A guest article by Andrew Whitmey of Umega Lettings.
It’s not always easy being a letting agent. We are employed to take care of peoples’ properties, probably the biggest investments they will ever will make, while dealing with tenants’ homes, something that they are understandably extremely passionate about. Landlords and tenants often push for conflicting actions and us letting agents are the ‘squeezed middle’ with two clients, with very different agendas, to keep happy.
As letting agents we often find ourselves giving tenants a verbal ‘cuddle’ to alleviate their frustrations or worries and taking the role of:
- an experienced big brother,
- a surrogate Edinburgh-based parent, or
- a councillor (in some cases we’ve found ourselves acting as a marriage councillor…it’s amazing what situations letting agents get caught up in the crossfire!)
It is then a case of translating the tenant’s woes on to the landlord (often minus a few explicit words and in a largely condensed format!) and educating the landlord of what is ‘fair and reasonable’ in order that a resolution is reached – It’s not easy to keep everyone happy!
A landlord may be looking to keep their property investment as profitable as possible while tenants may be pushing for double glazing to be installed while they huddle up together under a blanket in the depths of the Scottish Winter. So, how can a letting agent provide the best possible service to both parties?
The Importance of Communication
First and foremost it comes down to communication. Communication is at the heart of everything we do as letting agents. This starts right at the beginning, from communicating well with prospective tenants looking to view properties on the market, to ensuring any offers are passed onto the landlord.
It continues when ensuring everyone is kept updated during the pre-tenancy phase, on to keeping all parties in the loop during maintenance issues, through to liaising with tenants and reporting back to landlords if there are rent arrears.
Towards the end of a tenancy we need to make sure everyone understands the process which commences once notice has been served and finally what happens when dealing with deposit refunds, ensuring all parties understand why any deductions will be reported to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and educating both parties what is ‘fair wear and tear’ and what damage, if any, is excessive. Phew….there’s a lot in there…but it all boils down to good communication!
Three places to make an emphasis on communication:
1. Answer those phones
One of the biggest gripes from landlords and tenants is that they simply cannot get through to speak to anyone. It’s essential for letting agents to pick up these phones to avoid ‘queries’ turning into ‘issues’.
2. Respond to emails within reasonable time periods
There’s nothing worse than reporting an issue or requesting some assistance over email and hearing nothing back. Customers are normally quite happy if they know that someone is dealing with their email and will allow a reasonable timescale before expecting a resolution. It’s when they hear nothing back that their blood boils!
3. Invest in technology
There are some excellent options out there to ensure that customers, both landlords and tenants, can find get responses to their queries at the click of a button. Online landlord log in areas for checking statements, viewing feedback and maintenance updates or online tenant maintenance log in areas are the future and we are investing heavily in these solutions at Umega Lettings! Customers expect information ‘NOW’ and technology is the answer. There are also other tools available including ‘Live Chat’ and text messaging which enable customers to get a quick response rather than having to wait.
Dealing with Regulation
In order to reassure landlords and tenants that they will be treated fairly it’s important to choose a credible landlord letting agent. Although regulation is just around the corner, currently there is no requirement for a letting agent to follow any code of conduct. There are several voluntary schemes available and by choosing an ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) approved agent, landlords and tenants can be sure that their letting agent follows a strict code of conduct, that all client monies are protected and that the agent is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman) in case matters get out of hand.
As letting agents we work within the customer service industry and it just so happens that we deal with residential properties. The key to providing the best possible service is communication! It’s as simple as that. Customers, both landlords and tenants, need to know that their query has been received and need to be kept up to date with its progress.
How Umega Approaches All This
We encourage our team to be themselves when dealing with customers and one of our core values at Umega Lettings is to act with integrity. If our team are made available (through technology and training) and always do what they think is the ‘right’ thing, we believe that customers (both landlords and tenants) should receive the best possible service and everyone should be kept happy!
By always acting transparently (backed up by membership of a credible regulatory scheme), educating all parties of what is expected of them and then ensuring everyone is kept informed throughout the letting process or has access to this information at a click of a button, we can make our lives as letting agents, with two very different customers to satisfy, a lot easier!