Monthly Archives: September 2010

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By Samantha Knight

It is important for Landlords to understand what they are paying for and to do that you need to understand the jargon!

Just some of the charges you may come across:

A renewal fee is referring to a fee which the agent will charge when the tenancy comes to and end and a new contract is entered into with the existing tenant.  For this fee you should expect the agent to take control of negotiating the terms of the renewal with both parties and drawing up the new tenancy agreement.

A Check in / Check Out fee can be charged to cover the cost of the agent /inventory clerk meeting with the tenant at the property, checking through the inventory either before, or after the tenancy (or both), signing the documentation and taking meter readings

Inventory Fee – a vitally important document to have prepared for you, especially since Deposit Protection Legislation has come into force.  Check if you own the rights to this document i.e.- will they email you a copy that you can edit at a later date should you change agents, to save paying out for a brand new document to be produced again. 

Document Fee – this may be referring to the preparing of your tenancy agreement and or inventory.  Check exactly what documents you are getting for your money.

Tenant Find Fee – a fee charged when the agent is finding the tenant but will not be handling the management of the property thereafter.  This fee really will vary drastically from agent to agent.  Check exactly what the fee includes.  Will you be getting all of your legal documentation drawn up inclusive in the fee or will the agent charge you extra for this.

Management Fee – a monthly charge to manage your property throughout your tenancy which is normally based on a percentage of the rent collected.  8%-15% is considered to be industry norm, moving up or down the scale dependant on the area of the UK

A clear fee structure should always be presented

Whatever the fee an agent intends to charge you, they should be laid out clearly for you to see and agree before you enter into business with them. Look out for all inclusive packages; these can work out cheaper than a fee structure which charges for each item individually. But always consider, a cheap price does not always mean a good price! Whatever fees you agree, it is the standard of the service that matters the most!

By Steve Roulstone


As against Property Estate Agents, and this is the subject of my blog for today. Why do people still visit Estate Agents to carry out a role covered by a different trade? and we are different, in all the training I have gone through, I have never been taught how to manage a property sale and I can guarantee you that at no stage has any Estate Agent under the guise of training for selling houses, ever been taught how to be a Letting Agent.

So do you just not like us?

But people still knock on the door of Estate Agents to place their property on the Rental market. Of course, one of the reasons is the image that has historically hounded our trade, but I firmly believe that is changing. With the proliferation of Franchised offices throughout the Country over the last ten years, we are finally getting the professional image across and it is with great pride that I count Castle Estates as one of the Companies creating the change, but I believe this goes deeper than image and is tied to tradition.

Habits die hard.                      

I believe that it is habit that causes most people to look to the traditional office to look after our property interests. This is of course where Estate Agents score, because the Letting Industry is still new compared to the traditional route of property ownership, but this situation is changing, as the % of UK rental property continues to rise, currently sitting at 14%.

Property Letting Agents, a developing Industry.

This is where we must now concentrate as an Industry and look to educate the public, that our Industry is not one that can be turned to in a time of need (most Estate Agents started to offer rental services because they could not sell enough houses) but rather to be able to provide the correct Management that ALL of our Landlords need, the agent should be trained and specialise in its own field. After all, you rarely see a Letting agent who sells as well!!

By Steve Roulstone


It is that time of the year again and the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC is due on Friday October the 1st and Saturday October the 2nd. There are other Franchise exhibitions at differing venues throughout the year, but you just know from the increased level of enquiry, that it is this exhibition which really gets the public thinking about the Franchise Opportunities on offer.

What to look for.

I visited the show in 1999 and went with a completely open mind about what I would find, but wanted to come away with ideas that I could then review and research. Not just about individual Companies but also about the different trades available through Franchising.

What not to do.

I now sell my own Company at the show, but represented Castle Estates as a franchisee through the years and along the way, I have had many conversations that differed in length and approach and spoken to dozens of people at the show. But what needs to be appreciated, is that nobody actually decides on that day and I believe that it is wrong to try to sell the actual Franchise, rather we should just be letting people know we exist and in what market.

So look for the Franchise Opportunity.

What happens when visitors get back home is far more important than what happens at the show. When the literature is read, or when somebody follows up on that brief introduction to ask about more information. Because it is these reactions and others like them, that will have more impact than anything that actually happens at the NEC. It is based on these reactions that people will see the opportunity and through them, have a realistic chance of actually becoming a Franchisee themselves.

Experienced advice.

This is not just my mantra as it has been part of the science of Franchising that I have learnt through the training I have undergone since becoming Franchisor. I think it was fortunate for me that it suited the way I went about the process, but it is worth remembering, that most visitors would actually prefer not to be hounded anyway. I call that a win win!

By Steve Roulstone


Firstly, to explain the title, this is not House Insurance, as being advertised as Landlord Insurance by a well known Company at the moment on TV. Proper Landlord Insurance is about Insuring against loss of Rent and Legal expenses (R&L) should a Tenant fail to pay and need evicting.

Is Insurance for Rent and Legal Expenses important?

When you consider that annual policies that cover the period that Courts could take to evict Tenants from a property are available for less than £100 in today’s market, I think every Landlord should think so and I speak as a Landlord myself. When you consider that any Tenant could find themselves redundant, then taking out a policy for less than 2% of a year’s rent should not be a difficult decision.

Our duty of service to advice.

We must always ensure that as Letting Agents we stay inside the FSA regulations surrounding the selling of Insurance policies and unless we are qualified then our role is to advice Landlords that the policy is available and then let the Insurance Company sell the attributes of R&L Policies to our Landlords.

Should be common practise.

I have just found an advice line for Landlords statingthat Landlords should be careful how they select Tenants in case they cannot afford to pay the rent. No problem at face value, but if they employ the services of an agent, which they do not advice, by using professional referencing we can both ensure the Tenant is acceptable at the start of the Tenancy and because through this referencing R&L Insurance will automatically be available, providing of course the Property is fully managed, then Landlords can ensure against such problems during the Tenancy.

Managing the situation.

As I have reported in a recent Blog, Local Council Housing departments do NOT offer help and only act to delay the process of providing the Tenant with accommodation. So by having the correct Policy in place, Rent and Legal expenses which can be expensive on their own, will be covered.

Hidden advantages.

There is a valuable side effect that should not be ignored: By knowing you will not lose any rent, you can at least work with your Tenant and assist him with the Housing department. Such acceptance and assistance can only receive appreciation from the Tenant – after all, they will not want to be in this position either and human nature should ensure that the property is at least looked after during the process.

By Steve Roulstone,

Business develops so fast today, that no matter what industry you are in, training and ensuring Staff and Company systems are at the front end of both Business and people trends has never been so important. When I first started in business in the mid 70’s nothing really changed for many years and whilst you had to be much smarter to be ahead of the field, today we need to be aware of the possibilities that the electronic age has afforded every business in the world.

How to achieve the best return.

This is where I believe Franchising really delivers results. There are of course many scenarios where Companies get together to train their staff. But the only situation where it matters so much to every outlet or office, that I am aware of is Franchising.

Because it matters!

Franchising delivers because the people who are being trained need and appreciate the importance of delivering whatever they are being trained for, to ensure their business continues to perform and stay ahead of the competition. Of course some multi outlet National Companies are managed by people who also care, but I seriously doubt they care as much as those who have put their own future on the line by starting their own business!

The links that make the difference.

Of course there are as many who do so, on their own, but that is where they differ and would struggle to be so well informed. Franchise organisations have the not insignificant backing of the Franchisor, who can arrange training at reduced and more cost effective rates, and because it is not only in the interest of the Franchisor that the business succeeds, but also that they stay ahead, the Franchisee can rest assured that the training will be offered when needed and by professionals.

Hence the difference.

I do of course recognise that Franchising does not suit everybody, but what it does do is offer more than just a system and knowhow and through the training offered, it can ensure that a business that is Franchised is kept at the top of the pile, and of course run by people who really care about the success it achieves.

By Steve Roulstone

I believe that Local Councils, in delaying the time frame of having to find a home for Tenants that have failed to pay their rent and face eviction, by advising that they do not leave the property until they receive an eviction notice, are encouraging people to break the law and I do not believe this is the role they should be playing. 

Landlord and Tenant Rights.

Ok, let’s look at the reasons behind the scenario. If a Tenant is either unable or simply fails to pay the rent, the Landlord is of course entitled to take action and as Agent of the Landlord  it is our responsibility to take the best action on his behalf, which must include giving notice to quit the property. We use the notices within the Housing Act 1988 and by issuing such notice we are operating within the law.

Tenant reaction.

 Now if the Tenant has nowhere to move too, they need the support of the local Council to find somewhere to live. I have always believed that the service exists for exactly these circumstances. But this is where the problem lies. More and more there reaction is too advice the Tenant to stay exactly where they are until they receive an eviction notice and this is where ‘Breaking the Law’ enters in to the equation.

The implications of such advice.

So what happens if they stay in the property, don’t forget, failing to pay the rent! We are forced to take the Tenant to court and get the very eviction notice that the Council demand. Then and only then will they assist the Tenant in being re-housed. The Courts of course will not issue the notice unless we can prove that the Tenant has broken the agreement and should indeed leave. In fact, under some circumstances, the Courts do not even have an option and must issue an eviction notice, as it is mandatory within the Housing Act.

On the Record!

So now we have the rub, Councils by this lack of action, or rather delay of fulfilling their duty, cause the Tenant to be taken to court and in most cases have a court action issued against them. I see this as breaking the law and I do not feel it is right to place Tenants in this position in the first place, when the only thing that is achieved is a delay in the Council fulfilling its obligation and everybody else,  suffering the consequences:

Landlord, because they do not receive rent for a property for which they will more than likely have a mortgage to pay.

Tenant, because in my experience, they just want the Council to give them somewhere to live, but are forced to accept the route through lack of choice.

Agent, because they are unable to provide the service they are charged with, take on extra work which they have no control over and are the only sounding board for both parties.

And finally the Council? Well they still have to find property for the Tenant at the end of the day, but perhaps they feel they have done their job, because many Tenants do find an alternative rather than by forced to court. But hold on? Is it not the role of Councils to provide accommodation in these circumstances?

I think it is clear that the Tenant is the neediest and in these circumstances and in my opinion, it is they who suffer as the Council try to cut costs!

By Steve Roulstone

The collapse of the Connaught Company is of course bad news for the employees and sub contractors and they must all be worried about their future this bleak morning. It is a position I have never been in and hopefully never will, but they are definately in my thoughts surrounding this somewhat inevitable sad news. Hopefully, with the work still needed to be completed, arrangements through a differing agency will offer some of the workers hope by picking up where Connaught have pulled out.

BBC News reporting.

However, the subject of my blog is the manner in which the BBC took great pleasure in either condemning the building Industry and or the Government as being responsible for the collapse. In my opinion, debts of £220 million cannot be associated with the stringent measures and cut backs being introduced by the Government. They have only been in operation for three months and yet the report on BBC 24 last night clearly stated that the collapse was as a result of Government measures. What kind of Company can manage to lose such massive amounts in three months? I think anybody who puts their mind to such comments will be able to see through them, but if you accept the statement at face value, then the collapse is laid squarely at the door of Number 10. Now whoever is in charge this just does not make sense and we should expect better standards from the BBC than comment which cannot be backed up.

BBC News reporting stage 2.

But they did not stop there! The next statement was that all Council House Tenants should beware (Actually they just stated Tenants with no differential) as what was going to happen about the work outstanding now? The suggestion as that it would not be carried out and they were going to be left high and dry! Well again, I am no genius, but I would have thought somebody else would be appointed to carry out the work? After all, unless Connaught was paid before the work was carried out, then it will still need to be carried out and presumably somebody will be paid by Councils across the Country for completion. Indeed this very point is made in the BBC news report on line! But this is typical of the way in which the BBC seem to deal with news relating to property. It seems to me, that bad news is good news! If it is possible for the story to be presented as the Building Industry, or housing in general in a poor light they will do just that.

Better Standards.

If I am wrong in the assumptions that I have made, then the BBC should have laid the facts out clearly for us all to understand, instead of leaving us with such unclear statetments. If I am right, then the report looks like an effort to make more out of what is a bad enough scenario for those concerned already by presenting the story using scaremongery. Come on BBC we deserve better!

By Steve Roulstone

Welcome to another heading in my Blog, highlighting issues and hopefully clarifying same for the better understanding of all concerned. My first Blog concerns the position of the Tenant when they are dealing with Letting Agents. It is something that I do not think is explained often enough and only with better understanding will problems that occur regularly be removed.

The Agent in Law.

As the link above demonstrates, when Letting Agents sign a contract with Landlords who employ them, they are both confirming the services they will provide and through this document confirming that we stand as ‘Agent of the Landlord’ in this relationship. This means that we are employed by the Landlord and in seeking a Tenant for the property concerned, we are providing the service highlighted in the contract.

The Tenants position.

We do not sign a Contract with the Tenant and therefore our relationship is totally different, especially in the eyes of the Law and that is important, because in being party to a contract with the Landlord, it is through the Law that our actions for the Landlord may be judged. The contract the Tenant signs is either 1) The Tenancy agreement confirming their status in the property concerned, how they will and must perform and equally how the Landlord will and must perform, but only in relation to the property concerned. Or 2) What we at Castle Estates call our terms and Conditions, which is also about being sure the Tenant is aware of how the process of becoming a Tenant works and again what is expected of them during the Tenancy.

In Summary for the Letting Agent.

 When I went through my initial training with Castle Estates I was given a way of summarising where we stand as Letting Agents in this triangle of relationships and it has never been surpassed as the best and easily understood way of describing it. A Letting Agent has a duty of responsibility to the Landlord and a duty of care to the Tenant. This is a statement that I have used on many occasions, not lightly, because I firmly believe in both parts and it is important that Letting agents provide both with integrity. But if this was explained to Tenants more often, then they would be better informed to understand the duty we perform in carrying out our role as Letting Agents.

By Steve Roulstone

I was talking to a Landlord this week, who again confirmed that some Letting Agents do not provide the services they should in full Management. I wrote only last week about the problems caused by Landlords who self manage not visiting the property during the Tenancy and whilst it is standard practise for our Letting Agency it appears this is not always the case.

Standard practise.

So what should Letting Agents provide for their Landlords in Full Management, the term ‘Full Management’ is of course what most Letting Agents would call their complete service and it is the price of this that we compete with up and down every High Street in the Country. Sometimes Agents provide a varying list of Full Management services, but it is not a situation I am comfortable with. If you are supposed to do a job, then you should offer a service that enables you to do just that, not a service that suggests there are various levels a Landlord can buy in too, because in my eyes, Full Management is Full Management.

Letting Agents list of services.

Of course, every agent should be associated with an Industry Professional body, so you know they work to a standard that is acceptable to the market in the first place. So, for that list of services:

Initial ‘Rentability’ Valuation, Safety and legal advice, Web Marketing and advertising included, Accompanied Viewings, Tenant Referencing, Complete set of Self branded approved agreements, Specialist Landlord Insurance, Standard Landlord Insurances, Tenant contents Insurance, Full check-in facilities (Always at the property), including Inventory and back-up state and condition support, Utility services, Regular property visits and reporting, Monthly Landlord statements, Full Maintenance provision (with Landlord authority) Complete arrears service, Renewal and Rent increase provision, Full check out facilities (Always at the property) and that all important service covering all of those little unexpected eventualities!

This cannot and should not be comprehensive, but could be considered to be a minimum for a Full Management service and that is the point of this piece. However it should not include any services that should be provided by other specialists, you would not ask a Letting Agent to fit a radiator in the same way you would not ask a plumber to find you a Tenant!

Check the Contract

All Letting Agents should provide you with a Landlord contract that summarises the services they include. They are designed to protect both parties and form the basis of the relationship between Agent and Landlord. Either way, what this list will do, is provide a method of checking if the Letting Agent you are talking to, is aware of what looking after Landlords is all about!