| Hello and a warm welcome to our August newsletter.
The schools have broken up for the Summer holidays but there is no resting at Lenwell Towers where current activity levels remain high, partly fuelled by an oversupply of property for sale. This is helping ensure that the lettings market remains strong for landlords both in terms of being a good time to acquire additional property and gain from strong rental values and good yields.
In this edition, Lucinda Newell looks at the phenomenon that is Social Media and how it is transforming the way in which we communicate and do business.
We also offer good advice for tenants on minimising the risks of identity theft when moving home.
Tenants – minimise the risk of identity theft when moving home
Tenants are at risk of falling prey to identity fraudsters by failing to change their details when they move house. Of the UK’s 16m tenants, a third fail to leave a forwarding address and new tenants often find themselves receiving mail for previous occupiers. With increases in identity thefts, tenants are advised to be more vigilant.
The UK’s fraud prevention service CIFAS reported an increase of 32 per cent in the number of identity thefts committed during the recession. One of the most common types of fraud is criminals taking over the running of a victim’s bank account.
Although this trend can be a nuisance for people who receive piles of post meant for previous tenants, more worryingly, documents left behind can be used to commit identity fraud. When moving, tenants are advised to redirect post for at least a month and when moving out at the end of a tenancy, to resist the urge to throw out personal documents with the rubbish as thieves can use this information to steal their identity. Instead, all documents that are no longer needed should be shredded.
Almost a quarter of people in the UK fail to redirect their post and more than one in ten leave personal documents behind when they move house. Seventy per cent of new residents receive post addressed to previous occupants.
Labour’s Phantom Landlord Register
“I looked long and hard for and asked in the Department about the supposed landlords register that the previous Government announced. I could not find a scrap of paper about it, leading me to conclude that it was more a case of a press release than a policy on a landlords register.” So said Housing Minister Grant Shapps when asked why he was so "indifferent to the rights of private tenants".
In a recent House of Commons debate, Chris Williamson (Derby North, Labour) asked whether the new Minister planned to introduce a national register of private landlords. Another MP, Lillian Greenwood, (Nottingham South, Labour) also asked whether he planned to review the regulatory framework applying to managing and letting agents. Chris Williamson said, “Why is the Minister so indifferent to the rights of private tenants? Is not he worried that weakening local authorities' powers will give a green light to rogue landlords and lead to a surge in the number of houses in multiple occupation? I ask him in all sincerity to think again about ditching the plans to give private tenants greater protection-or is he happy to usher in a new era of Rachmanism?”
Mr Shapps replied, “The Honorable Gentleman may not have been here when I last addressed this subject, but I am keen to protect tenants' rights and to ensure that sufficient landlords can operate in the market and are not regulated out of it, thereby making rents more expensive for the very people who want to go into the private rented sector. I looked long and hard for and asked in the Department about the supposed landlords register that the previous Government announced. I could not find a scrap of paper about it, leading me to conclude that it was more a case of a press release than a policy on a landlords register.”
Lillian Greenwood wasn’t content to leave the issue there saying, “There are almost 11,000 private tenants in my constituency, many of whom are students, including overseas students, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by rogue landlords –there are numerous examples of that. Does the Minister agree with the Association of Residential Letting Agents that tenants deserve protection, and that regulation is required to drive up standards?”
“I agree absolutely that tenants deserve protection and that regulations are, of course, required. However, perhaps the Honorable Lady would like to reflect on the fact that we have been in government for two months whereas her party were in government for 13 years. There must be a good reason why the previous Government did not regulate the industry further in that time – and there is. Many different powers are available to local authorities to ensure that they look after residents. Those powers now include HMO-ing, and we will ensure that they apply in areas where local authorities want them, but we no longer need the bureaucracy of their applying nationwide.”
So there we have it, those who believe that it’s a free market and professionalism should win through are happy. Those who believe that the steel hand of legislation is the only way to drive the cowboys out of town are, perhaps, disappointed.
The Lucinda Newell Column
To be seen pottering along the highways and byways of Luton in her Mini Clubman, her trusted Scottie Malcolm at her side, our super sleuthing property rental expert Ms Lucinda Newell is on the case on your behalf!
Social Media seem to be the words on everybody’s lips (or at least on their computer keyboards) at the moment and with my friends at Lenwell having won The Times and Sunday Times 2010 Gold Lettings Award for Online and Technology, I thought I had better investigate and see what this “phenomenon” is all about.
Lenwell are represented on Facebook with which I was already familiar, as I enjoy being able to keep in contact with my nieces and see photos of their latest exploits. What I hadn’t realised is just how important Facebook is becoming to the business community as well, with businesses now having their own pages and “fans” who are able to engage in conversation and receive updates on what’s going on.
In fact my research has shown that Facebook is now responsible for more messages every day than there are emails being sent around the world!
Lenwell are also listed on Twitter (@lenwellproperty) and issue regular “tweets” which can be seen and responded to by their “followers” When I first heard about Twitter it sounded a bit like a religious cult with “followers” but, having looked at it in detail I like the short succinct message style and anyway that dear boy Stephen Fry is apparently huge in Twitter world with over one and half million followers so it must be OK.
Blogging is a word that seems to appear a lot these days too. Apparently it is derived from the words Web and Log (weBLOG) and involves someone posting their news and views so that others can read and comment on them.
ou Tube is now the second most popular search engine after Google and there are 24 hours of new video being uploaded to You Tube every minute!
Speaking to Rob Wellstead he told me that whilst it varies a little from one Social Media platform to another, the average age of people using Social Media matches the profile of tenants and the under 35 generation in particular are hugely engaged and are now as likely to text via social media as they are to pick up the phone! Interestingly though he also told me that a quarter of all Facebook users are over fifty. This made me feel much more comfortable and determined to explore further.
Clearly the speed at which changes happen in he world is increasing. It took fifty years for the telephone to be in common usage after it was invented. Computers took twenty five and the internet and email took about ten. It seems that Social Media will achieve that level of common usage in just five!
Lenwell have always prided themselves on excellent communication with their customers and clients and social media is now clearly providing new ways for them to engage and for others to “join in the conversation”!
I am told that it is the take up of mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Blackberry that have helped Social Media become so successful. The iPhone and iPad were created by a company called Apple. Apple and Blackberry? That reminds me that I must get to the greengrocers and buy some fruit for a nice crumble this weekend.
Come on Malcolm - Walkies!
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Meet The Team – Joyce Walker
Continuing our regular introduction to staff at Lenwell, this month we introduce Joyce Walker who has been part of the Lenwell team for over twelve years.
Name: Joyce Walker
Role: Scanner extraordinaire!
How long with Lenwell: Over twelve years. I started with Rob Wellstead as a filing clerk and now, in our “paperless offices”, I provide an electronic version of my original role. I was worried when Rob originally told me the business was going “paperless” as I though that I would lose my job but I am delighted to still be part of such a wonderful team.
Typical Day: I am a senior citizen and I work twelve hours a week at the Luton office. My role is to scan into our computer system all the paperwork relating to our lettings and management and ensure that is properly distributed electronically throughout the business.
Likes: I love being part of the team at Lenwell and, at my age, I really appreciate still having the opportunity to make a contribution, however small. I get on really well with everybody and it helps keep me young!
Personal: I live in Dunstable and make use of my bus pass to travel to work. I love walking and I still go swimming twice a week. I also enjoy knitting and whenever a member of the Lenwell team has a baby, it has become a tradition for me to knit them a blanket.
Unfortunately I was widowed four years ago but I have three daughters, ten grand-children and three great grand-children and so I am kept very busy.
Favourite Holiday Destination: When my husband was alive we used to love Bournemouth but I like a number of places around the UK including the Lake District and the Yorkshire Moors. I am very lucky that I get to go on holiday with my family and have a wonderful time wherever we go!
Good quality inventories are an essential part of managing both a property that is let and in ensuring that the relationship between landlord and tenant remains positive.
Without a good quality inventory that has been approved by both landlord and tenant at the outset there is a greatly increased risk of a dispute at the end of the tenancy as to the condition that the property and any fixtures, fittings and furnishings are in.
With disputes regarding deposits now being handled through the The Dispute Service (TDS), there is evidence to show that landlords may lose out in any dispute where there is a lack of evidence to support a wish to withhold some or all of the deposit due to damage, unreasonable wear and tear or uncleanliness during the period of the tenancy.
At Lenwell we have, since 1996, been producing professional inventories that include both photographs and video evidence as well as supporting text to ensure that any likelihood of a dispute is minimised and, if it arises at all, is resolved quickly and sensibly with both parties.
Our inventory service operates as follows:
- On move-in we complete a written inventory and also a video inventory of the
property. The Video follows a checklist to ensure nothing is missed (e.g. inside ovens
and down toilets!).
- On move-out another video is taken and the original written inventory is checked to
ensure any dilapidations are noted.
- Copies of all videos are stored on RAID servers and can be transferred by email, CD
or can be output to picture images and viewed online.
The procedure is administered by trained staff and is audited to ensure consistency, this high standard of service has enabled easy compliance with TDS (The Dispute Service) deposit dispute adjudication.
Over the years we have, on rare occasions had dispute cases that have been heard in the County Court and are delighted to report that various Judges have complemented us on our thorough inventory procedures.