23 November 2016 was a grim day for the industry as lettings agents across the country heard for the first time that the Government intend to ban letting agent fees; an announcement which sent shockwaves across the industry.
As a lettings agent, you know yourself that the vast majority of your colleagues and competitors charge reasonable fees for work that has increased due to legislative demands, and a ban on fees in the end won't help the people that the Government are trying to help most - the tenants.
Outside of the industry it's probably fair to say that there is little understanding of what a lettings agent actually does to warrant charging fees to tenants. This is why it's important even now to explain how the costs are accounted for and what tenants are being charged for.
We won't give up the fight
We are now planning a targeted lobbying campaign with agents to ensure that Ministers, legislators and MPs fully understand the implications of the proposal. To have any chance of success, this campaign will need the active support of members.
On the day of the announcement we were extremely active and our message was widely heard by the public and decision makers as we broadcast across prime time national media platforms such as the BBC and Sky. Our message was clear - most agents charge a fair fee and provide a good service, and a ban on fees won't help tenants in the long run. Furthermore since the ban in Scotland, rents have increased as a result.
David Cox also broadcast a video message to the industry and in the weeks that followed David and colleagues also spoke to concerned members at regional meetings and one of our Landlord Expos.
We've been campaigning for regulation in the industry for years and feel strongly that this is still the way forward. Rather than to penalising the sector across the board we need to be targeting the small minority of bad lettings agents through regulation rather preventing reputable agents such as ARLA members earning an honest crust. However, if the Government is determined to plough on with their plans, we need to be realistic and try to minimise the scale and severity of the measures.
For now it's business as usual for agents
It's likely that an outright ban would take between 12-18 months to be implemented, so agents need not panic that their practices have to change immediately - they don't! Whilst the landscape has changed and agents need to be prudent and plan for adapting their business practices, reactions should not be 'knee-jerk'.
ARLA MD David Cox has met DCLG and several industry groups over recent days to inform the response and plans that we are making.
David Cox said: "Government have failed to provide detail of the substance of the ban or the timetable for implementation. Within this context we continue to work to fully understand their objectives and ensure that our response is appropriate and effective."
HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
David Cox said: "Scale is vital and we need members to respond to surveys, use the tools that we create to contact relevant MPs, follow the communications that we put out and attend every regional meeting."
This month's ARLA survey has been designed to gather qualitative and quantitative evidence of fees charged by agents - not levels of fees but the services that you charge tenants for, the work that is involved and the length of time taken to deliver the service.
If you're a member based in Scotland we'd also love to hear from you about your experience of the ban in Scotland and the consequences for landlords, tenants and agency staffing and service levels.