An alternative to traditional deposits, already tested in the German rental market, is now being introduced into the UK - and claims it may offer a way around future restrictions on deposits hinted at in the government’s Queen’s Speech last week.
Flatfair is a system under which tenants pay it a so-called ‘flatbond’ – just one week’s worth of rent – ahead of the tenancy. In return, landlords are covered for 12 weeks of rent.
Tenants, as with a traditional deposit, remain liable for up to six weeks of rent in case of damages. Should there be a dispute at checkout, the case is decided by an independent government authorised dispute resolution provider. There are no yearly renewal fees.
The company is now looking for agents to join the Flatfair network, using the platform for free and entering a revenue-sharing agreement.
“The revolutionary approach introduces more choice to tenants, offering more than double the usual protection to landlords, improved payout terms and access to a larger pool of reputable tenants” according to the founder of Flatfair, Franz Doerr.
“Furthermore, Flatfair streamlines and digitizes the entire deposit and flatbond registration process, including change of sharer, claims and payments, providing transparency and penalizing tenants for unscrupulous disputes - all of which will significantly reduce letting agents’ and landlords’ operational headaches” says Doerr.
The flatbond is not an insurance product and was developed together with the support of the Financial Conduct Authority’s innovation hub.
Doerr says the status of his service, which is insured by European insurers for debt collection and contract disputes, makes it easier to transact “micro-claims” such as covering the costs of cleaning, which may not be covered by traditional insurance.
“Insurance policies can only be distributed by a regulated representative or broker - most letting agents therefore cannot advise on an insurance policy but [they can advise] on the flatbond” he adds.
Doerr says Flatfair has just achieved what he calls “critical mass” and is establishing a UK-wide distribution network of partnered letting agents; he also pledges that it will soon offer free tenant referencing and inventory checks and discounts on some services for agents, landlords and tenants.
The service comes to the UK just as the government has announced a possible extension to its proposed letting agents’ fee ban, to also cap rental deposits paid by tenants.
Doerr’s background is in finance and consultancy, most recently at Deutsche Bank; chief operating officer of Flatfair is a former Google marketeer, Daniel Jeczmien.