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.

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