Customer Service 2014: A Year End Review

Samantha Richardson,General Manager - Resident Services, Young London

Samantha Richardson, General Manager – Resident Services, Young London

In November 2013 the International Property Awards crowned Young London as the Best Lettings Agency UK 2013/14. This accolade instilled a lot of pride in the team – who work hard all year round – but it also meant that we entered 2014 with a challenge; to deliver a level of service that lived up to this honour.

To help us measure our success Young London continued to take the unique approach of encouraging our residents and landlords to provide detailed feedback on how the team is performing. This is undertaken at key points during the relationship (check-in, renewal and check-out) where they are contacted by the independent customer service specialists, RealService, and asked to rate our performance in key areas.

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Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

A recent survey has made the claim that only 0.5% of the public are aware of the existence of the three Government approved redress schemes.

Since October 1st, a letting agent must legally be a member of one of these schemes to allow renters a recognised and independent route to take any complaint.

The schemes – the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme – are there to assess tenant complaints and can award compensation where they believe it to be appropriate.

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UPDATE: Attempt to Ban Letting Agent Fees Defeated

The House of Lords voted against Labour's call to ban letting agent fees

The House of Lords voted against Labour’s call to ban letting agent fees

Labour has been unsuccessful in its attempt to ban letting agent fees.

As we reported yesterday, Labour had pushed to have the Consumer Rights Bill amended to make it illegal for an agent to levy fees against a prospective tenant.

The amendment was defeated by 45 votes.

This was not the first attempt by Labour to use the Consumer Rights Bill to ban letting agent fees. The Shadow Housing Minister, Emma Reynolds, has stated that it is their intent to push through the ban on fees (among other things) should Labour be voted into power in 2015.

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House of Lords to Discuss Consumer Rights Bill Amendments

House of Lords set to debate Consumer Rights Bill amendments

House of Lords set to debate Consumer Rights Bill amendments

The House of Lords will be in session today and on the agenda will be a discussion of various amendments to the Consumer Rights Bill, some of which could massively affect how letting agents operate.

Letting Agent fees and Client Money Protection (CMP) requirements are at the forefront of the discussions. The Labour party will be pressing for the Bill to include an amendment that would make it illegal for agents to charge any fees to tenants (like it is in Scotland).

The Government seems to be against such changes and believes that the Bill’s requirement for agents to display all their fees (those charged to both landlords and tenants) to be enough.

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Investment Analysis And Performance Reporting

Dominic Martin, Former Member of the Department For Communities & Local Government's Private Rental Sector (Residential) Taskforce

Dominic Martin, Former Member of the Department For Communities & Local Government’s Private Rental Sector (Residential) Taskforce

Introduction

New Investment Market & Data:
The UK is witnessing the emergence of a specifically designed and managed ‘institutional grade’ residential asset class, loosely referred to as the new Private Rented Sector (PRS), or as Build-to-Rent. However, for any investor, be this institutional, private equity, sovereign wealth funds or housing associations, there is a need to underpin entry into this sector with good quality data and analysis.

Therefore, this article looks to acknowledge some of the existing sources of data and provide commentary around these. Secondly, it highlights areas where improvement can be gained.

Investment Asset Performance:
In the medium to long-term, the aspiration from an investment performance perspective is that this market resembles the US ‘multi-family housing’ market (MFH), where detailed accounts of the performance of the investments are standard in any investment particulars. Investors need certainty around the investment performance of this asset class. This will comprise both the annual net returns (i.e. income less annual maintenance and management costs) and total long term returns (driven by either yield compression and/or House Price Inflation).

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Engaging A New (And Unique) Community

Jatin Patel, Community and Stakeholder Relations Manager, Get Living London

Jatin Patel, Community and Stakeholder Relations Manager, Get Living London

Often, the emphasis placed on producing best practice guides for active stakeholders within the Private Rented Sector (PRS) concentrates on the management side of things; albeit finance, investment or physical assets.

But as the sector grows and becomes more institutional and diverse, eyes should turn towards the way in which large-dwelling private landlords engage with their residents to ensure positive community development.

On the face of things, as long as residents are adhering to the Terms & Conditions stipulated within their contracts, an arm’s length approach should suffice – in theory.

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Landlords find ‘going it alone’ stressful

Landlords find 'going it alone' stressful (Image by Firesam!)

Landlords find ‘going it alone’ stressful (Image by Firesam!)

A survey of 759 landlords found that 1 in 4 feel the whole experience of letting and managing their rental property was far more stressful than they had expected. A huge 67% of those questioned stated that they felt that their stress levels were higher than they were 12 months ago.

Unsurprisingly, expat landlords felt that they were under the most stress due the distance between them and their property, hampering their ability to properly manage it.

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Private Rented Sector Place Branding

Tim Lewis, Director of Strategy, Small Back Room

Tim Lewis, Director of Strategy, Small Back Room

Whether you like it or not, it seems the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has been slower than most in recognising the capability of a ‘brand’ in influencing customers’ decision making process. The sector needs to shift its thinking about how a strong brand proposition is increasingly important in the PRS.

The role of brands and branding in property marketing has always been an interesting debate. The agents have one opinion, the developer another and often the marketing department yet another. The answer is never clear cut. There is however, one common agreement – if you get it right, a good brand will add value.

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Operating Institutional Private Rented Sector Assets

David Mackenzie, Director of Asset Management, Young London

David Mackenzie, Director of Asset Management, Young London

With any businesses’ strategic planning, it’s vital to understand what success looks like at the outset. The Private Rented Sector is no different.

When investors are scoping Private Rented Sector investments, the operational aspect is just as important as the investment strategy. How will the assets be managed, the rents set, residents sourced, the homes maintained, refreshed and further down the line, refurbished?

Asking – and answering – these questions at the outset informs the operational strategy, goes some way to informing the costs involved and can provide investors with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with which to sense check progress.

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Property Management Guide: Winter Tips

Property Management Guide: Winter Tips

Property Management Guide: Winter Tips

As the mercury begins to drop, signalling the start of Winter proper, it’s a perfect opportunity to remind renters that the cold weather can cause all manner of issues in your home, especially if no action is taken to counter the effects of the adverse weather.

To provide a lending hand the Young London Property Management team put our heads together and came up with some top tips that can help renters protect their home as the cold winter months close in.

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Housing Minister Rejects Mandatory Client Money Protection

SAFEagent

SAFEagent

Following a request by SAFE Agent, urging the Government to amend the Consumer Rights Bill to include mandatory membership to a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme for all lettings and management agents, the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, has responded in a letter stating that he has “…no plans to make CMP compulsory.”

A statement released on the SAFE Agent website, by John Midgley the Chair of SAFEagent, stated: “We are disappointed and will continue with our campaign…”

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Delivering The Largest Private Rented Sector Scheme

Alan Bates, Executive General Manager Lend Lease Construction

Alan Bates, Executive General Manager at  Lend Lease Construction

Since 2007 Lend Lease has been working on the development, design and delivery of the largest residential project in the UK. The delivery of East Village for phased occupation from November 2013 builds on the success of delivering the best ever Athletes’ Village, that was occupied by up to 17,000 athletes during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

After having completed all pre-Games works in time for LOCOG to apply the finishing touches we returned to the site, after the excitement of the Games, in November 2012.

Designed For Legacy

The challenge ahead was immense. To decommission all 2,818 units from Games-use and refurbish them (we used the phrase ‘Retrofit’ for this phase) for legacy occupants. Adapting properties that had been designed to accommodate almost twice as many people as that would ultimately live there was no mean feat.

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Attracting Large-Scale Private Rented Sector Investment

Bill Hughes, President of the British Property Federation

Bill Hughes, President of the British Property Federation

The UK’s housing crisis should not be understated. Not only does it represent one of the biggest potential drivers of inequality in the UK, but failure to address it could sabotage the UK’s economic recovery.

Increasing housing supply tops the priority list of all the major political parties, with the challenge – as set out recently by Labour – is to build 200,000 homes a year, across all tenures, by 2020. In any event, an overall shortfall will persist for another 10 years or more.

The Private Rented Sector (PRS) is clearly an important part of the supply side solution, both in terms of additional housing stock and affordability. The lack of mortgage lending at higher loan-to-value (LTV) levels is reducing the accessibility to ‘buy to occupy’ at a time when the growing population is continuing to put pressure on the chronically undersupplied housing market.

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In Conversation With… Marnix Elsenaar

Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard

Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard

We are regularly in conversation with a plethora of leading figures in the property, investment, finance and charity sectors, many of whom are guest authors for PRSupdate. The purpose of this feature is to get them to discuss the topics and issues that are currently affecting the Private Rented Sector.

If you would like to take part in an In Conversation piece then please do get in touch with us.

Today we are in conversation with Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard.

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A Smarter Design For A Smarter Home

Todd Lundgren, Regional Practice Group Leader, RTKL

Todd Lundgren, Regional Practice Group Leader, RTKL

Over the last decade, the proportion of households in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has risen from 10% to over 17%. By 2016 it’s expected that one in five households will be renting privately.

The average age of tenants has also increased, with the fastest growing group of private tenants now between 35 and 44 years old. Of these households, between 25% and 33% are families with children who, broadly speaking, are looking for secure accommodation over a long period of time to lay down roots in the local community.

There is also a growing community of young people – postgraduates from university – who have grown accustomed to the quality of accommodation and service from the purpose built student housing market, and who find the current offer in rented accommodation sorely lacking.

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