Property Managers: How much more are you expected to do?
The goalposts have shifted. An influx on new lettings laws introduced this October mean the role and remit of a property manager has changed yet again. While the Government want to make life for tenants and landlords more transparent, it becomes murkier and more complex for property managers.
Even more rules to abide by and subsequent actions to carry out will put pressure on even the most competent of lettings departments and plate-spinning property managers. I’m sure many of you will agree that as buy-to-let grows in desirability (great returns, great appreciation prospects on bricks and mortar and great mortgage deals), the more involved it becomes, leading landlords to rely heavily on the property professionals.
So what does today’s landlord expect from his property manager?
Testing, testing – the new laws regarding smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors require landlords to test each alarm to ensure it’s in good working order at the start of every new tenancy. This may be feasible for investors with one property close to where they live or work but for portfolio landlords or those whose lets are miles from their permanent location, it’s not going to be possible. This additional but very serious responsibility of alarm testing may fall to property managers. To make sure liability is properly addressed, managers will need a system in place that records the new tenancy tests, as this could be an accountability nightmare.
Resolutions regarding maintenance – how property maintenance issues are reported, logged and dealt with now have a massive impact on buy-to-let repossessions. Landlords using property managers will look for a professional who can prove they have a watertight reporting system in place. This is in light of the new law that states a landlord can only serve a Section 21 notice if all outstanding complaints about the rented property’s state of repair have been resolved.
Tip top timekeeping – landlords will also be looking for people who has excellent diary management skills. They will be looking for a meticulous manager who has a red flag that pops up on the first day of the fifth month of a tenancy. Why? New laws now stipulate that landlords agreeing new tenancies can’t issue a Section 21 within the first four months of a tenancy. How many landlords will want a Section 21 issues as soon as they legally can? Lots. Additionally, Section 21 notices will have a shelf life of six months, if proceedings are not issued. For now, this ruling applies solely to new tenancies but from October 2018, it will apply to all tenancies.
It’s a lot to take in, we know. It’s another couple of layers of competency on top of an already demanding job. Not every letting agency or property manager will have the time, resources or IT systems to implement the above successfully but it won’t stop landlords demanding such services.
Questions remain. When and where will the Government draw the line in terms of reshaping the private rental sector? And what help is out there for under-pressure property managers?
* Simon Duce is the Managing Director of ARPM Outsourced Lettings Support