Problems?…. Get the kettle on!
No business sets out to generate complaints from customers but even in the best run business, it is probably going to happen. So when it does, it is important to have systems in place to deal with the situation rather than trying to shoot from the hip.
In the property lettings business, complaints tend to come from a landlord against their tenant or vice versa, so as a lettings agency our role is often that of mediator. Can the situation be resolved by using common sense to arrive at a fair resolution? Is the situation covered by the contract agreed and explained to all parties at the offset? Our objective is to take a sympathetic approach rather than having everybody cry havoc and let slip the dogs of law.
Our maintenance teams do a lot of quiet work to ensure complaints do not come our way. Small issues can be irritating and often students or young professionals do not understand some of the simple tasks familiar to more experienced home owners. For example, a bleeping smoke alarm indicates the batteries need to be renewed. Our team will check and renew the batteries as part of their regular maintenance schedule. Similarly, if a fuse is tripping regularly an electrician needs to get to the bottom of the problem quickly.
With more entrenched complaints where neither side can agree to the others viewpoint, our membership of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) means we have signed up to a code of conduct which includes a formal complaints procedure. If we cannot resolve the complaint, ARLA ensure that we are subscribed to The Property Ombudsman who can step in.
The consumer champion Which? has long campaigned to make regulation of lettings agencies compulsory, a stance we fully support since unregulated agencies do our sector no favours. Secretary of State Eric Pickles is moving towards this objective with the snappily titled ‘Draft Redress Scheme for Lettings Agency Work and Property Management Work Order 2013’ which requires letting agents to sign up to a redress scheme.
While it is comforting for landlords and tenants to know that formal redress procedures are in place, a little common sense can save everybody a lot of hassle. Explaining agreements before they are signed is a vital step. Who for example is responsible for keeping the garden tidy? What happens when the Council refuse to empty an over-filled bin? Half an hour explaining the detail of an agreement to all parties can save hours of grief further down the road.
While we fully support lobbying by ARLA and Which? for a legally enforceable redress scheme and have signed up to such a scheme for many years, our first move to resolve complaints from landlords or tenants will continue to be the age old cry of “Get the kettle on. Let’s have a cuppa and a chat”.