Summer Reflections – As I See It!
By Heidi Shackell, CEO of The Lettings Hub
Welcome to the first edition of my new monthly blog – “As I See It!”
Here, I will offer my take on the private rental sector, alongside my life as CEO of The Lettings Hub and mother of five. In this first edition, I’ll dive into the impacts of rising rents across the UK, the potential pitfalls of deceptive tenants, and provide a quick glimpse into my recent family getaway, and why it’s so important to have time away from work
Rising rents – a double edged sword?
Month after month, we’re seeing rising rents across the UK.
Savills reported recently that annual rental prices rose across the UK by 10.4%, with rental growth across all regions except Yorkshire & Humber, and Wales. According to Zoopla, the North West saw the biggest post-pandemic growth in rents since March 2020, at 27.9%
Whilst landlords need to adjust their rents to meet the market demand, there are both pluses and minuses to bear in mind with such trends. Of course, higher rental prices will help to fund any increased mortgage costs caused by rising interest rates. However, a surge in rents can put tenants under financial strain leaving them with less disposable income. Not helpful when it comes to meeting the monthly rental commitment.
The temptation to deceive
With rising rents, it is unfortunate – but not unexpected – to see that some desperate tenants may resort to deception on their tenancy application. The temptation to exaggerate earnings or produce inaccurate references may be seen as a way to ‘cheat the checks’. However, if tenants do overstate their income the risks are substantial. Indeed, if they are unable to meet their rental obligations, they’re only digging a deep hole that could end in stress, financial instability and ultimately the risk of eviction and homelessness.
Of course, sadly there are also some tenants intent on deception in order to secure a tenancy. They aren’t doing so out of desperation, but instead are trying to obtain a property they can sub-let and steal the rent.
A Letting Agents Lifeline
Quality references are quite simply the letting agent’s lifeline. The confidence a quality reference can bring at the start of the tenancy can ensure the relationship between landlord, agent and tenant are positive from the outset. A tenant’s ability to afford their rent really does take the headache out of property management.
At The Lettings Hub we’re always challenging ourselves to make our references better, stronger and more robust. That’s why each week we have released at least one new enhancement into BOX – our pre-tenancy platform.
Be confident in the value of a reference
I can’t overstate the importance of high-quality references to capture the potential dishonesty of those who are lying in their tenancy applications.
However, it occurs to me that quality referencing could be undervalued – commoditised, almost. Quick and easy checks may be tempting, but if you purchase a reference for what is the equivalent of around an hour of minimum wage, then do you know just what quality of checks are being completed, and have you considered how thorough they could be? While new technologies can play a pivotal part in creating efficiency and increasing quality in the referencing game, the combination of tech and human expertise is always going to produce a better-quality result, albeit not the cheapest one. A confident agent with a great relationship with their landlord should be comfortable in sharing options and alternatives to help protect their let.
Food for thought: but with rising rents, fraud on the increase and the risks higher than ever – it feels like the right time to put more into a reference, not less. It will be something that I will be talking to my team and some clients about over the coming month.
Last month, I had the chance to escape to Devon with my husband, five children and our dog for a relaxing British holiday. Our week away from home allowed us to recharge and reconnect. Even though the weather hasn’t been brilliant this year, overcast skies and the occasional downpour didn’t dampen our spirits as we explored some charming coastal towns.
It was so lovely seeing how our children interact with each other. The older ones looking out for the younger ones, whilst Bertie – our two-year-old – looks up to his big brother and even bigger sisters.
Meanwhile, is it just me who lingers at every estate agent window as I walk past? We couldn’t help but lust after some stunning homes to let and for sale in this beautiful county. However, what struck me was the immense pride I felt when I saw our customers boards up, advertising their properties to let. I almost wanted to pop my head around the door of some branches and introduce myself.
However, holidays need to remain as holidays. So, after a week of eating, paddling, crabbing and discovering, we returned home just in time to get the kids ready for the return to school this week.
For Martha, she’s just started secondary school, and Bertie has now joined the primary school nursery. As I packed them all off to school, I wasn’t quite prepared for both milestones, but my children continue to display amazing resilience and adaptability. So, I just made sure they had full uniform and smart shoes and let them show me just what they’re all capable of.
As a Mum and a CEO of a business I am so proud to lead, August is always an interesting month. The summer is notoriously busy in lettings and referencing, but it is nice to see the end of the crazy season on the horizon, allowing us all more time to focus on our key projects and prepare for the season ahead.
However, it was tinged with a little sadness at knowing my youngest would be entering formal education for the first time, whilst also watching my eldest enjoy a carefree summer before secondary school. That lovely week away helped me and James re-set, recalibrate and celebrate everything we love about our little family.