Unlike previous Christmas and New Year periods, where I’ve taken the whole week or two off work, this year I was back in the office on the 27th December, along with a number of the team here. We’ve invested in a digital document storage system which was installed a few days before Christmas and I wanted to ensure we were up to speed with how to utilise it effectively before the usual whirlwind of work started on the 2nd of January. It’s a good job we did come in for those few days, as our feet haven’t touched the ground since the 2nd. Our diary has hardly any gaps each day, with viewing and valuation appointments, and our negotiators have been letting and taking offers on sales property as if it were spring time.

On the issue of the document storage solution, I have to admit I was very sceptical, but couldn’t see how we could reasonably meet our obligations under the General Data Protection Regulations using our old ‘filing cabinet’ system; we had customer information and their personal data in a multitude of locations within our office, to do with written valuation reports, sales, lettings, accounting, etc. A Data Request by some of our customers could have proved very time consuming. Now, all our customer’s data is safely stored, digitally encrypted, with secure off-site back up (in case of fire or flood).

The move across to a digital document storage solution also means we have less filing cabinets and more space in which to operate. This is allowing us to upgrade our staff kitchen and rest-room facilities, which I’m sure our team will appreciate when it’s complete in the next few weeks. Our staff are our main asset, and it’s essential we look after their well-being so they can look after yours.

2019 is going to be a challenging year, not just with the uncertainty/conflicting information surrounding Brexit, but the many legislation changes that we and our clients are faced with. We’re ahead of the curve as they say with regards to the changes to s.21 Notices to obtain vacant possession which came into effect in October last year, on the Client Money Protection legislation (don’t employ an agent who doesn’t have this!) which commences in April this year and the minimum EPC rating issue that is now raising its head as pre-April 2018 tenancies are coming up for renewal (we’ve had a couple of clients face some hefty bills for upgrading to enable a relet). But 2019 sees the reduction from 50% to 25% in the mortgage interest relief landlords can claim against tax (2019/2020), the expected introduction of the 5-yearly electrical safety inspections legislation (passed by Government in July 2018 following the Grenfell fire tragedy), the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act as this received Royal Assent at the end of last year and the very probable introduction of the Tenant Fee Bill around April time; Scotland found this very challenging when introduced in 2015.

Professional agents with sufficient well trained and motivated staff will embrace these changes, as we have with all other legislative changes in the past. If you are not already using our services I would respectfully suggest you check that your existing estate agent is aware of all the changes and is or is going to implement the necessary changes to adhere to the law. A failure to do so could leave you with a financial liability and/or the inability to obtain vacant possession of your property when you need it, or even leave you facing a custodial sentence in some instances.

On an upbeat note, I am very pleased to announce that we have invited our long-standing member of staff, Angie Wright, to join the partnership as an Associate. Angie has worked her way up through ‘the ranks’ from the very bottom to reach Rental Manager status last year. Her input in the past 12 months has confirmed to us that we want her to work alongside our management team and family for the long term, as we continue to develop and grow the business.

Happy New Year.