Here’s a new game to play in the office. It’s called ‘lettings industry bingo’. The concept is familiar but instead of matching numbers, you have to match words, and we’re sure it won’t be long before someone shouts ‘house’ (no pun intended!).
Lettings industry and negative media
As avid news consumers we’re seeing an uncomfortable trend for negative reporting with regards the lettings industry. But how does that lead us to bingo? We’ve blogged before about ‘agent bashing’ but now there’s a pool of words that are the default of journalists and ‘property experts’. They appear so regularly that we’re worried they’re damaging our industry and altering the psyche of the consumer. Just browse a single day’s media and see how frequently these words crop up – you can tick them off on a daily basis.
The flippant and careless use of the following has to stop: ‘rogue’, ‘extortionate’, ‘cowboy’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘rip-off’, ‘unscrupulous’, ‘greedy’, ‘bubble’, ‘overheating’, ‘time-bomb’ – I’m sure you can add a few more examples – even a few expletives – that have been aimed in your direction by disgruntled clients and ill-informed journalists.
Bad practice and word-of-mouth
It seems so easy to go for the soft spot and highlight bad practice in the industry. It represents a minority, with hundreds of exemplary letting agents and property managers providing a professional service to both tenants and landlords. ‘Tarring us all with the same brush’ comes to mind. There is a place for ‘greedy’ and ‘rogue’ – maybe reserved for the most outrageous and unsavoury aspects of lettings – those that usually happen outside the remit of property professionals. Our colleagues and peers have a reputation to preserve. We know word-of-mouth recommendation is a backbone of survival, so many wouldn’t dare to step out of line in terms of conduct.
Is the licensing of all landlords the way forward, whether they’re in charge of HMOs or not? Would this wipe out the landlords who cram three families into a two-bedroom house riddled with damp, therefore reducing a journalists’ fodder? And how about the regulation of all lettings agents? Would this create uniformity in the industry and appease the hacks?
Mark your bingo card!
Lettings is not a flawless industry by any stretch – there are some agents and property managers letting the side down. Importantly, though, no more so than in any other industry. In every business sector you have weak links, undertrained staff and directors with questionable standards. What makes me mad is the imbalanced reporting of our industry – the adjectives used in many headlines; the number of front pages devoted to the negative and the witch hunts by groups with the loudest voices.
Next time you’re reading a property supplement, browsing the trade press or listening to a radio report on lettings, make sure you’re eyes down and mark your bingo card.