This week, Charles Brecque, CEO and Founder of Legislate had the pleasure of featuring on the first episode of the AlphaLetz ‘Meet the Experts’ podcast. Charles talks about why he founded Legislate, the dangers of free online templates and future plans for Legislate.
AlphaLetz is a modern and easy-to-use mobile & desktop property management app, designed to simplify your entire property business while saving you hours of admin.
The app designed by landlords replaces old-fashioned spreadsheets, sticky notes and back-of-the-pad notes. You can often find everything you need in one place - meaning you'll save time and money by not having to switch between different programs.
Read the transcript below
Richard: Hello everybody, and welcome to our video series, and today I'm really pleased to be joined by Charles from Legislate. I think they've got some really great offerings that are going to be really suitable for our landlords out there, for our customers. So, Charles, could you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Legislate and how it all started, and what you guys are up?
Charles: Thank you, Richard, for having me and inviting me to the Alphaletz video series. I'm Charles, founder and CEO of Legislate. We make it easy for non-lawyers to create and manage lawyer-approved contracts very cost-effectively and very efficiently. The story behind Legislate is I used to do business development at a start-up and, although I'm not a lawyer, I ended up spending a lot of my time drafting or amending templates, filling in templates, and just waiting for lawyers to review and make changes. I was just frustrated by how unprofessional it was in terms of the drafting experience, but also how long it would take. Legislate, what we try to do, we're trying to empower business users, non-lawyers, to create their contracts without needing to get lawyers involved, and to make it easy to manage per signature. I'm also not a landlord, not yet, at least, but, I guess with COVID, we started to get some interest from large student landlords who, at the time, didn't want to meet their student tenants during lockdown, and I just thought Legislate would be a great solution, and since then we've kind of entered the world of property, learnt a lot, and we've got a whole suite of contracts for landlords, and it's been a great journey so far.
Richard: That's great, thanks Charles. Absolutely, we're really pushing and enforcing the word about getting landlords to be much more professional. Gone are the days where you could do it as a sort of part-time, back-of-the-notepad type business. Being a landlord now, especially with all the new legislation that's coming in, has been sort of changing the landscape, and what we're seeing is the smaller landlords are finding it really, really difficult to survive in this new sort of market. But the bigger landlords are thriving, and the bigger landlords are becoming more professional, they're typically turning their property businesses, some are turning them into limited companies or getting better structure around them. They're obviously putting in better systems, which is where Alphaletz comes in, to really manage their properties and their information in a much more structured way. Part of that, also, is getting proper contracts in place, which is really, really important, becoming more and more important. But one of the questions we get asked a lot is, 'Why wouldn't a landlord just download a free tenancy agreement? Because it's easy to do, you can download them from multiple sites,' so what are your thoughts about that? Because I know you work it slightly differently.
Charles: I do feel like you've answered that question, what you've just said about professionalism, legislation and being a professional landlord. I think, when you download a template online, even if you take, for example, the government's model, assured shorthold tenancy, it's very difficult to understand, it's very difficult to adapt to your specific requirements, because every landlord, every property is unique. There will always be some tailoring involved, even if you're working off a standard template, and trying to do those amendments yourself, or not doing the amendments at all, can be risky. You can accidentally remove a clause, you can accidentally input terms which are just not enforceable, and, overall, it creates a lot more hassle and it takes a lot more time than you'd save by using a service like Legislate where it's streamlined, you can make amendments and tailor the contracts to your requirements without needing to worry about making mistakes or about having to worry about having an unenforceable contract at the end. Then, post-signature, that's where I'd say 90% of the work involved in a contract happens, it's after you've signed the contract. If you've only just got that template, signed it, etc., then there's a lot of admin work which happens after the contract, keeping track of break clauses, keeping track of rent payments, dates, etc. These are all elements which, if you don't have the right systems in place it can be difficult, and using a system like Legislate makes it much easier for you to do that, whether you're using a platform like Alphaletz or you're doing it yourself, but having all that structured data, which is stored in your contract, stored in Legislate, you can answer those questions very easily without needing to waste precious time and answers.
Richard: Because you do all the e-signatures as well, don't you? So it's not just a case of creating a contract, you can send it through the system, get the tenant to sign it, date stamp it as well so you know that they've received and when they've received it and so on, and so that's a bit of the value add that Legislate do, isn't it? It's not just about the contract, it's about the whole process, about getting that contract back and forward in a sensible manner, through the system, effectively.
Charles: Yes, and the other aspect also, because Legislate is an independent third-party platform, we don't side with the landlord, we don't side with the tenant, we're really fair and down the middle, which means that we've had a very positive reception from tenants who are invited to Legislate, because they feel like they can trust us, they can trust the tenancy agreement that the landlord has shared with them, and, even after the tenancy agreement has been signed, the tenant can still access that contract in their own portal, so they can always refer to that contract, being referred to, whether it's for a repair or any questions they have.
Richard: What other documents are you putting in the system, or planning to put in the system? Because I know we've talked about tenancy agreements, which is probably the most important one that comes up a lot of the time and needs signatures and stuff, but, as we know, with tenants, there's a lot more involved than that, the documents is a big part of actually being a landlord, and managing those documents. So what are the sort of things that you're up to and thinking of in the future?
Charles: If you think about, as you said, the tenancy agreement is the most important contract, but it's only one of many, so we do tenancy application forms, holding deposit forms, so that's more pre-tenancy, and we also do post-tenancy, the how to rent letter, which, I'd say, the benefit of a doing a how to rent letter in Legislate is you have that audit trail of, 'I've given the how to rent with all the prescribed information to my tenant,' which will be useful for serving notices if ever you need to as a landlord, But yes, we do how to rent, we also do notices, rent increase letters, tenancy amendment letters. That's on the landlord side, but we also offer contracts in other verticals, we're quite big in employment, so you can match an employment agreement and all the other documents around that, and we do also have some contracts which are specific for letting agents.
Richard: That's brilliant. We're seeing more and more customers of ours becoming bigger landlords with lots of tenants, and you've touched on another thing there, letting agents. So we have a lot of letting agents that are now using our products, because it wasn't really a market that we had looked at originally. We thought our key customers would be landlords, but it turns out that the letting agent software available in the market is either very outdated, very clunky or very expensive, and we have a really good solution for a lot of big property managers, and smaller letting agents, currently. So I think the whole document management side, what you're offering can spread right across that. We're still working at how we're going to work together, Alphaletz and Legislate, just for people watching this, but we're very excited about what these guys can offer. We think it could integrate really nicely with Alphaletz to make it a very simple user experience, and, also, from our own chats with our own customers, they already do this, or they're looking to solve this very problem. They're downloading free stuff, it's a bit like the landlords who have a free spreadsheet and are using QuickBooks and a free database, and they're trying to do all this stuff together which is very time-consuming, not necessarily the best way of doing it, so being able to pull all this stuff together just makes everyone's life a bit more simple, and I think that's basically the problem you were trying to solve when you started Legislate, and the problem we've been trying to solve at Alphaletz, so I think there's a really good opportunity to streamline this for everybody. What about future stuff, what else are you thinking of in Legislate, going forward?
Charles: Yes, so, we continue to add new contracts based on customer feedback, and we really want to make it possible for you to create all the documents you need to create in one place, because you then have the benefit of using one system to track your data, and you can then use that data to create new documents, so you save time, incrementally each time you need a new contract, but, what we're working on now, I'm also very excited about future collaboration opportunities. We're building out our public KPI, which, effectively is what will allow platforms like Alphaletz to offer Legislate contracting capabilities to their users without them needing to migrate to Legislate. I think that has a lot of potential, not just for increasing our user base and the number of contracts that get created on the platform, but, I'd say what's more exciting is all the new use cases that will emerge from these integrations, because I feel like what we're trying to do at Legislate is make data in the contract useable to our customers, but that data never sits within the contract, it flows within a workflow, and so if we can really make that possible to manipulate the data, to share it so that when you're taking on a tenant, you can set up payments and rent collection, or to do credit referencing, etc., all from the contract, then there's a whole lot of services that we can offer to, or partner, to offer to landlords and tenants. By doing everything digitally, by doing everything in Legislate, we can ultimately offer a much more secure and reliable service, because, to date, no one has ever offered a contract which is the central source of truth. If you think about it, a PDF, even if it's DocuSigned, there's no way of guaranteeing that that is the contract the tenant signed, or that the landlord signed, or that, you know, even if you're using open banking, there's no way of guaranteeing the payments that are showing in the bank account are the right amount, they could be rent arrears, they could be whatever. The reason is because nothing's connected to your contract, or in a certified independent way. So if we can do that, then we can unlock a lot of opportunity.
Richard: That's a really good point as well. The best feedback we get is from our customers, so we get, as we start to launch new features and new things, we get customers coming back to us, 'This is great, but can you also do this?' They give us the best ideas. Obviously, the more custom we got, there are well over 1,000 landlords on our platform now and that's growing every single day which is fantastic. I'm sure the same, once we, this is the sort of service, I think, that as people start to use it, they'll really understand the power of it, and then they'll come up with new ideas, new ways of doing it, and I think that could be very powerful moving forward. It's great. Thank you, Charles. That's been really useful, and if anyone wants to get hold of you guys, how could they do that?
Charles: The easiest way is to Google Legislate, and we should be in the top 3 results. Otherwise, our website is legislate.tech, and you can sign up for free, have a play around with the platform, and, if you ever do want to create contracts, or properly sign your contracts, then it's £9.95 for a one-off contract, or you can subscribe and unlock better rates, if ever you need to create more.
Richard: Good. Fantastic, and then we'll work on how we're going to integrate everything so it's a nice seamless experience, and a simple experience for landlords. So stay tuned, to our customers, our joint customers, and we'll keep you updated as things progress. Thank you, Charles, thank you for your time, and I'm sure our landlords and our customers will find this extremely interesting.