Thursday 27 August 2009

Rentshield is consistently striving to exceed customer expectations

That is the message from Rentshield we received earlier this week in their update on what has been happening at Rentshield Direct a major UK Landlord and Tenant insurance provider and tenant referencing service for letting agents.

Since their large investment on a web based system back in March they have learned many things. They have tried and tested numerous methods of ensuring that the service they are providing is not only efficient but that they surpass the standards agents have come to expect from a referencing agency.

It has been said that ‘making mistakes simply means you are learning faster’ and this is an approach that Rentshield not only use as a company, but in life. They believe that if they are presented with errors they have made, they will endeavour to learn from them, only to improve- and this makes them stronger.

They have recently implemented the full workings of their web system and have now added new practices to make their referencing service faster and more efficient.

Although they did experience a backlog in some of the work due to faults out of our control, they quickly rectified this as a team, working many hours of overtime and have found that they are now more equipped in terms of managing the workload comfortably and conscientiously.

The percentage of reports they are now sending back to our clients within 24 hours of receiving applications is constantly increasing. They will always experience those tricky references that take longer than expected- but Felicity their general manager says in the newsletter, can confidently confirm that they are doing everything in their power to obtain required information.
They have found that agents who have been inputting applications directly on to their online system are generally receiving reports back faster than those that are continuing to fax them. Respectively, out of the agents that do fax applications to Rentshield, they are finding that the delayed applications are in many instances the ones that have been sent through with either missing information or illegible handwriting.

If before sending applications through they are checked through with the tenant to pick up on anything that may be missing- Felicity believes that those agents will find that the service they receive will be again, of a higher standard.

Other providers have said this recently as well about faxing reference forms. We at jml Property Services can see why many still do this. It is easy, particularly if you are very busy and you want the forms to go out quickly from your office. However if the people the other end cannot read the tenant applicants writing including important telephone number and email addresses then naturally this will slow down the process.

We are now in the age of adding data to computers and once it is on the system, it should mean as long as the person entering the information has done it correctly it will be much faster. The referencing companies like Rentshield will charge Agents a fee for the reference and the majority of agents add a percentage onto this to administer the referencing process. Taking this into account those agents that are not spending a few extra minutes adding tenant’s details to the providers on line system and just faxing them are not giving the tenants a good service. If there are delays because of their errors, they probably blame the reference company.

I have been in the lettings business over 30 years and know how some agents will try and take short cuts.

jml property services via their introduction insurance advertising sites insurance jml and / are Rentshield agents.

Friday 21 August 2009

Students should look at their insurance needs now

The A level results have just come out in England and Wales and record number of students are scrambling for university courses following record successes. The staff at the UCCAS are trying to assist clearing as many students as quickly as possible so they have university place to go to in September.

Around the UK letting agents are receiving numerous enquiries from second and third year students searching for rental accommodation. Within a few weeks the college and university campuses will be filled with new and returning students.

Philip Suter of said “At this time of year, naturally the prime concern for those going to university is to ensure that they have a place. They then have to sort out student loans, funding and accommodation. One area that is often ignored is their insurance.”

These days the average student has a computer, ipod, CD player, TV, mobile phone, clothing plus a bicycle. They don’t take into account that these items can easily be stolen and cost a lot to replace. This cost will be added to the financial debt they leave university with unless they fall upon the generosity of a parent.

Insurance companies like HomeLet, Endsleigh and Letsure offer very reasonably priced policies for student tenants and acts as introducers to them. The average cost of a student burglary is £900? The most commonly stolen items are personal laptops / computers and other electrical goods.

Philip went on to say” For many students, it is the first time living away from home and it is really the responsibility of the parents to make sure that their son or daughter’s possessions are properly insured whilst they are away at college or university. When my younger son was a student, I always arranged contents insurance for him as I know he would never have considered it himself.”

Not all successful exam candidates are thinking of going on to higher education. A cartoon in one the newspapers on the 20th August sums up the situation. There is a long wall with the inscription “Multiple choice”. There are two entrances, both with large queues outside; one says “UNI” the other “DOLE”. A lone individual at the back is looking on at holding a paper that says” or maybe a Gap Year”. A lot more students are thinking about taking a gap year before starting their further studies and some at the end of their course before they try to find a job because of the current economic situation.

Philip said”Once again it is most important that those travelling take out suitable backpacker insurance and we have set up a section on the site for companies like Essential Travel, Endsleigh, Direct Travel and Simple Travel to be accessed from.

Monday 17 August 2009

Don't forget to renew your Travel Insurance before you book a trip

Many people take out annual travel insurance either individually or for a couple or family. The great thing about this is that you have peace of mind and if you are taking holidays throughout the year you don't have to keep on buying new insurance. This is rather like when you take out an annual car hire excess insurance policy.
The insurance provider would normally notify the policyholder that the policy is about to expire and if it is not renewed then cover will stop immediately. These reminders would either be by post or by email.
People often leave it till the last minute or till after they have just booked a break for a few days away several weeks in advance. In the intervening period they would remember to renew the policy.
What happens if you foreget, you have made a flight / ferry booking and have an accident before you travel? You are going to have a bit a problem. This occurred recently with someone I know where the flight was booked, it was not going to be till a month later, but the traveller forgot to renew or take out the family travel insurance.
A week or so after the booking was made one of the family had an injury whilst playing cricket on a Saturday afternoon. Two days earlier the Travel insurance had expired and it looks like this person won't be able to fly in three weeks time because of the injury. This means that they will not be able to claim this time.
Always renew your Travel Insurance when you get the reminder. It should then be effective from the date of renewal and if you make a holiday booking you should be covered.
If you are making a holiday booking and you don't have an annual policy, make sure you immediately take out Travel Insurance cover. You never know what is around the corner and you could easily trip over your favourite garden gnome ten minutes after booking, injure your leg and not be able to get on the plane the following week.

Gap Year Guides are now out

As the exam results are due any day now (or could have just come out), many people are thinking about going off to university or college.

Students often decide to have a gap year before moving onto future education and maybe this year because of the recession will put off their studies and head off to Asia, Africa or South America (like in the photo on the left).

Others have already graduated and never took a gap year and are thinking about this as they hope the job market will improve in the next twelve months.

Wherever you are thinking of going make sure you are properly equipped for the journey.

Many people take their mobile phones with them. but buy sim cards locally and let their family know by email their contact number. Phone cards are another option and so are service like Sykpe via an internet cafe. It is good to touch base with your family at least once a week by phone or email.
A great way of storing your travel photos is to load them onto Facebook. This way you can share them with your friends and family and fellow travellers. The photos will be stored on the Facebook server and it is also a good idea to either post home a cd back up or cheap memory stick every so often as the size of the photos stored on Facebook are not too large.

Before you set off scan or photo copy your passport, credit cards etc and leave these details with your family and also all your insurance details. You never know when you might be unlucky and have your possesions stolen and if this does has happen your family can often help with sorting out the problem.

Don't take too much cash with you, but rely on ATM cash machines, however in some countries the machines can run out of cash quickly. Make sure you keep some of your money hidden as you could be vulnerable in public places.

Plan ahead using the Internet for youth hostel information and with many of these you can book in advance. Always try and keep well within the budget you have set.

One small useful tip is buy a "wind up torch". You don't need to rely on having to buy new batteries, just a little winding exercise from time to time.

Don't take too much reading material, naturally you will need your guide books, but when it comes to books to read, the gap year travelling community just keeps on swopping books. The book you left Southhampton with could easily tour Africa faster than you would.

The most important expenditure will be your Travel Insurance, jml acts as introducer agents to several providers of "backpacker insurance" products for direct travel, essential travel and Endsleigh.
Enjoy your travels

Friday 14 August 2009

Response to Council of Mortgage Lenders buy-to-let statistics from ARLA

14th August 2009

On the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) announcement on buy-to-let activity in the second quarter of 2009, Ian Potter, operations manager of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), comments:

“This news from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, whilst not unexpected, is nonetheless confirmation that things are starting to pick up for buy-to-let investors.

“We are encouraged by the fact that mortgage arrears seem to be declining, which is not only of benefit to landlords facing financial difficulty but also to their tenants who have been threatened with the repossession of their home and who have very little protection against this.

“What the CML data also shows, as with its statistics on repossessions also out today, is that the buy-to-let market is experiencing a lag effect, driven by an almost complete drying up of lending early in the year, when the recession was being most acutely felt.

“In our own research, ARLA members have been reporting a rise in buy-to-let activity in the first two quarters of this year with around double the number of landlords buying more properties for the two consecutive quarters than in the previous three months.

“Clearly low interest rates and falling house prices, coupled with a strong demand for private rented accommodation, are helping to boost what is a crucial component of the UK economy, the property market.

“What is still needed for buy-to-let to be fully stimulated once again is an increase in responsible mortgage lending from banking institutions. An illiquid market can never be a positive one for landlords, tenants or the wider economy and I would urge the Government to continue to apply pressure on lenders to make this a reality.” Source ARLA

Thursday 13 August 2009

Yet another person has stopped paying their rental insurance

As a HomeLet Premier Agent, we are sent letters advising that a landlord or tenant has stopped paying their monthly insurance premium.

Because of FSA (Financial Services Authority) regulations in the UK our agent role is soley as "Introducer". This means we cannot communicate with individuals reminding them that they have not paid and the cover will cease. That is the responsibility of the insurance provider like HomeLet.

Many people simply do not realise that once the payments stop, so does the insurance cover. If there is a break in, fire, rent is not paid or other insurance related issue, then the landlord or tenant will not be able to claim.

The letter received today was very clear and was about a client who had a HomeLet insurance policy in Scotland.

Dear Agent

Policy Number - Risk Address - Policy Holder

We refer to the above mentioned Client's policy.
Please note that we have been unsuccessful in collecting the premium due, as the Direct Debit payment request has been returned "Refer to Payer" by the client's bank.

The outstanding premium in the sum of £.... will now be requested on or just after the xx August 2009. Thereafter your client's regular monthly premium will revert to being requested on the normal collection date.

We must inform you that failure to maintain payments on direct debit could result in the cancellation or voidance of your client's policy in accordance with policy terms and conditions.

Should you have any queries....Yours faithfully

It is so important to keep up these payments if you want insurance cover, unfortunately a lot of people think, there won't be a problem, so let safe some money. They would not think that if they experience a problem.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

HICALIBRE CAR INSURANCE...for prestige cars

Neil Cook the highly respected specialist Insurance broker has been able to offer cover that no other broker in the country could achieve for a unique piece of Automotive art.

He was asked by his trade body to help the owner of the car who needed full flexability for a unique car such as this on an agreed value basis.

The owner had tried a multitude of brokers and insurers over a long period of time as soon as he spoke to Neil the cover was agreed in principle in a matter of moments. Well done Neil. If you are looking for this type of insurance visit

We thought we would mention Prindiville Prestige at this point as well as they supplied the photo of the fabulous red Lamborghini in the top left hand corner of this blog.

Prindiville Prestige specialises in creating one-off, bespoke cars to an individual client’s precise specifications. Handcrafted bodywork to your own design? Just show us the sketches. Interior retrimmed in ostrich hide? Simply tell us what colour you’d like it dyed. The very latest entertainment and communications technologies? We can easily source whatever you require.

Meet one of our latest creations. MurciĆ©lago by Prindiville. It’s daringly designed, stylishly aggressive... and one of a kind!

Of the original Lamborghini, only the front compartment lid remains the same – even the roof panel is changed. There’s a bolder, more assertive front valance, eye-catching sills, a more dynamic rear valance through which exits a specially designed titanium sports exhaust system, ‘handle-less’ doors with remote electric opening, and a restyled engine bay cover with transparent cooling louvres. All of the body panels are in exquisitely finished carbonfibre.

MurciĆ©lago by Prindiville also features a bespoke interior, enhanced by the use of rich leather and hand-finished aluminium accents. But there are also ‘little touches’ that reveal the depth of our attention to detail – specially engineered aluminium air vents, for instance. Take a look at their website here for more information.

Lying in the sun this summer could seriously damage your wealth, warns ABI

This news release came in late last week from the ABI. The Association of British Insurers.

Dishonest holidaymakers were given a stark warning today (6 August) by the ABI. This summer, anyone caught cheating on their travel insurance will face higher insurance costs, problems in obtaining other insurances, more expensive credit, and possible prosecution.

Last year, travel insurers detected 4,300 dishonest travel insurance claims – over 80 every week – worth £5 million.

Insurers and overseas police forces are becoming more vigilant, and are determined to crack down on the cheats. Details of fraudulent claims are kept on industry-wide databases used by insurers, and other financial institutions, and they may increase the cost of other insurances such as motor and household, as well as impacting on an individual’s credit rating.

Potentially suspicious claims include the last minute loss, where items are reported lost or stolen to the insurer very shortly before returning home, with no time to report the loss to the police, and claims for high value items, such as cameras, jewellery and camcorders, where there is a lack of proof of the loss or theft.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance and Health, said: "Travel insurance is there to cover you if things go wrong, not to pay for the cost of your holiday. The vast majority of claimants are honest, but the dishonest few are in for a nasty and expensive shock this summer. Details of fraudulent claims are held on industry databases, which will impact on the cost and availability of other types of insurance, such as motor and household, and affect an individual's credit rating."

Some of the more unusual travel insurance frauds exposed in the past include:

•A photographer was jailed for three months after he claimed for £8,000 worth of camera equipment allegedly damaged while on holiday

•A holidaymaker in Cyprus reporting an alleged theft was caught out when the resort police discovered the ‘stolen’ items in her friend’s handbag.

• The ‘recovery expenses’ claimed by a traveller following a bout of malaria contracted in West Africa were in fact for services provided by the local brothel.

• A doctor was given a custodial sentence and barred by the BMA after making multiple baggage claims

Well if you are off on your summer holidays in the next few days, don't forget your TRAVEL INSURANCE

Summer edition of HomeLet agents newsheet

As HomeLet landlord and tenant insurance agents, we have just received the mid summer edition of their newsletter for agents - "workingtogether".

On the cover is a great "English seaside" photo of the back of four stripped deckchairs (without occupiers) on a pebble beach rather like you would find at Brighton.

For this blog I can only offer you beach huts that I photographed on my first visit to Southend-on-Sea yesterday.

As is normal in the newsletter is a forward by HomeLet's John Boyle who is the Managing Director. He reports that HomeLet has been referencing tenants for over ten years now - how time flies by, I remember the lettings agency I was working for in that year that was the run up to the millenium was Letsure. At that time a competitor, now a competitor under the same ownership of Barbon Insurance Group Ltd.

They now have 250 members of staff involved referencing tenants. John also talks about the recently introduced lower price tenants contents insurance product called "Homelet Tenant's Contents Insurance +".

Apparently it is not only tenants they are currently protecting, in the first half of 2009 they paid out over £1.5 million in Rent Guarantee Claims and legal costs. John says the figure is significantly higher than in 2008 and reiterates the difficulties faced by both landlords and letting agents.

Unemployment is rising at the fastest rate since records began in 1971 (seems interesting they only started then) and economists are predicting that it could be up to five years after the recession ends before employment returns to stable levels. Taking this into account, it seems clear that rent arrears will only continue to rise as more and more tenants face difficulties in the job market. John finishes up saying that Rent Guarantee is so essential as it not only protects the landlor's income, but it can also be used as a sales tool on an agents "let only service"

It looks like John Boyle and his team at HomeLet are working very hard to help, landlords, tenants and their letting agents.

Protect your possessions and your deposit!

That was the headline on the email flyer I received from HomeLet a couple of days ago. The flyer is for tenants who should take out insurance when they rent a property.

Believe it or not I understand that a lot don’t and if the rental property was broken into then the tenant and his / her housemates could be in for a lot expenditure replacing personal belongings.

Insurance providers like HomeLet know that accidents can happen that's why according to the flyer their cover provides tenants with protection for their possessions and also for accidental damage to the landlord's fixtures, fittings and furnishings for up to £2,500.

The flyer says HomeLet Tenant's Contents insurance + could cost a tenant £9.83 a month for cover of up to £5,000. However if a tenant needs even more protection then it could cost as little as £11.93 a month for cover worth up to £10,000.

According to the flyer, they can also provide additional cover to protect specified items like a digital camera, iPod or handbag, so whether something unexpected happens to them in your new home or whilst you're out and about, you're still covered. Theye also offer cover for pedal cycles worth over £200.

Naturally you should check this out as information on blogs can often change from day to day or be inaccurate.

jml- acts as introducer agents for tenant insurance providers like HomeLet, Letsure, Endsleigh Rentguard and Rentshied Direct.. You can access all these providers from the web site page here.

Friday 7 August 2009

Review of ARLA Agreement Magazine on Insurance

I have just received the August edition of ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents) monthly magazine.

The August edition has been called “Insurance Special”.

Rental property insurance has become a major industry with the growth of the domestic rental market in the UK over the last few years.

Many insurance providers offer a tenant referencing service these days and no landlord or tenant should not be with out the appropriate insurance. The magazine is geared for the members of ARLA and naturally the magazine is full of ads for insurance, letting agent software, rental furnishings and other related topics.

Initially flicking through the August edition insurance the mores established larger providers like Endsleigh, Letsure and HomeLet have one page colour ads and newer entrants to the market like LetSense, Let Insurance Services and Landlordsure have taken smaller ads.

The magazine features key individuals involved in the property insurance business. Some of these I have known or worked with in my career running lettings offices and developing landlord and tenants insurance marketing websites.

The first insurance “personality” is entitled “Money Worries” and the article features John Boyle the Managing Director of HomeLet. jml insurance has been working with HomLet since 2002 and during that time the company has been owned by several providers and is now part of the Barbon Insurance Group. It had previously been owned by Erinacious who had also bought HomeLet’s main competitor Letsure. According to John Boyle the previous owners (before they went into administration) had intended to merge them. Now under Barbon they are operating as separate entities with Letsure still being based in Glasgow.

HomeLet is based in Lincoln, employing 250 people and it the first six months of 2009 it ran 48,000 credit checks on tenants, 58,000 full references and sold 50,000 rent guarantee policies. These rent guarantees are now very important as John Boyle says with the number of unemployed people expecting to peak at around three million in 2010 and landlords looking for security.

HomeLet has recently introduced a lower price tenants contents insurance – Tenants Contents Insurance +. This policy as taken into account that there are so many people sharing now that it covers the policy holder and two additional sharers.

Moving on a few pages you come to “Reducing risk” “When former ARLA chairman Philip Cook had a good idea, he little thought that years later, it would become a successful business in its own right”.

Philip Cook set up a letting business in 1987, about three years after I set up the Frank Farr lettings. He was a former chairman (they now call them Presidents) between 1991 and 1993 approximately two years after I left the ARLA national council. In 2003 he merged his business with Francis Burkinshaw’s to create Ashton Burkinshaw. According to the Agreement article, un the mid nineties he came up with the idea of insuring landlords against loss of rent for any reason whatsoever and any associated legal costs, but where the agent was in control and shared the risks and profits.

The “National Residential” product was suitable only for selected agents. Philip Cook was approached by former chartered surveyor Michael Portman who had in 2001 gone to work for LetSure. He stayed with Letsure till the business was sold to Erinacious and the Hargrave House, Maidenhead premises vacated. He formed his own company Let Insurance Services and another former director of Letsure Robert Lumley came on board. Philip Cook is now the chairman with Michael Portman as managing director and Robert Lumley as a director. With this company you have letting agents / landlords running the insurance business and who else knows better than what the landlords want than a former letting agent.

Turning over to page 31 there is a feature on a fairly new player in the landlord and tenant insurance market, although the team running it have been around for quite a while.

“Premium importance” is title of the article. Brian Turney set up the first rent protection policy in 1987. He has some 40 years experience in the insurance industry, seventeen of which have been in the residential lettings market in 1990 helped set up a firm called Richmunds Insurance. The firm had a turnover of £100,000 in the first year and Brian Turney helped transform it into a £8.2 million turnover business Lumley Letsure by 2006.

He was instrumental in introducing products like tenant credit referencing, rent and legal protection and left Letsure in 2007.

Brian Turney has left Lumley Letsure (from “Fact Files
Brian Turney the former managing director of Letsure has now left the company following the acquisition of the Lumley Holdings Group by Erinaceous Insurance Services who also own competitor HomeLet. Brian Turney was the managing director for a number of years and has been involved with the selling of insurance and tenant assessment products for nearly 20 years in the UK.- June 2007

In October 2009 together with Peter Knowles who was with Norwich Union, Alan Holton who was also at Letsure and also HomeLet and Rob Jones who was at Letsurew they established LetSense.

Finally on Page 33 is the article “The challenger” This is about Carlos Thompson and Endsleigh, Carlos is the general manager of the new EndsleighLet division. Endsleigh was originally set up in 1965 by the National Union of Students and had branches on campuses. It remains the biggest specialist student insurer and was recently acquired by Zurich. There are some 1,000 employees.

Two years ago EndsleighLet was set up to cater for insuring everything from student lets to first time buyers. Carlo Thompson says in the article that many insurers dislike student lettings and charge landlords a premium. Endsleigh have created a landlord product which actually offers a discount to landlords who let to students.

Endsleigh have now gone into the referencing business with a partnership with Experian and everything now is done on line.

There are still a lot more insurance companies out in the market place involved in the property rental insurance business. Rentguard, Simple, Devon Direct and Rentshield Direct to mention four others who advertise on the site and who could always feature in another edition of the ARLA Agreement magazine.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Financial Failure Insurance now available via jml Insurance in the UK & Ireland

jml Insurance are pleased to announce that they have just been made introducer agents for International Passenger Protection (IPP) product "" in the UK and for residents in the Republic of Ireland.

Air Fiji closed down - SkyAirWorld collapses - Advantage Rent A Car files for bankruptcy

These are all events that have made the news in the last six months or so. A liitle worrying if you have just booked a self catering holiday and your normal travel insurance can't cover you for such an event.

The good news for residents in the UK and Ireland is that if they take a holiday for:

•Scheduled airlines
•Youth Hostels
•Car ferries
•Villas abroad & cottages in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland
•Railway journeys (including the Eurostar)
•Coach journeys
•Car hire
•Caravan sites / campsites / mobile homes
•Camper rental

They can take out insurance from International Passenger Protection Ltd (IPP) with their brand ""
The policy costs £5 per person for 30 day protection. Not a bad idea and well worth thinking about under the present world economic situation.