers. With Google controlling 86% of all search engine activity, to be listed on the front page under any generic term, has to be the goal of every National Property Management Company.

Who does not look on the Web?

Every agent should be aware of where their customer base comes from. I was aware years ago, that the number of Tenants moving in to properties that I managed through my Agency, was growing month on month. Now nationally, the figure is around 90% and makes the cost of advertising in the local paper prohibitive and probably explains why most of the press where the income from property advertising is significant, are creating their own web site! Both Tenants and Landlords are looking for their information and sourcing the solution they require through the web and Google have captured the market!

Franchise Online.

As a National Franchise Agency we are very aware that all Property Lettings Franchise Companies look to market themselves in the same way and therefore we all have training available for our Franchisees so they make the best out of what, if you get it right, is a free service. Get your Company in the right position on the web and visible in searches relating to your business in your area and your target customers will find you!

Delivering the message

But this is not as simple as some may think or suggest it is. It takes dedication and understanding of how to achieve your aim and we are all aware that there is a plethora of Companies telling us they can train us how to appear at the top of the listings and I would recommend all Companies employ professionals to instruct them in the correct methods. If you are going to ensure you are well versed in the art (and it is an art!) of positioning then choose carefully, but there is no doubt, we all need to gain web presence!

By Steve Roulstone

Why manage yourself?

As a professional Letting agent, we are often asked to find Tenants for Landlords who are going to manage the property themselves. This is because they feel that once the initial service has been provided, which is requested because of our ability to both provide professional referencing as well as ensure that the process and agreements are correct in format and content, they will be capable of looking after the property after the Tenant has moved in.

What happens next?

What happens after we have completed our job and handed the Tenant contact details for the Landlord is the key to self Management, because if the Tenant is under a Full Management service, they will then continue to receive contact and information whilst they settle in, including more detailed information and utility confirmation and usually continued contact as the final details are completed for their tenure. At this stage the Tenant is getting to know how the Management works and getting to know the people involved. I actually firmly believe that the smaller agency is very good at this, because they offer the same contact no matter what the issue.

More contact = Happy Tenant

We know from experience that by ensuring the Tenants are settled in, knowledgeable about how the Tenancy is going to work and receiving assistance in dealing with utilities, keys, maintenance issues (which always seem to come at the start of most Tenancies) and the legal side of the Tenancy including setting up rental payments, they feel welcome and comfortable with the situation. Rather than the Agent becoming a nuisance to them, we prove that we are going to be able to make living at the property a more pleasurable time in their lives.

Less contact = Abandoned Tenant

But if they do not have anybody who is prepared to assist in sorting these issues out, the opposite happens. They will probably not let you know that the door to one of the kitchen cupboards has become loose, that post has arrived for the Landlord, that they have a new Mobile number etc etc! Instead, what happens is unless as a self Management Landlord you keep regular contact with your Tenant, they feel that you have abandoned them in the property.

The consequences.

And this is important, as many Landlords find to their cost when they either need to visit the property or even worse, at the end of the Tenancy. A Tenant who is left to feel that the Landlord is happy to take the rent, but not to ensure they are comfortable will possibly stop looking after the property and advising of any issues. I would state that it is a dangerous scenario and not wanted by any Landlord. If you are a Landlord who wants to manage the property yourself, always make sure that you keep regular contact and carry out regular visits to the property. If you do not want to do this, use your Letting Agent to manage the property on your behalf!

By Mike Edwards


Changes to the Law

If a tenancy has been granted to a minor then to date it has probably been completed in the tenant’s name with a Guarantor’s Agreement in the background. However all this has now changed and that procedure may not be robust enough to withstand a challenge from the tenant against a section 21 notice issued while they are still under 18. This is courtesy of a recent Appeal Court decision known as The Hammersmith Case

An under age tenant had applied to the council for homelessness assistance when she was 16 and pregnant. The council provided her with temporary accommodation on an AST with standard terms and conditions. When it later received complaints from other residents about her conduct, it served notice to quit, brought a possession claim and obtained a possession order. The Court of Appeal however has allowed the tenant’s appeal and struck out the possession order.

And the result is!

This is because she was not 18 when the tenancy was granted. So the local authority was legally cast in the role of Trustee. However be warned the role would be assumed unwittingly by any Landlord unwittingly accepting the role of being the tenant’s Trustee on the tenancy until the tenant reaches 18 at which time the danger automatically falls away. In effect this decision is saying that ANY Landlord in granting an under 18 tenant an AST is in fact granting it in Trust for them as a Trustee and thus cannot serve notice to evict them as to do so beaches that Trustee status.

Therefore a Landlord cannot terminate such a tenancy or seek possession until the tenant reaches 18. A Landlord wishing to avoid such a result – but wanted to accommodate a minor – must therefore do so by providing them with non-exclusive accommodation because exclusive possession is the necessary hallmark of a tenancy. The way to provide non-exclusive accommodation is of course for the under 18 occupier to be an authorised occupier rather than a tenant.

What we should do

So what has to happen is that the proposed Guarantor actually has to take the tenancy in their name. Clearly this cannot be an AST as the property not only will not be their main or principal residence (which it has to be to be an AST) but they are not even going to be living there. So at Castle Estates we would grant a Common Law Non 88 Act tenancy to the person who was to be guarantor but now becomes the tenant and then let them give permission to nominate the minor as an authorised occupier. Such permission to occupy is not a legal interest in land so not covered by the Law of Property Act 1925..

By Samantha Knight

It is often the case that when a tenant decides not to pay their rent, the creative side of their personality can go into overdrive and what they believe to be a valid unique excuse, is just a story we as agents and landlords have heard oh so many times before.

 And today’s excuse is!

 1)    Banking Error

2)    A death in the family

3)    An illness or accident resulting in hospital treatment

 My advice is not to be afraid to challenge the reason you are given or suggest ways of helping to resolve the situation, there will be occasions where the reason is genuine, but it is only by speaking with your Tenant and through your  experience, that you will be in a position to understand what the real reason for the non-payment is!

 Remember, your tenant has signed a contract which they must honour and excuses do not give them a reason for not making that payment, much the same way as there is no excuse for you as a landlord not to deliver on your repairing obligations.

 But be careful how you proceed.

 But whilst it is the correct procedure to take a tough line on arrears, you have to be careful that you do not cross that fine line between tough arrears action and harassment.  Be sure not to leave yourself open to any such claim, as the courts take a dim view on harassment claims which could be considered as refusing to leave the property when visiting, changing the locks when the tenant is not home, continually visiting or even watching the property and of course abusive communication and physical violence – this list is not exhaustive.

 So can we help you?

 So if you do think your Tenant is not being truthful in what you are being told, how do you proceed? This is of course where Professional Letting Agents can help.

 At what cost?

 I would venture to say that our methods which have been built over years of experience are probably going to produce a scenario which will save you money against having no rent for several months whilst the problem drags on unresolved. So the advice is proceed with strength or turn to that Professional agent, who will probably not only provide a solution but also be the answer for the longer term as well!

By Steve Roulstone

When looking at any Franchise venture, is it important to speak with more than one Bank, or even any Bank at all if your finances are in good order? I believe the answer is a definite yes! By speaking to the Banks you will get advice from people who look at Franchise opportunities in all available types and formats of Franchising.

They know what they are doing.

Not only are you going to get good advice, but you will also get a good idea if the plan that you have put together makes good sense and follows the path that you would be expected to achieve from the organisation you are planning to join. I would say whether you need finance or not, this is a vital part of your Business strategy. To get the seal of approval from experts, I would suggest, should be part of what you need to achieve as you get closer to making that all important change in your life. 

Because they know what you are doing.

The reason is two-fold. Firstly, the Banks that we at Castle Estates would introduce you to, are the specialist Franchising Banks, where they not only look at business plans for Franchising, but understand the business itself, by investigating our systems, targets and objectives before you even speak to them. So they know us and can therefore tell you if your plan is in line with how the Franchise operates.

Because you know what you are doing!

Secondly, because they are so specialist, by getting that seal of approval from a Franchising department, it means that you will understand the operation you are putting together and therefore have good control of your whole business plan, costs and sales objectives.  The professionals that will discuss your budgets and plans know what to ask and how to judge your work and will not give any approval without confirming both the content and you as an individual.

All assistance gratefully received.

So why miss out on an independent review of your plans! I used this opportunity when I first started, even though I have did not need financial assistance from my Bank, because I recognised that the relationship could be both informative and important in the years ahead, which is exactly how it has developed. When I looked to purchase the Franchise, my Bank gave me the assistance I needed to get through the initial twelve months and I would state that it all started with that initial contact and seal of approval!

By Mike Edwards

Because of my day to day involvement with Rental issues, there are always reminders about advice that can be given to Landlords and problems on a recent tenant find case has highlighted the need for a detailed inventory attached to a tenancy and emphasised how critical this document is.

The case in hand.

In this case and despite our best efforts in advising the Landlord not to be so short sighted, he instructed one of our offices that an inventory was not required. The tenancy involved four sharers in one property. In such tenancies an inventory is even more critical. There are now extensive problems, the deposit is protected in one of the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) schemes and the question is how to retain the deposit for the damage etc.

The inevitable result.

The answer in the short term is that it cannot be retained and the tenants are highly likely to raise a dispute via the Scheme Administrator. All three schemes have been at pains to constantly emphasise the need for a quality inventory if a dispute comes before them. In fact one has gone as far as to say that without the inventory the landlord has no chance of claiming anything in terms of dilapidations and damage at the end of the tenancy – even if the tenant has stolen all the furniture from a fully furnished property!!

The cost of hindsight.

Money is probably the reason this Landlord did not want an inventory and if so then in my opinion it is folly of the highest order. Many agents include the cost of an in-house inventory in their initial Landlord fee, and those that do not will do so at an extra cost which is normally a reasonable amount.

Best advice.

In simple terms no inventory means a Landlord will struggle to make any claim against a tenant when dilapidation is an issue. Damage or missing items can be impossible to prove without not only a list, but a proper accountable system of inventory that will stand to account when challenged. As Letting Agents, we are charged to give best advice to our Landlords at all times and at all times our best advice is to ensure a robust and well prepared inventory always accompanies your Tenancy paperwork.

By Steve Roulstone

 Property Letting has come of age in the last ten years, certainly when you consider the amount of legislation which has been introduced, from the Commonhold and Leasehold reform act of 2002, through the Housing Act of 2004 and the implications on legislation for Houses of Multiple Occupation, Tenancy Deposit Scheme, Housing Health and Safety ratings system and The Home Information Pack to name a few.

 Landlords first and foremost.

But none of this has changed what we set out to do as Letting Agents. Namely, Rent a property! But not just that, as agent of the Landlord, we look at renting property with our duty of responsibility to the Landlord, correctly, uppermost in our actions.

 Agreement from Castle Estates

Residential Lettings now requires a level of professionalism never before seen in a property agent and at Castle Estates we believe that it is right and proper that the bar has been lifted and we all seek to give increased levels of service to match what Landlords rightly seek in today’s competitive market.

 Our aim is the same.

Whether a stand alone Lettings Agent, or part of a group of National Letting Agencies Landlords expect us to both be aware, and able to advice not only on legislative changes, but also on issues surrounding rulings made as the legislation finds it way in to the courts and ‘Test Cases’ reach completion.

 Make the move together.

So at Castle Estates we promote the notion that when Letting Agency is referred to as an industry, that people see more and more that we are both professional in knowledge and outlook. So I look forward to the day that all Property Agents are striving for the title of the Best Letting Agent in the world.