NALS – “No Agent Loves Sarcasm”

by Nick Stott

10:13 AM, 16th November 2011
About 9 years ago

NALS – “No Agent Loves Sarcasm”

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NALS – “No Agent Loves Sarcasm”

Why does the general public have such a poor perception of agents?

Is it because they are often image-conscious, relatively young, and not recognisably qualified?
Anyone who has tried to buy, sell, rent, or let a property in the UK has a negative story to tell about an Estate or Letting Agent, and with minimal levels of regulation, few barriers to entry, and a lack of a tangible product, it is easy to see why.

Can a Leopard change its spots?

Gaining an industry-level, legally-required qualification would not only ‘weed out’ those agents who are treating the job as just a pay-packet rather than a career, but it would also mean that the general public would treat agents with a little more respect to begin with and, as you can imagine, they will receive a better service as a result. 

If you walk into a pub and ask for a pint, and while the barman is pulling it you say “And make sure it’s not watered-down” without a hint of sarcasm, you can safely say that the pint will be lifeless, with a big head, and generally unpalatable. Funnily enough, this is just how an agent should treat you when you walk into their work place and make assumptions as to their credibility and ability. But they have to smile, keep calm and carry on, because landlords and tenants alike are an agent’s lifeblood.

So how can agents turn their public perception into that of a US-style ‘Realtor’, one of their most revered professions?

Agents, like landlords, should embrace further regulation (not bureaucracy – that’s another issue!) in order to distance themselves from rogues and protect the idea that renting is just as viable an option as buying.

Because Property Investment is a long-term endeavour, landlords can be forgiven for being short-sighted and trying to save every penny, whether it is on buildings insurance, repairs, or the agent’s fee. But why do we, as landlords, have to use a Gas Safe-registered plumber and an NICEIC-registered electrician, but not an ‘insert-acronym-here’-registered agent?  After all, it’s all well and good getting a gas safety certificate, but who’s going to monitor when it expires, keep up with changes to legislation, provide copies to the tenant, and arrange for a new one? Yes we can all do this ourselves, but we can also clean our own cars, clear our own gutters, and do our own tax returns, but we pay professionals for speed and peace of mind.

The future’s tight, the future’s change

Agents need to shape-up, there’s no doubting that. But it costs time and money to gain qualifications so unless agents are forced to do so, they won’t, because why should they? And so it comes down on the landlords and tenants as customers, to demand more, expect more, but most importantly, pay a fair price for quality service, without it leaving a bitter taste in their mouths.



Comments

9:29 AM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

I for one would welcome agent certification - like everything though it would have to be properly controlled and to be honest it would take years for landlords to trust agents.
Agent certification need to be properly done - they should have to take yearly exams in the rules applying to property lets etc (eg agents should know that electrical certificates are only required every three years not yearly ....)

Mark Alexander

9:36 AM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Good morning Ian. Thank you for commenting. To what circumstances are you referring to a legislative requirement for electrical certificates?

12:51 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

As a Landlord you are required to supply a house that is safe so, whilst there is no legisltaion along the same lines of a gas safety test it would be considered good practice to carry out an electrical safety test.
A PAT (portable appliance test) test should be done annually - the wiring and general electrics should be tested usually every 3 to 5 years, athough new builds tend to not need checking until 10years after the installation. The date of when the next test is required is included in the paperwork when the test is carried out.

Mark Alexander

13:26 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Thanks for confirming it's not a piece of regulation I had missed. I agree that all responsible landlords will have the electrics in their rental properties checked from time to time without being forced to do so by regulation. I know that I do. We have too much regulation in our sector as it is, the rogues just ignore the laws anyway. What's needed is resource to enforce the laws that already exist and an incentive for small landlords to improve their knowledge of them.

Mary Latham

19:32 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Actually Electric Safety Cetificates, where they are legally required, last for 5 years on a residential property and this is according to the NICEIC rules. A domestic dwelling can be cetified for up to 10 years but because a property is let it is considered to be a commercial premises and this is why landlords can only get 5 years at a time.

Mary Latham

19:36 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

I agree Tim and if a landlord ended up in litigation a judge would refer to the industry standard and the only one is the HMO standard which does require that a property is certified at all times.

So while there is no legislation for a non HMO a landlord who does not keep his electrics covered is vulnerable not only to litgation but to loosing an insurance claim in the event that things went wrong

Mary Latham

19:37 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

I agree Mark and I think that we will see landlords coming running to up their knowledge more and more as tenants become more savvy and know more than their landlords

Mark Alexander

19:40 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Agents too Mary, it's only a matter of time in my opinion. Do the Landlord Accreditation courses run by MLAS, NLA and London Landlords accreditation welcome agents?

Mary Latham

21:03 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Yes they do Mark and an individual can become accredited or if 2/3rds of the people who deal with the lettings become accredited the Agency can use the logo and become an accredited Agent. In many areas of the West Midlands an Agent who is not accredited will struggle to survive. Student bodies will only allow an accredited Agent to attend their fayres they will not take the money from a non accredited Agent and this is how they support good standards for their students. Most local authorities insist that a landlord or Agent is accredited before they work with them even when housing their homeless. This is a very brave stance since they are so desparate to get property but again it supports the rights of tenants to expect decent well managed homes.

Mark Alexander

21:12 PM, 17th November 2011
About 9 years ago

Fantastic news. That means the syllabus exists to educate all and that the LHA and student lettings markets can be influenced without regulation sibject to collaberation of key organisations such as Universities and local authorities. As this is already operational in Birmingham, the UK's second largest city, then surely it's only a matter of time before it spreads nationally? Are their any similar ways to influence landlords and agents that operate in areas of the PRS other than LHA and students without resorting to government legislation?

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