At the weekend an acquaintance asked me what my job involved as he was convinced that lettings was ‘money for old rope’ because it is ‘allegedly’ so easy to rent out a property….!! So I thought I would write a few examples of my day to day job as a Lettings Negotiator based in a busy lettings & property management department in the town of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, to show you (and him) just how complex the job is!
Our office opens at 8.30am and as I approach the front entrance ten minutes before we open, I can already see Sue Hindley, our inventory clerk waiting at the door to collect keys and a move-in pack from me for a tenant about to take occupation of her very first rental place today. The inventory clerk will meet her at the flat, hand over the keys and take around 45 minutes to go through the inventory and ensure that the condition of the flat is logged, photos taken and meter readings noted. Sue will hand over the ‘move-in pack’ I have prepared so that the tenant has their signed contract, their safety certificates, landlord or management details for any on-going issues and our special Reward Card, so that she can get loads of discounts & offers from shops and businesses in our local area. Move-in day is so exciting for people taking the keys for their new home that it is my job to ensure everything runs smoothly and that there are no nasty surprises waiting at the property!
This particular property is going to be managed by us, so yesterday I organised for someone from our management team to visit and check that everything was ready and that there were a few necessities in the cupboards for ‘moving day’ emergencies (like a nice cuppa!). If the property is not going to be managed by us, I will pop by myself and check everything is ready, especially important if the landlord has organised the pre-tenancy clean themselves so that I know what the standard is and can advise if there is anything further needed. I must say that cleanliness is the most common issue on moving day because everyone has a different view of what is clean…. so of course I try to make sure that the Landlord utilises my cleaners, who are fantastic, but sometimes it is just not possible and so it saves me an awful lot of time and grief if I go to check the property BEFORE the tenant moves in, and I can be pre-warned of any problems that might arise, and hopefully get them ironed out pre-move in.
In order to get to the point of move-in there is quite a substantial amount of work to be done, and as I log-on to my computer I know I have a lot of paperwork waiting for me, as I have 6 move-ins this week to get ready.
So what exactly do I need to do on the administration side of a deal?
Well as soon as an offer is negotiated and accepted by the Landlord, I take a £300 initial payment from the prospective tenant, in order to secure the property in question for a period of 7 days, whilst I obtain references from their current landlord, their employer and a credit status check, so that I can get a rent guarantee insurance policy obtained for the landlord’s peace of mind. Alongside this, I have to draft the tenancy using the correct agreement (either an assured shorthold tenancy or a non-housing act tenancy, depending upon the clients circumstances) and I need to enter all of the negotiated clauses such as a ‘break clause’ or ‘pets clause’ and make sure that all parties have a copy to read through and check they are happy. You just wouldn’t believe how many people are prepared to sign a legal document without even reading it…! All of our clients are told to ensure they understand their obligations before they sign and if they can they should seek legal advice or go to the CAB to make sure they really do know what they are getting into! Quite often I get long emails asking for changes to the tenancy agreement at the draft stage but our tenancy agreements are drawn up by one of the best firms of rental property solicitors around ‘ Pain Smith’ and honestly, you do not want to tamper with these agreements. Apart from the fact that if changes are made and contested in court, the clauses will automatically revert back to statute (the law of the land) which over-rides contract and therefore over-rides any ‘biased’ changes made in favour of either the tenant or the landlord.
I also have to ensure that the rental properties are ready to move into and this involves liasing with the check-out negotiator dealing with the last tenant moving out, with the management department or the landlord to ensure that anything highlighted on the check-out report has been sorted out in time, things like professional cleaning, touching up the decor, steam cleaning the oven & carpets, changing the lightbulbs, testing that the smoke detector is working and, of course, getting the gas & electrical safety certificates sorted.
Our gas engineer, Phil Bartholomew, comes into the office every morning and for one of my new deals he has to organise inspection hatches into the ceiling of the flat so that he can inspect the flue from the boiler. This is a new legal requirement and, of course, I am expected to be continually updating myself and my clients on legislation changes so that they are up-to-date and not penalised for forgetting to do something important…! Again I am astounded by the amount of Landlords I speak to who think they know the law and have never been on a lettings course or even read up on the law themselves.
The lettings industry is fraught with legalities and so it is vital that I undertake exams to ensure I am fully qualified and competent. Having already taken and passed my ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agency) Technical Exams I am now training for my Level 4 Certificate in Residential Letting and Property Management, alongside my Lettings Director. I have to take & pass these exams so I should expect every Landlord and every other Letting Agent to also do this or they could end up in big trouble. I have heard so many horror stories about accidents which have happened due to negligence and I need to sleep soundly at night, so I am determined that all of my clients have the most up-to-date information possible and I can only do that if I am qualified to advise them!
So that is the ‘deal’ part, and it only happens after all of the viewings have taken place. I try, wherever possible, to do ‘block viewings’ so that I can rent the property from one or two visits. I cover a 16 mile radius from my office, so I am always whizzing backwards and forwards in my little ‘branded car’.
On the first Saturday of the month I run the Magical Mystery Tour for groups of tenants who are new to the area, or rental investors looking to get the properties with the best yields in the area. This is a mini-bus tour and my colleague Susie drives the bus while I show the participants the area, all of the fabulous sights we have to offer, and of course, a number of properties available either to rent or to buy-to-let. It is great fun and we take the clients to a local pub afterwards to discuss all the properties they have seen, get some offers (hopefully) and some valuable feedback for my Landlord clients. Take a look at our video by clicking here:
I also have a large area to value in. All of the negotiators have a set area to look after (because we cover such a large location from our base in Ricky) and my area is Watford & Croxley Green, so I get to do all of the valuations in these area.
Valuations are tricky at the moment because of the shortage of rental property meaning that all of the agents are fighting over every instruction. This is tricky because there are some agencies around who wouldn’t think twice about bumping up the valuation price, or dropping their fees (and their standards…!!) in order to gain the instruction. I would never be prepared to drop my standards or to give false hope, so I have to stand by my principals and hope my expertise and honesty pay off. In fairness they usually do, although sadly, sometimes a Landlord has been duped first and may have had their property empty for some time or even had a bad tenant before they realise you get what you pay for in this industry!
I also pay a weekly visit to the new homes sites on my patch to see if they have sold to any investors that might be interested in my lettings services, plus I visit the companies who have staff relocating to the area and I have lots of discounts for company tenants and I am always on the look out for ‘To Let’ boards from my competition, so that I really know what is going on and who is my biggest competition.
So I can assure you that the day in the life of a Lettings Negotiator is certainly not an easy one, I rarely leave the office or my last appointment before 7pm in the evening and I work every Saturday! I never have one day the same as another and the time flies by so I genuinely have to say that this job is one of a kind!
This week I have had 2 Landlord Valuation Feedback forms returned and I thought it might be a fitting end to my blog to let you see what my clients think about me….
If you are interested in any aspect of my blog, please feel free to comment or phone me on 01923 721900 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to answer your questions.