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A warning for landlords using Countrywide plc

Before I started to write this article I tried to recall a time of ever raising concerns and naming an agent we compete with, it's something we do rarely and unfortunately in most cases we assist landlords when it is too late to gain a satisfactory conclusion.

For example we helped a great deal of landlords following the collapse of Thomas and Company Rentals in Milton Keynes, see:

https://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/Letting-agent-is-jailed-after-fraud

I also recall Mypad an agent who through some great marketing won a large contract with Luton council and just didn’t pay their clients! See:

https://www.lutontoday.co.uk/news/lettings-agency-bosses-just-walked-away-1-1034513

Today the marketplace is different. There are still agents who steal money and are non-compliant but most astute landlords can spot a non-compliant agent and will steer well clear.

However, the market is changing and the agent I’m concerned about today is Countrywide better known for brands such as Taylor’s, Bairstow Eves, Hamptons and Lambert Smith Hampton to name but a few! 

The financial predicament of Countrywide is entirely different to the two cases mentioned above, the business has operated in a compliant manner and employ some great staff. However, if Countrywide do find themselves entering administration and they loose key staff I am worried they will not be able to deliver the service their customers deserve.

Countrywide have 850 branches and employ thousands of staff. However, as a result of a changing market and a failed online strategy their share price has fallen from a high of £686 to 38.5p on Friday 29thJune 2018. They have enormous debt (£192million at the end of last December) and their loans are subject to covenants that could lead to them being called in. The industry trade press are constantly reporting as the story unfolds, the most recent article can be seen here:

http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/could-countrywide-be-facing-crunch-time-this-weekend-as-loans-come-up-for-stress-testing/

Countrywide in my opinion will continue to trade in a compliant manner but given their current predicament and the inevitable departure of staff I am worried that they may find it difficult to deliver a reasonable service for customers despite having every intention to do so. 

Therefore, if you have a property with Countrywide and would like to move the management to ourselves please get in touch. We aren’t owned by external shareholders, have no debt, own most of the premises we trade from and have kept our business model simple for many years. Our team (most of whom have been with the business for many years) are ready to help and are absolutely focused on delivering the highest level of service to our customers.

By Rob Wellstead Managing Director Lenwell Property Services.

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