Referencing to suit your needs, from FCC Paragon
22 June 2022 8569 Views
Since the Tenant Fees Act ban came into force, agents have been responsible for covering tenancy referencing costs, whether that’s by taking the loss, or recouping via the landlord. Prior to the change, it wasn’t unusual for the tenants to cover the full cost of referencing as well as an additional fee to cover admin costs at the office, however almost 3 years ago now that all changed.
This has meant that agents who may not have looked at their referencing costs for some time found themselves having to reassess the extent of, and type of, the referencing checks they conduct to ensure that the new costs don’t impact the business.
What type of tenancy checks are there?
For Bekki Leaves, one of the directors at FCC Paragon, it was important that as a referencing company, they were able to provide their clients with different options to meet their needs at an affordable cost. “At the time of the tenant fee ban we had two referencing options, an instant credit search for clients who wanted just a basic validation, and a full comprehensive reference for clients who wanted a full check, including all the traditional information like employment and landlord references, and assessed by a trained reference handler.”
For Bekki, providing clients with a choice of referencing services was important for two reasons: “It helps clients ensure that their business income stream isn’t negatively affected by the tenant fee ban if they can pick and choose the reference type (and therefore cost) to suit their needs, and additionally it makes sure that our products and services work for all types of clients.”
Bekki explained: “This was why we created a third type of reference that’s automated, lowering the cost of the reference due to the absence of human input, while preserving the key information our clients need to decide on whether to go ahead with an applicant. By doing this we were able to offer keep this check at a low cost of £6.”
Bekki clarified “While we may not be the first referencing company to offer an automated tenant reference check, I’m confident that with over 25 years of providing tenancy referencing services, our clients will be able to trust in our services and incorporate digital reference checks into situations where they don’t want a full comprehensive check, but they still want more than just a credit search.”
Another director, Janie Gaston, confirmed: “Our client liaison team keep in close contact with all our agents, and the feedback we were getting was that a gap for another type of reference had opened up.”
How does digital referencing help agents?
For Bryn Cole, who’s the Managing Director, ensuring that our clients can continue to thrive despite the changes was key: “We view our agents more as business partners than clients, it’s really important to us that if they’re income is hit by a change, we can accommodate them.”
“We already offer a suite of products that help agents earn commission to offset their referencing costs, however when an agent has a landlord who doesn’t want any additional products, it can be hard for them to do this while paying for comprehensive referencing for every applicant.”
Janie added: “With a plethora of reasons a tenancy application may not pass, from late rental payments and a history of property damage to failing right to rent or credit checks, it’s usually impossible to guess whether an application will pass, even if you’ve already done a calculation on their affordability before letting them apply.”
“If an agent had applications fall through on multiple occasions, which meant that they had already made a loss before the tenancy even started.”
“More and more agents are starting to look at diversifying their referencing checking process and tailoring it to the individual applicants. If a tenant is paying up front for example, an agent might just want to conduct a quick credit check, while if they’re self-employed, an agent will probably want a comprehensive reference where the applicant’s income can be assessed by a trained referencing handler with experience in exactly that,” said Janie.
“In between those two services is where our digital reference sits, it still confirms the applicants credit history, and their rental and employment history either via Open Banking (cutting edge technology that connects with an applicant’s bank account to put together easily readable data) or by taking a living and employment reference if the applicant prefers.”
Bryn added “It’s not one size fits all, some clients will use just one or two types of reference, and some will use a combination of all three. It’s really about what works for our agents”
“Digital referencing also includes email checks, anti-money laundering checks and a check against our tenants database, all included in the cost. Without input from our trained referencing handlers’ agents will need to assess the report themselves without the traditional conclusion (as its an automated service) however we’ve worked hard to make our report easy to read and as clear as possible for our agents.”
Janie concluded “It’s so important to us that our clients continue to protect themselves and their landlords by being able to carry out referencing on all of their applicants by incorporating our trusted digital referencing checks into their repertoire when needed, that we even decided to offer our rental and legal protection warranties off the back of digital referencing too, ensuring that our agents still get the best services, and continue to be able to earn additional commission when they can, making sure our businesses continue to grow together.”