The background to this blog was a conversation I had with another inventory company owner where we looked at whether, as inventory providers, we can charge for missed appointments now that the tenant fee ban is imminent (1st June 2019).
Historically; we have charged a fee for appointments when the clerk has attended either the property or the agents for a booked report only to find that the appointment has been cancelled or the tenant has failed to arrive for the check out.
Under the terms of the Tenant Fees Act; the only payments that can be charged in connection with a tenancy are:
- a) the rent
- b) a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
- c) a fundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
- d) payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
- e) payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
- f) payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
- g) A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement
If the fee you are charging is not on this list, it is a prohibited payment and should not be charged.
So clearly there is no provision to allow for missed appointments to be charged to the tenant and the financial penalties for breaching the ban can be up to £5,000.
NB: Each breach of the ban will result in a separate fine
You can, though, charge the letting agent or landlord (depending on who has commissioned the report) however this is where it can become tricky as each party is set to incur increased costs directly attributed to the ban so additional fees for missed appointments may not be looked upon favourably even if they are part of your current fees or rate table.
It’s worth noting that there is a provision under third party fees (pg 23) of Tenant Fees Act 2019: Guidance for landlords and agents where if the tenant opts to employ the services of a third party, for example, purchasing their own inventory service, they will be responsible for any associated costs but outside of this it still does not address the very real problem of what you should do when experiencing multiple missed or aborted appointments.
Your first step should be to discuss with your clients the issue of the missed appointments and how you can help them to reduce their frequency by looking at the root causes i.e tenants failing to be notified of the appointment, keys not available, landlords changing the locks without notifying the agent etc.
And don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and showcase the impact the missed appointments has on your business and clerks as agents and landlords are also running businesses so will appreciate the downward pressure this issue can cause however you need to go armed with solutions.
Look at your processes for booking and confirming appointments with the letting agent / landlord. How can you ensure that everyone is notified and keys are in the right place ready for the appointment?
- Check with the letting agent / landlord who has the keys and if any locks have been changed recently
- Request tenant contact details so that you can confirm the booking direct
- Contact the tenant(s) as far in advance as possible so that if the appointment needs to be rearranged there is time and;
- If the contact details are incorrect you have time to refer back to the landlord / letting agent for instructions
- Re-confirm the appointment via text (if possible) with the tenant(s) the day before especially if the clerk has a long drive to reach the property
- Contact the tenant on the day of the appointment again to re-confirm their attendance
I know this option has the potential to increase your admin / costs however the trade off is reduced missed appointments, happier clerks and hopefully more responsive tenant(s) as they sometimes just forget as they too are busy moving house and it is worth pointing out that if the tenant(s) have a good experience with your service they may opt to use you for the next property #foodforthought
There is an important consideration to note in all this in that under GDPR you should only have the personal data of the tenant(s) in order to carry out the task i.e check-out. As soon as the check-out is complete you no longer have a ‘legitimate interest’ to continue to hold that information so you should include in your admin process the deletion of the tenant(s) contact / details.
For further information: Information Commissioner’s Office ICO
Don’t get me wrong; I think there is more than enough justification for charging for missed appointments as clerks are mostly self employed and so they incur the mileage costs, time costs and loss of income from reports not going ahead and as the business owner you then have to manage their expectations and frustrations.
However; if you have a workable solution then you have more control over the problem and can provide a more responsive service to all.
If you would like to talk about this subject or any aspect of inventory reporting and management visit: Meet InventoryBase Academy or email firstname.lastname@example.org