In September 2021, Legislate contacted letting agents across the UK to determine what trends in the letting industry excited letting agents the most and what were the most common difficulties experienced by letting agents. After our study, we found that letting agents were most excited about the growing demand for housing and rental properties which provided them with the opportunity to meet more tenants. In terms of difficulties, a common theme was the challenge in finding, sourcing and managing contractors for maintenance- a difficulty that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Another common difficulty identified was keeping up with the training required to cope with changing government legislation.
Exciting Trends in the Letting Industry
As mentioned, the letting agents we contacted were excited about the rising demand from tenants for properties. Indeed, according to the Propertymark demand from tenants was the highest ever recorded during July this year: the average number of new prospective tenants saw a 16% increase in the number of new prospective tenants registered per branch from June. This rising demand has increased the contact that agents have with prospective tenants. One of our letting agents, Aspire to Move, said that they ‘love meeting all the new and different types of landlords and tenants we help’.
On a similar note, other agents were excited about new technologies that have infiltrated the market this year, influenced both by the pandemic and rising demand for housing. One agency spoke about the increasing demand for virtual viewings, stating that they have now become a customer expectation. The agency reported that adopting such practices is useful in saving time, saving money and qualifying applicants more easily, let alone the environmental benefits of this approach.
Common Difficulties in the Letting Industry
When reaching out to letting agents about the most common difficulties letting agents run into, we received two clearly common responses: contractors and legals. Letting agents discussed how they struggled to source contractors and get maintenance work completed quickly. One agency discussed that this shortfall has been influenced by suppliers being short on stock and that the pandemic has resulted in appointments being delayed, particularly due to isolation requirements. Vanarama found that 64% of households (of 1,000 respondents) required help from a tradesman in 2020.
The second difficulty letting agents commonly said they faced was keeping up with changing government legislation and ‘people’s failure to understand and comprehend the legalities of lettings’. Indeed, following the enactment of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, letting agents were forced to abandon certain practices and the introduction of new safety regulations, such as the introduction of electrical safety inspections in April 2020, has meant that letting agents have had to pay extra attention to the legal landscape. Furthermore, as a result of emergency Coronavirus legislation, letting agents have also seen a significant change in the rules surrounding notice periods and right to rent checks, having to remember key dates when rules relax. The difficulty in keeping up with all of these changes has only been further exacerbated by poor reporting on these areas. Stories explaining that landlords can no longer legally refuse pets in rental properties (which, as explained here, is very not the case) spring to mind.
These difficulties, alongside rising demand, have ultimately led to some agents expressing difficulties in managing time. Those agents that are proactive, trying their best to source contractors, match tenants to houses and keep on top of changing regulations, understandably find it challenging to ensure they allocate enough time to each process to ensure they maintain their excellent levels of customer service.
Overall, 2021 has been a busy for lettings. Surging demand alongside a series of legislative changes this year has kept agents constantly on their feet. We have seen that agents have, overall, been excited by increased demand. Rising demand has given them the opportunity to connect and engage with record number of tenants and has provided agents with the opportunity to do what they do best. Agents were also excited about the rise of new technologies that have enabled them to continue to provide the gold standard of service even due to increased demand. Understandably, agents felt that the frequent changes to regulation and legislation, though important, were a common difficulty to keep on top of. It is hoped that agents will harness new, time-saving technologies, such as Legislate, to ensure they can continue to excel despite increased demand and changing regulation.
Finally, a massive thank you to all the agents that took part.
A special thanks to the following agencies for writing such useful responses.
ABC Property Management (NW) Ltd T/A ABC Property Shop
Sue Smith, Director
Favourite spot: Ellesmere Port where hundreds of ABC Property Shop’s tenants live!
Aspire to Move
Will Maslin, Director
Bath and Bristol
Favourite place: ‘Bath! It’s such a wonderful, beautiful city- there’s no need to visit anywhere else!’
Barrows & Forrester Property Group
James Forrester, Managing Director
Birmingham, Lichfield and Surrounding areas
Where to visit: “The city is thriving with new developments and masterplans emerging week by week, alongside the historic architectures and buildings it already has to offer. Not only that but with green spaces in all our parks, the open water of the canals and a diverse nightlife from Michelin-starred restaurants to indy nights in Digbeth – there’s only one place to be in the Midlands. If urban living isn’t quite your thing though we are spoilt for greenery across the region with the beautiful Peak District throughout Derbyshire or the pure escapism of the Shropshire countryside.”
Bricknells Rentals Ltd
Chris Holmes, Director
Favourite place: Roman York!
Goodman & Lilley
Claire Jenkins, Lettings Manager
Bristol and North Somerset - South West
Favourite place: Exmoor National Park with its ‘breath-taking coastlines, tranquil countryside and interesting little medieval villages and hamlets.’
Sarah Gibson, Lettings Manager
Teesside, North Yorkshire & the North East
Favourite place: ‘Any of the beaches, or the Moors. ‘
Haslams Estate Agents
Peter Fuller, Group Lettings & Acquisition Director
Favourite place: Season ticket holder at Reading FC!
Mikala Underdown, Director
Slough, Barnstaple and Malborough
Favourite place: Windsor Great Park
Madison Oakley Lettings & Estate Agency
William Bell-Knight, Managing Partner of Lettings
Favourite place: Bath, a ‘beautiful, idyllic and historic city with lots to do and see’
Michael Antony Lettings Limited
Paula Dugani, Director
Favourite place: ‘Wandering around the stones in Avebury… so relaxing’
Anna Elema, Lettings Negotiator
Favourite Place: Windsor- its a great town centre on the river with lots of history!
Jeff Stevens, Director
Favourite place to visit: Cheddar Gorge!
Simply Let Dorset
Jacky, Owner Director
Favourite place: Corfe Castle and Old Harry rocks and the Purbecks