A leading PropTech expert has urged lettings agents to improve their administration and paperwork if they want to avoid what could be a surge in Coronavirus-inspired complaints.
Neil Cobbold, chief sales officer at automated payment service PayProp, says that agents having to demonstrate that they stuck to new rules protecting tenants from unfair treatment while safeguarding must prioritise good communication and record keeping.
A mix of legal changes - such as extending the eviction notice period from two to three months - plus many informal deals between agents, landlords and tenants over rent payments in particular all provide the potential for disputes, he says.
"Agencies therefore need to keep up to date with the latest government guidance, while communicating clearly and recording all information factually. By resolving disputes calmly and effectively, letting agents can provide a very valuable service to both landlords and tenants."
Cobbold adds that agents will need to be mindful of ongoing law changes to reduce the chances of complaints being made against them or their clients.
Last month, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act was extended to cover existing as well as new tenancies. This means that more renters can now take direct legal action if their properties are not up to scratch.
On top of this, the Tenant Fees Act is being extended in June to cover tenancies that started before June 1 2019.
"Alongside managing the challenges posed by coronavirus, there remains a significant responsibility on agents to be compliant and help their landlords to meet their legal obligations" Cobbold explains.
He says it’s vital to record changes to payment schedules, maintain a full and transparent paper trail and keep all parties up to date with the latest information - and he emphasises that technological solutions that automate these processes will be particularly valuable.
"Poor communication and record keeping are regularly cited as the most common reasons for complaints made against letting agents in The Property Ombudsman's annual report" says Cobbold.
"With the administrative complications caused by coronavirus, this is highly likely to be the same in 2020. That's why it's so important for agencies to make sure they do well in these areas in order to protect their businesses and enhance their reputations" he concludes.