Letting agents will need to focus extra hard on client retention amid growing economic hardship. Ongoing changes in the lettings industry – including planned reforms to the private rented sector contained in the ‘A fairer private rented sector’ White Paper – are expected to see growing numbers of landlords leaving the sector.
To counteract this, agents will need to provide a high quality of service to keep clients on board, persuade wavering BTL investors to stay the course, and sign new customers from a dwindling group of landlords. “To achieve all this and reduce the costly and time-consuming administrative burden on agents, letting agencies should invest in the right processes and tools,” said Neil Cobbold, managing director of PayProp.
A simpler process is a better one
As landlords feel more pressure with reforms widely seen to favour tenants, greater visibility over payments and other tenancy processes can provide peace of mind.
“By changing how information about the tenancy is presented and shared with tenants and landlords, agents can help simplify the letting process and increase trust,” Cobbold adds.
Features such as tenant portals make communication between agents, landlords and tenants quicker and keep renters better informed, improving communication and transparency and lessening the chances of disputes or issues.
“When tenants can make online payments and view all their statements and payments online, agents save time responding to calls and e-mails,” he continues.
“When payments are missed, delayed or don’t arrive in full, automated communication systems can further let agents chase all outstanding rent in just a few clicks. Once Section 21 is scrapped, landlords will have to show significant or persistent arrears to secure evictions, so an automated record of missed payments and recovery efforts will be extremely important.”
Maintenance made easy
Cobbold adds that other automated tasks can also help agents deliver a better service day-to-day while offering time-saving efficiencies.
“Having one central place where all maintenance, repair tasks, invoicing and contractor payments can be viewed will help massively with property management,” Cobbold says. “This is particularly true for agents with landlords who have large portfolios, and therefore more maintenance requirements and contractor payment queries.”
He argues that integrated maintenance should ideally enable tenants to submit tickets directly to an account managed by the letting agent, with clear notification processes so there is less chance of it being missed than a WhatsApp message, e-mail or phone call. And integrating rule-based payments is the final piece of the puzzle, allowing agents end-to-end coordination while allowing the tenant to participate in reporting issues and the landlord to exert final control over expenditure.
“An integrated approach will ultimately allow agents to respond more quickly, keeping both tenants and landlords happy. Everything should be tracked and audited, too, so there are no doubts about any of this – and again, that’s where tech comes into its own,” Cobbold added.
“Often, the biggest frustrations that landlords and tenants have with letting agents come from a lack of response or poor communications, and smart automation along with live bank and payment integration can help make this a thing of the past. When agents aren’t run off their feet with tasks like manually e-mailing contractor invoices or monthly statements to landlords, awaiting maintenance approvals or struggling to pin people down during after-hours emergencies, they can focus on the stuff that really does require a human touch.”
“At PayProp we believe that by implementing features like our Tenant Portal and our new maintenance hub, agents get better outcomes in terms of timely payments and maintenance; offer better collaboration, transparency, and two-way communication; and improve the overall service provided to the landlord during a time when the pressure on agents and landlords is high,” Cobbold concluded.
He concludes: "It’s no secret that things are tough at the moment. But we’ve come through difficult times as an industry before, and we can do the same now by continuing to do what we do best – looking after our clients. Accuracy, transparency and time-saving through automation give us the space to do that.”