This week, Government announced that it intends to make Client Money Protection (CMP) mandatory for all letting agents. SAFEagent has campaigned for the last six years for this decision, which will protect consumers by ensuring all agents holding rent money and deposits must protect it in a CMP Scheme.
Belvoir Dunstable a professional letting agent with CMP already in place, is delighted at the decision, but is reminding consumers that mandatory CMP is not yet law, and their finances are at risk if their chosen agent does not have client money protection.
The market is huge, with an estimated £2.7 billion held by letting agents in client accounts, but unfortunately there are still too many cases of criminal letting agents stealing landlord and tenant cash. This is why it is crucial that consumers check their agent is part of an agent regulatory organisation which already provides CMP.
This is wonderful news that the Government will finally make CMP mandatory, but it isn’t in place yet. That means both landlords and tenants are still at risk of losing money. It is so important that consumers understand that they need to choose their agent wisely by asking if they are part of a CMP scheme before entering into a contract with them.
This is another change in lettings that all landlords should take on board before choosing their letting agent. Those currently with an agent should consider how this will impact on their agent along with the banning of fees that agents can charge tenants which can account for up to 25% of their lettings income. It is quite likely that some Estate Agents will stop lettings altogether and some letting agents could decide to close.
A week where we see another pub in Dunstable close possibly for development, my first attendance as South East region Chairman at the National Belvoir Network Group and suspected money laundering halting a tenancy in its tracks.
The First & Last pub at the corner of Station Road and Church St closed its doors very recently. Notices on the windows say it is closed for refurbishment, but it has been for sale for a while and I have spoken recently to 2 developers who were interested in buying the site. The local Facebook pages have mixed messages from locals and staff about its closure so we shall have to wait and see if it has been sold for redevelopment. At the same time you can now see that the old Norman King pub next to The Old Palace Lodge has been totally demolished apart from a small segment of wall behind the hoarding facing Church St. Work has also started inside The Saracens Head which closed last year. Dunstable being a market town had had large number of pubs which are unsustainable today where the social meeting places are more often to be one of the many coffee shops that have appeared. Often these old pubs make good accommodation as can be seen in redevelopment of the Borough Arms in Albion St and the Bull Inn now called Vale Court on the corner of Union Street and High Street North and with the carparks attached to them there is scope for additional housing.
The Belvoir group which has over 300 shops across the UK has regional meetings once a quarter where the Franchise owners are updated on latest legislation, new ideas and can discuss new ideas or problems they face. At the last South East Region meeting in February I was made the Chairman for the South East Region and so on Wednesday this week I was in the Belvoir Head Office in Grantham for a day with the other regional chairmen including those from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland for the National Meeting which is held every quarter for a full day. At the Belvoir National Group meeting the chairmen from each region discuss and agree new initiatives for the group, marketing, business performance and network development amongst other things. This is then relayed back to the franchise owners at the local group meetings. Next Friday 17th March is the Annual Belvoir Conference and Awards in Oxfordshire and I along with all the other Belvoir Franchise owners will be attending for an update on the Belvoir Group, new initiatives, new products and award ceremony for the best performing offices. With the forthcoming changes regarding the charging of tenant fees and changes for landlords with their tax returns meetings such as this are very important for the group to make sure the network is fully up to date and ready to provide the best advice.
Most of this week was the usual mix of viewings, Periodic visits (sounds less intrusive than inspections), assessing and arranging maintenance issues and helping investors find their next investment property. All the more important to get the right advice with the coming tax changes.
Thursday evening I had arranged for some applicants to meet the owners of an apartment they were hoping to rent. The owners will be managing the property themselves, but rely on us to carry out the viewings and choose who we think is the most suitable. If the owners then wish to meet the applicants it is a test of whether you have measured up to the owner’s requirements and chosen correctly. Needless to say all went well. Apartment owners and applicants all very happy and the renting of the apartment can proceed.
Friday morning and I arrived to an email from a tenant due to sign her tenancy that day and pay her deposit money. This lady has been waiting on Exchange on her house sale for the last 5 months. Her Estate Agent has given her a number of dates which didn’t materialise, but finally she was given 100% confirmation by the Estate Agent and Solicitor that Exchange would take place on Thursday. Come Thursday after months of delays and she receives a phone call from her solicitor to say it had all fallen through due to suspected money laundering! This is something that should have been checked by all parties before the sale reached this point and has left a very distraught seller who cannot now rent the house from us and has to start the sale process again. Needless to say my landlord was not best pleased either having waited for her to complete the sale of her house for the last few weeks.
Daniel Bourke is the owner of Belvoir Lettings Dunstable and in his previous career in Architecture he was an Associate in a leading London Architectural practice