The message from ARLA 2018:

Get on with it

The key message from last week’s ARLA Propertymark Conference was that the ban on charging fees to tenants is inevitable and that the industry should accept that and get on with preparing for the change. Our message is slightly different. Yes, accept and prepare but don’t struggle to do that on your own.

We were guilty of using soft-toys to make our point. Shameless perhaps, but who doesn’t have a weakness for a cuddly pup? Plenty of delegates wanted to take one home and enjoyed the challenge of our grabber machine, but to be honest, cute as they were, those dogs are only symbols of the friendly relationship with suppliers that agencies will need going forward.

The conference mood

Although letting agents in Scotland who have been working without tenant fees for some time would probably say that agents south of the border should stop whining, many letting agents are still unhappy. Many at the conference were getting into details of who their contract was with and whether they had responsibilities to a tenant when their client was the landlord. Others were asking whether the balance of power had swung too far in favour of the tenant, with the Government, the Property Ombudsman and housing and advice charities always taking their side.

Who, agents were asking, is looking out for their interests?

Erm … hello? Did the message about LegalforLandlords being your agency’s best friend not get through? Don’t get hung up on the “Landlords” part of our name. Our customers include some of the country’s most forward-thinking agencies who know that we’re helping them to shape a business that will work – and work well – in a post fees-ban future.

Looking forwards

Here’s how we see things.  Landlords have obligations to look after their tenants’ interests. Agents act on behalf of landlords to meet those obligations. If an agency charges fees to a tenant, it complicates things. Who is the agent working for? The tenant or the landlord?  The fees ban may not be popular but at least it keeps things simple. And that simplicity should help agencies to develop realistic, sustainable pricing for the services they offer to landlords.

Which is where we come in. Everything we offer, our referencing, our insurance and our legal services are great value, but there’s more. We help agencies earn valuable commissions, we build beneficial partnerships and we develop more efficient ways to do business.

It’s this type of smart thinking that’s making us grow and as we grow, we’re becoming more and more influential in the property rental sector. And this sector, now more than ever, needs strong, united voices. As an industry, we should stop falling out over the imposition of a policy and use our strength and understanding to shape it.  There is still time to speak to our MPs and state our case for a ban that we can work with.

I’m Sim Sekhon, MD of LegalforLandlords. I believe letting agents have a viable, profitable future and that they can earn the respect of the public, of tenants and landlords. I believe the best agents are undervalued and that the worst shouldn’t be in business.