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A-Z of 2015 in the world of letting agents

Posted on 2016-01-07

Every year is a busy year for letting agents and 2015 has been no different. Here's our A-Z look back at the past twelve months...

A is for acquisitions…
As our industry gets bigger every year, so do some of the largest letting agencies. There have been many high profile acquisitions in 2015 as agencies like Countrywide, Romans and Leaders continue to expand their lettings portfolios.

B is for boards…
Love them or loathe them, boards are still a mainstay of the majority of letting agents' marketing strategies. There has been more action taken by councils this year to try and ban To Let boards and we took a closer look at what's been going on.

C is for compliance…
Staying on top of regulations and legislation has become an increasingly important part of being a letting agent. While the vast majority of agents are fully compliant, there has been a lot of noise in 2015 about how councils are policing those that aren't. Here's our in-depth look at the situation.

D is for deposit protection…
Mandatory deposit protection has been around since 2007 and it has become integral to our industry. This year, steps were taken to make sure that all deposits taken before April 6 2007 that have since been renewed or become statutory periodic are protected under one of the three government-approved schemes.

E is for evictions...
There were big changes to the Section 21 eviction process implemented in October. Landlords must now provide tenants with certain materials at the start of each tenancy as well as follow a strict repairs procedure if they want to serve a Section 21 notice. Here's how we saw it as the legislation was passed.

F is for fee disclosure…
Since May, letting agents must now make sure that the fees they charge to landlords and tenants are prominently publicised in their offices and on their websites, as well as identifying which redress scheme they belong to and whether they offer client money protection. Here's our detailed summary of the legislation.

G is for George Osborne…
There has been one man at the centre of much lettings sector debate this year and that is Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. After announcing a range of sector-specific measures in the Summer Budget, Osborne was once again in the spotlight when he recently announced an increase in stamp duty on buy-to-let purchases.

H is for HomeLet…
This year we've continued to publish our highly successful monthly HomeLet Rental Index, which is used as resource by many in the industry. Our latest findings show that rents in London are now 108% higher than the rest of the UK. Here you can see the latest report in full as well as our tenant survey 2015.

I is for immigration checks…
After much anticipation, we found out in October that the Government's Right to Rent scheme – which requires landlords or their agents to carry out immigration status checks on prospective tenants – will be rolled out nationally from February 1 2016. We've created the HomeLet Verify tool, which will help agents to integrate Right to Rent into their existing processes.

J is for Jail…
In September, the Local Government Association called for local councils to be given the powers to jail the worst offending criminal landlords and letting agents. This is on top of the Government's proposed blacklist of rogue operators, which is currently going through Parliament as part of the Housing and Planning Bill.

K is for Katrine Sporle...
The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, recently stood down from his post after nine years at the helm. His replacement is Katrine Sporle, former chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales. We recently took a closer look at why complaints made against agents to the Property Ombudsman scheme have been increasing.

L is for Landlord licensing…
A controversial topic for a while now, landlord licensing has been at the forefront of a lot of peoples' minds again in 2015. Over the past twelve months we've seen selective licensing activity in Enfield, Croydon and Rotherham. Earlier in the year we compiled a list of all the licensing schemes in England.

M is for MPs...
As well as George Osborne, a number of MPs have become involved in the Private Rented Sector this year. Stella Creasy has been critical of letting agents, while the founder of Hunters, Kevin Hollinrake, was elected MP for Thirsk and Malton. That's not to mention that before the previous parliament dissolved, over 125 MPs were receiving rental income from property.

N is for new regulations…
There are now over 4 million households privately renting in the UK and this growth means there are more regulations for landlords and agents to follow. This year we've seen a raft of new measures including the aforementioned compulsory fee disclosure, deposit protection rules and changes to the Section 21 eviction process. There were also new rules introduced regarding smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

O is for OnTheMarket…
In January, we witnessed the long-awaited launch of OnTheMarket, the property portal owned by Agents' Mutual, a group of estate and letting agents. The portal's latest figures show it now has a membership of over 6,000 estate and letting agent offices.

P is for Private Tenancies Bill…
During 2015 there has been much talk of the Scottish Government's proposed Private Tenancies Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. The Bill includes measures to remove landlords' right to ‘no fault’ possession at the end of leases and introduce rent controls.

Q is for Queen's Speech…
Shortly after the General Election, the Queen's Speech took place as the Government outlined a number of its housing policies which were later confirmed in November's Spending Review. The policies included the extension of the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants as well as an extensive housebuilding programme.

R is for Rightmove...
The UK's biggest property search website carried on its successful march this year. Big news included another record year for visits to the site, a redesign to cater for mobile users and a new television ad campaign named 'Find Your Happy'. We also revealed in our tenant survey that 55% of tenants first saw the property they currently rent on Rightmove.

S is for stamp duty...
After spending a prolonged period in the headlines at the back-end of 2014, stamp duty came to the fore again exactly a year later. Last time, George Osborne announced an overhaul of the outdated 'slab' tax system. This time it was revealed that from April, purchasers of buy-to-let or second homes will have to pay an additional 3% stamp duty.

T is for training…
It became apparent in the summer that there was to be a new landlord and letting agent licensing scheme in Wales. Rent Smart Wales subsequently launched on November 23 and requires all letting agents to be licensed by November 2016. To obtain a licence, agents must demonstrate that they are 'adequately' trained and are 'fit and proper'.

U is up and up...
2015 has been another solid year for rental growth with the average rent – excluding the capital – now 3.8% higher than a year ago. Looking forward to the next 12 months, global property firm Jones Lang LaSalle predicts that rents will rise by an additional 4.5%.

V is for value for money…
HomeLet's Tenant Survey 2015 revealed that over half of tenants feel the rent they pay is 'good' or 'quite good' value for money. When it comes to letting agents, 71% of tenants said they rent through an agent and 78% of those said they were 'happy' or 'quite happy' with the service they received.

W is for wear and tear…
Part of the Chancellor's controversial measures for the Private Rented Sector announced in the Summer Budget, next April the formal Wear and Tear Allowance is to be scrapped. It will be replaced with a relief system that allows landlords only to deduct the costs they actually incur. We explained the new rules in more detail here.

X is for X marks the spot…
It may seem a long time ago now, but there was a General Election earlier this year. The Conservatives were victorious, securing a somewhat surprising majority. David Cameron's election affected a number of aspects of the Private Rented Sector, namely that there would be no ban on letting agent fees, rent controls or minimum three-year tenancies.

Y is for young landlords…
As the returns that can be achieved from buy-to-let property investment have been well-documented, it's no surprise that this year we have heard of a new generation turning their hand to becoming landlords. In fact, one report suggested that 4 million 18-39 year-olds are actively trying to purchase buy-to-let property in the UK.

Z is for Zoopla…
Another of the UK's big property finding websites, Zoopla continued to perform consistently on the stock market this year after floating in 2014. Interestingly, Zoopla Property Group recently reported that during October 49% of all interactions on Zoopla and Primelocation were made on smartphones.

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