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Written by rosalind renshaw

The move by the London Evening Standard to launch London Private Rentals, a free listings service aimed directly at landlords, has shocked agents right across London and the home counties.

The affair has also reignited the debate about standards in the private lettings industry, although landlords are likely to be enthusiastic about the Standard’s new offering.

The paper carries a weekly 48-page Homes & Property property supplement supported by expensive advertising from agents. The paper’s plans have come out of the blue to them.

The Standard describes its new offering as the first quality listing site available to landlords directly. It launched it last week in a full page advert opposite the property supplement.

London Private Rentals offers landlords free listings, and makes it clear it is not available to agents. Geograpically, it will take properties from all over London, plus East and West Sussex, Kent, Berkshire, Surrey, Essex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

The search facility will be powered by Upad, an online letting agent that is now an ARLA membeer but was originally founded as a direct tenant-find service to landlords that cut out letting agents.  While listing is free, the site offers paid-for services at highly competitive prices – for example tenancy referencing, which is charged to tenants at £50 plus VAT.

Landlords can also choose to buy professional photography, floor plans, EPCs, tenancy agreements, inventories and gas safety certificates.

The site, it says, will also provide fair and transparent lettings service, with a team of lettings professionals on hand seven days a week.
 
James Davis, who founded Upad, said: “Upad is thrilled to be working with Evening Standard to create London Private Rentals. The UK’s first professional direct-to-market rental solution, it will allow tenants to search properties directly from London landlords, and meet them personally in a fully supported tenancy process.

“Until now, quality letting services have only been available through lettings agents. London Property Rentals changes everything, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Agents who support Homes & Property by taking out advertising include Foxtons, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, Felicity J Lord, Keatons, Bairstow Eves, Chesterton Humberts, Ludlow Thompson, Stirling Ackroyd, Savills, Northwood and Douglas & Gordon.

Last week, the Standard’s Home & Properties section carried its usual ‘diary of an estate agent’ column, which we understand is paid for, written by lettings manager Damien Brown of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.

While most of the estate agency adverts are for sale properties, all the agents who advertise also have lettings divisions, and last week Felicity J Lord paid for a whole page to promote its rental properties.

Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward said it had concerns, ‘particularly if  associations between Upad and the Standard are published directly’.

 Mariella Petralia, divisional lettings director for Felicity J Lord, said: “I really can’t believe that the Evening Standard is launching such a website.

“Professional lettings agents such as Felicity J Lord have worked extremely hard with bodies such as ARLA and NALS to ensure consistent levels of service for tenants, and promoting such a website seems to fly in the face of where we need to be going as an industry in terms of greater regulation.

“Who is going to guarantee that a property is safe to be let? Who is going to work on behalf of the tenant to ensure their deposits are safe and returned in full at the end of their tenancy? How will a landlord know if a tenant is suitable for their property? There are so many questions that need answering.

“I really think the Evening Standard needs to be focusing its energies instead on working with professional lettings agents to ensure consistently high levels of service for tenants (and landlords for that matter).”

Peter Rollings, of Marsh & Parsons, said: “I used to advertise in the Standard but I don’t any more, so I’m not as angry as I could be.

“However, it is a very strange decision. I can only suppose that they must think that there is money to be made in the private letting market.” He said that in his experience, the private letting market in London is very small.

He added: “I don’t see Upad as a competitor. If I did, there’d be something wrong with my business. It is a DIY site for landlords and tenants.”

Ed Mead, of Douglas & Gordon, said the launch of London Private Rentals would encourage more landlords to do without agents. For his views, see today’s blog.


 

Comments

  • icon

    I feel everyone maybe jumping the gun a little here.
    No i dont agree with what ES is doing i think its rather hypocritical to say on the one hand this new service is not open to agents buton the other hand we have teamed up with an agent, albeit an online one, to create the service in the 1st place.

    The advertising may well be free but the 'agency' services arent.

    The articles about this New service fail to mention the true costs to landlord and tenants.
    As an online agent Upad do not conduct viewings, so Mr landlord has got to trapes across London to carry out viewings to a number of tenants who quite possibly havent been qualified properly, as i'm sure ES will like a statistic to show how many viewings they can create for 1 property. so after several days of wasted hours viewing Mr Landlord wonders whether a free advert was worth the hassle.

    I also wonder whether Upad will be charging their current prices for services or whether they have a reduced cost for ES private landlords who want a tenant find service because at present that sits at £299
    Photo & floor plan pack £130, Gas cert £75, EPC £70, To Let board £29 and inventories from £91 throw in the VAT and this FREE listing service has just cost Mr Landlord a hefty £832.80 and he still had to carry out his own viewings!

    Yes landlords may well flock to this new service as the grass is always greener, but i think in a short space of time they will realise with much lighter pockets that the grass is in fact rather withered and a gruby brown.

    Good agents have weathered bigger storms than this in the past and I think with the number of online agents and free property portals available already, who to be fair are not making to much of a dent in the market goes to show landlords still want an office and a face they can hand their investment over to.

    if my computer crashes my landlords can still find me in my office, if Upad crashes where do you start looking for them?

    • 27 June 2012 08:48 AM
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    Control it and control it early.

    2nd Rule of Competition, allow them to have the business one doesn't want and point out at every opportunity to your mutual customers the features that had one running a mile from the instruction.

    • 19 June 2012 14:35 PM
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    this is absolutely disgrace to evening standard as local property agents been paying lot of money to advertised in the es for years but they are giving free listing for private landlords
    better all the agent not using evening standard anymore

    by the way any body know that www.bestpropertyworld.com new propertyportal in u.k are offering free seo for one year) for their premium member.
    so worth trying it
    good luck

    • 19 June 2012 13:49 PM
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    Property Hawk is here too trying to give support to a naive slap in the face for agents.
    The Evening Standard and A N Media in all its guises have been built and maintained with revenues from Agents, both should think long and hard if they can do without agent's loyalty and business.

    • 19 June 2012 13:35 PM
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    Hang on a minute, so what about the point that upad portraying themselves as an online agent - therefore being able to advertise on all the 'agent only property portals??!!

    What's the deal with all of that rubbish and the standards connection??!!

    • 19 June 2012 11:26 AM
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    It is perhaps worth remembering that traditional media once carried many classified ads direct from landlords, over the years the likes of Gumtree moved into the classified space offering an on-line proposition for private landlord consumer. Traditional media was slow to react; indeed they did not react in any meaningful fashion….apart from perhaps Fish4 which failed due to competing agenda’s of the media partners and they choose the wrong charging model. What we see here is The London Evening Standard with its partnering with UPAD making a step change to offer a compelling private landlord proposition and compete with the likes of Gumtree, eBay.

    Like sales agents, letting agents job is not confirmed simply to property promotion many other service benefits are delivered i.e. valuation, negotiation, accompanied view, referencing, inventory, check-in, check-out etc etc. Moving is a local business so coupled with service delivery most local landlord prefer to engage local property professionals to handle their business….so providing local agents deliver great service consistently there is no need to be concerned. Of course they’ll always be landlords as there are sellers who want to go private and from experience many of these having had a play return to the arms of the agent.

    Like it or not competition in a market place, provided its fair, is healthy…it keep business on its toes, is a positive influence against complacency and businesses are more likely to be creative and get better at what they do…..oh and don’t forget having real competition ensures that consumers get value.

    • 19 June 2012 10:50 AM
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    What I have always liked about the standards property section, is the exclusive feel to it, good brands, good photos, desirable properties.However, with the new proposition it will just look cheap and will attract the type of advertisers that don't want to do things properly and cut corners at every opportunity.....This couuld potentially be a disaster in the making for the standard!

    • 19 June 2012 09:49 AM
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    We too have had enough of this . We will be withdrawing our adverts today too. So many tenants around I doubt we will notice the difference anyway and for landlords we found direct marketing works much better than print advertising.e

    It's not hard to setup a private rentals website that would do well and that's what we and some of our competitors are working together to make happen. All money made will go back to making the site better and all profits will go to charity. I would rather that than reward newspaper groups for stabbing the hand that has fed them for years in the back.

    For us, enough is enough!

    Let's never forget that they need us more than we need them

    • 19 June 2012 09:09 AM
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    Agents should stop advertising with the Evening Standard.
    I suspect there is one reason and one reason only why the Evening Standard has opened up this additional revenue stream and that is because they are not making enough money from Agents.

    If this is the sort of loyalty the latest generation of Execs at the Evening Standard want to show to our industry then they need the once in every generation slap on the legs they deserve.

    There are bound to be agents who will not support a general withdraw from advertising but those will be the weak and desperate ones.

    Landlord using Agents will support the decision to withdraw from the Standard because at the end of the day they are in competition with the landlords who don't.

    If the every RLA and NLA member in the distribution area of the Evening Standard HAD available properties To Let right now and WERE contacted and WERE willing to pay for advertising on this portal the revenue would be single % points of the money handed over by Agents every week, every month, every year.

    It would probably be a good idea to call up the Primelocation rep too and tell him/her that if DPG upstart supports this then it will be a very easy decision to withdraw that Advertising spend too.

    You boys and Girls in London and the South-East are competition but you need to stand together and make sure that this particular scheme gets nipped in the bud before it is visible to the public.
    Time to show us your Nads Lads

    • 19 June 2012 08:15 AM
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