A helping hand

We talk to a KFH Senior Property Manager in Fulham who is seeing more landlords turning to her for assistance as the government brings in more regulations.

4 October, 2021

After decades of being largely left alone by regulators and even encouraged by some governments with tax breaks, many private landlords can be excused for thinking that the tables have now been turned on them. The tax breaks have been cut back and rented homes and their landlords are now covered by increased regulation that applies to a wide range of property rental activity. These include fitting smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, electrical checks, EPCs, tenant fees, evictions, gas safety, Right to Rent immigration checks, deposit protection, planning regulations, houses of multiple occupancy (or HMO) licencing, selective licencing, fire risk assessments and mandatory tenancy paperwork. Fines for non-compliance vary from borough to borough, but landlords who mistakenly or blatantly ignore these responsibilities can face penalties of up to £30,000. And those who operate HMOs, but do not get them licenced, also face having to return rent to their tenants under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Some landlords are happy to take on these responsibilities, particularly if they have just a single property and have enough spare time. But those with busy work and personal lives, or who own larger portfolios, need help.

Andria Solomon, who is a Senior Property Manager with a nine-year track record in the sector currently working out of KFH’s Fulham branch, says she’s seen increasing numbers of landlords on her patch turning to agents to manage their properties. The consequences of being caught out by the new, additional regulations means many landlords who used to look after their properties themselves are reluctant or unable to take on the extra responsibilities. “Landlords have been coming to me because either they haven’t got the time to engage with the additional admin work, or they find that their existing letting agency has exposed them to a potential fine for non-compliance and have sought out someone they can trust to do the job properly,” says Solomon.

One driver of this for HMO landlords locally has been the spread of licensing schemes for this kind of property within the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. It now has three schemes covering rented homes including two covering HMOs, all of which are due to expire next year. The council is running a consultation on what to do after that. “Landlords in this area of London expect a much higher level of service in return for the fees they pay,” says Solomon, who looks after Fulham, Chelsea and South Kensington. “They tend to either be professional landlords with large portfolios, or people in professional jobs with a few properties,” she adds. “There is also a growing trend for people who have ‘escaped to the country’ during Covid and are renting out their former homes here.”

One of Solomon’s more recent clients is a lawyer working in London who owns three rental properties in Fulham which she bought a few years ago as an investment and, rather than managing them herself, approached KFH for help. “She had a less than ideal experience with one of her properties after using a small lettings agency, and after quizzing me extensively about my abilities and approach to property management, placed all three with KFH to fully manage,” says Solomon.

The landlord says she invested in Fulham because simply she loves the areas. “It’s a great location for a number of reasons,” she says. “Residential, very easy to get into Central London from, and with good transport links to the countryside. And there are lots of unmodernised properties which have huge development potential. “I’ve been a property investor before so I knew straight away I wanted to have an agent look after the properties. I juggle many things so [using an agent] gives me time to explore other opportunities, but I also want to provide a very good experience to my tenants. “Good agents usually have a large pool of contractors and can deal with maintenance and repair issues in an efficient manner. Also, using an agent normally provides a sense of objectivity when dealing with issues. Andria is professional, knowledgeable, measured, proactive, practical and brilliant to work with so far.”

Andria Solomon says the landlord phoned her to talk about the properties and asked questions, including a couple of things that the previous property managers had done poorly. “I sold our property management process to her successfully,” she smiles. "I think she was particularly reassured when I explained how I am very proactive. After a few more chats over several months she decided to go with us and requested that all three properties were directly managed by me. "They are quite high-end homes as the landlord has spent a lot of money renovating them, so she wanted someone who could ensure they are kept that way and that the tenants are looked after – as they are all paying high rents.”

Solomon says she speaks to the landlord approximately twice a week to check in with her about ongoing issues – for example one of the recently-departed tenants had broken the hob in one of the property’s kitchens and it needed replacing quickly before the new tenants moved in. “I’ve gone above and beyond what you might expect of a property manager with this landlord, which is what she appreciates,” she says. “The landlord also chose KFH because we are a substantial company with a good reputation and track record in the market, as well as access to the kind of resources that smaller agents don’t have.” This has practical benefits – for example if Solomon goes on holiday then there is someone who can step in while she’s away, the kind of cover that a small agency with a handful of staff would struggle to provide.

In May the Queen’s Speech at the opening of parliament revealed that the government intends to bring in new legislation to ‘enhance the rights of those who rent’. It is expected to usher in several changes for landlords and letting agents including radical reform of the evictions process, introduce a system of ‘lifetime deposits’ for tenants and replace the current system of Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), and require landlords to offer a more flexible and wider range of tenancy contract lengths and T&Cs. There are also plans for a compulsory register for landlords in England and mandatory membership of a redress scheme. A government White Paper that will include all these proposals is to be published later this year.

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