Communication is key to working relationships

OnTheMarket.com's top tips for finding the right letting agent

With four working weeks in February this year, it didn’t seem as short a month as usual and with communication being a recurring theme through many stories in the property industry press this month, what better time than now to ensure that you are communicating effectively with both your tenants and landlords.

From last October it became a legal requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to join 1 of 3 government approved redress schemes.  Since then the Property Ombudsman Scheme has received a record number of complaints, reporting recently that by the end of 2014 they had received  2,246 tenant and landlord complaints about letting agents and 69% of the these complaints were upheld. The biggest issues concerned failures in communication, such as repairs and maintenance, property inventories, deposit handling and duty of care.

Communicating with tenants and landlords effectively and efficiently should be a priority for any lettings business.  This has become even more pertinent particularly in regards to communicating on repairs and maintenance with the recent Government amendment that was debated earlier in the month and has now passed in the House of Lords on combatting so-called retaliatory evictions which looks likely to be passed into law in the spring.  The ‘retaliatory eviction’ amendment could mean a six-month delay in serving a Section 21 notice where a tenant has complained in writing about the state of a property. Under the amendment, the landlord or letting agent would have to respond ‘adequately’ to the complaint within 14 days. Critics of the amendment however have expressed concerns that savvy tenants could play the system by making repeated complaints to delay the eviction process.

So how do you protect yourself from this and ultimately provide the best service you can to your tenants when they have repair and maintenance issues?  Communication is obviously key and making it as easy as possible for your tenants to report issues at any time of the day as well as providing you with full tracking of this from submission to completion will show your tenants that you take their issues seriously and reassure your landlords that you are looking after their property.   RentPro can assist with this through its recent integration with FixFlo.  FixFlo allows your tenants to easily report an issue at any time in up to 40 languages. These issues will then be automatically fed into your RentPro account where you can assign them to a supplier who will be automatically notified. RentPro will also help you keep track of this job through to completion, ensuring that not only is the landlord charged but the supplier paid also.

Maintaining a good line of communication with a tenant when they are in a property should reduce the risk of any issues when the tenancy comes to an end, but to get things off on the right foot a detailed inventory on check in will ensure that should there be any damage during the tenancy that you have sufficient evidence should a dispute arise.  The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks this month however reported that when landlords produce their own inventories for check in and check out, the most common mistake made is that they simply compile a brief shopping list of items and do not have appropriate photographs. This means that they can’t produce the necessary evidence to show that a tenant has damaged a property.   A thorough and detailed inventory prepared at check in and used on check out will provide an accurate comparison of the property.  It is also important that this information is shared with both the tenant and the landlord, and what better way to send this information to them than by registered email which will not only provide a receipt that the they received this information but that they also opened the document?  Within RentPro it is possible to send such emails and all for the small cost of 50p per email.

Communicating with both your tenants and landlords efficiently before, during and at the end of a tenancy should ensure that things run smoothly and give you an early heads up to any potential issues. If a Section 21 notice is required then you know that you that it can be served  faster, less expensively and with greater security.

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