The impact of the changes was dramatic. Buyers, sellers and investors wanted to know what it would mean for them. Agents’ phones were ringing furiously and portals reported record levels of interest. Winkworth saw its busiest day ever on the website on mini-Budget day.
These latest examples of Government changes, some of which were introduced with immediate effect, highlight the strength of the Winkworth offering to its franchisees. Where an independent agent may have to devote a lot of time to making sense of often complex changes and new requirements on his or her own, Winkworth has a dedicated in-house Knowledge and Regulation department which provides in-depth briefings on the latest fiscal and regulatory changes, plus topical issues, to all its franchisees and their staff.
In addition to all the hygiene and distancing regulations introduced as a result of Covid-19, the pandemic has also created a range of issues that agents may be facing, such as advising tenants and landlords on the measures available by the government to help mitigate rent arrears for people who may have lost income or jobs during the lockdown.
The mini-Budget and the pandemic may have thrown up immediate challenges. Another major change which came into place at the beginning of July this year affects rental properties, which need to comply with new Electrical Safety Standards. This dates back to the Housing and Planning Act of 2016. The regulations themselves appeared earlier this year, just before lockdown. Landlords must have a certificate to confirm electrical safety, which must be supplied before the new tenants move in and must be renewed every five years. Failure to comply could result in the landlord being fined up to £30,000. All tenancies, regardless of whether they are being renewed, must comply with the Electrical Safety Standards by 1st April 2021.
Winkworth’s Knowledge and Regulation team organised a webinar by a leading solicitor for franchisees to provide the key facts letting agents need to know on these new requirements, one of a range of digital learning tools now on offer.
Regular bulletins on the latest government and industry requirements are sent to Winkworth offices. Current topics have included the changes in stamp duty, the £2bn green homes deal and its implications for landlords and insights on dealing with customer issues.
As the property industry becomes more and more regulated, Winkworth is focusing on ensuring all staff, regardless of role, are qualified. Training for the 100 franchisees and more than 800 staff across the 100-strong office network is provided, with access to multiple levels of training, guidance notes, legislative updates and compliance direction.
As well as offering bespoke training days throughout the year such as new starter induction and document training, Winkworth enlists the services of specialist trainers who have outstanding expertise to provide workshops and seminars to the network. These include a two-day programme in Lettings and Residential Property Management Qualification (Level 3), a one-day Residential Sales Qualification (Level 3) and a Leadership Programme for those aspiring to higher levels.
The Winkworth Hub provides access to in-house e-learning and enables staff to book training direct as per their chosen pathway. E-learning is available 24/7 to everyone in the group covering topics such as anti-money laundering, avoiding bribery, cyber security awareness GDPR and software training.
For many independent agents who are now part of the franchise network, the expert support provided by Winkworth’s back office was one of the major factors in making the move – and the reason why Winkworth was ranked in the top 10 property brands chosen by customers in the YouGov BrandIndex 2020.