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Lettings: room for an ethical approach

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 Posted in: Property Market Landlords

Fairness and transparency are terms much in prominence in the world of business at the moment. There is one Oxford letting agency that takes them very seriously.

Ethics. It’s a word that trips easily enough off the lips but one that requires commitment if it is to have much meaning. Particularly in business. Yet it’s the sort of commitment that you find at College and County lettings. Here it is a genuine guiding principle; a business philosophy that seeks to treat all parties, landlords and tenants alike, fairly and properly.

“It seems pretty clear to me that the only basis of good business is to be honest, open and decent in your dealings with everyone,” says Mark Crampton Smith, managing director at College and County. “Because that way everyone understands that they are benefiting. And that’s especially the case in an area as important as having a roof over your head or renting out a property. Accommodation is not an inessential; it’s a fundamental.”

So how, in practice, do ethics work in the letting market?

Quite simply is the answer. At College and County, they take care to address the needs of both landlords and tenants. The agency offers tenants good quality lets; in return landlords get good quality tenants. The lets are managed with care and diligence; and in return tenants enjoy a good standard of accommodation and landlords enjoy peace of mind.

“We are completely transparent in our dealings,” explains Mark. “No inflated invoices. No sidestepping of the regulations. No pretence that tenants are more suitable than they actually are. No false assurances. No negligence in our duties. We manage every property as if it were our own. We aim to make sure that everyone benefits from a lease.” 

But perhaps the most important element of a successful lease is finding the right tenants for a property. “What all landlords want are tenants who look after their property and pay their rent on time,” says Mark. “We take the matter of matching tenants to properties as seriously as any of our other duties. Of course, all tenants are fully referenced, and we make sure we accompany them on visits to the property so that we can gauge first hand their attitudes. But maybe reason we are so successful in matching tenants to properties is that we also respect the needs of the tenants too.” 

Not only is an ethical approach a fair-minded way of doing business, it is also a successful way of doing business. Established eight years ago, College and County has grown in size for every one of those years. Mark also points to the set-up at College and County as intrinsic to their ability to provide the very best for landlords and tenants: “We have been an independent, team enterprise from day one. Between them, our staff have over 40 years’ experience of letting properties in Oxford. Ours is a personal service – landlords always know exactly who they are dealing with and know that the judgment and expertise of our staff can be trusted.” 

Keeping pace with changes in the lettings landscape has also been a hallmark of County and College’s distinctive identity. “The lettings market has grown more European, a trend that is all set to continue particularly in a place as open to that wider world as Oxford,” explains Mark. “More flexible leases, for example. Not everyone who rents in Oxford – visiting academics and business people are good examples – wants to do so for a year. For them the European model of negotiating shorter-term leases is a much more viable option. 

“At College and County, we always make sure that we help landlords adapt to – and take advantage – of the changes. We offer advice on decor and furnishing; we examine the extra options that flexible leasing has to offer; and we suggest ways of handling utility bills that don’t burden the tenant or the owner.” 

The best way to reward good faith, for both landlords and tenants alike, is with the knowledge that every letting agreement is fair and honest, and everything in it transparent. That is why, at College and County, ethical letting has always been the foundation of their business. And why their properties never remain empty.

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