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By Neil Cobbold

Chief Sales Officer, PayProp


PropTech Today: pros and cons of a tech-led approach to compliance

The growing number of lettings sector rules is a hotly debated issue, while the sales sector has been seeing its own increase of late.

But while there are natural frustrations with this red tape, it could also be seen as an opportunity – an industry with clear standards of professional conduct is also one that is likely to be trusted and respected more by landlords and tenants.

It's further a given that technology can play a significant role in helping agents to comply with all these different rules. But are we losing a vital human element if we adopt a tech-led approach? Here, I lay out the pros and cons.

The pros


Cutting out the errors

The term “non-compliance” might bring to mind “rogue agents” deliberately breaking the law, but human error or forgetfulness may be just as prevalent.

Already facing a significant compliance burden, the industry’s load has only increased in recent years, with prominent examples including GDPR and the tenant fees ban. It stands to reason that many in the industry could probably do with a helping hand to keep up.

This is where a tech solution can really come into its own. Automated systems, for example, can ensure compliance is happening in the background with limited or no human interference – just nudging users where necessary to remind them of the law.

Making things simpler and quicker

The main draw of automation is how much more convenient and error-free it makes the laborious task of executing repetitive, error-prone business processes. We don’t think twice about tapping our contactless cards everywhere we go or ordering a takeaway online. Good PropTech solutions should offer the same convenience.

And nowhere is this needed more than in ticking compliance boxes – regulatory admin can be fiddly, complex, time-consuming and very onerous. If the relevant processes can be digitised, this will likely save agents a considerable amount of time, which can be used to focus on growing their business.

Reacting to new changes

But technology cannot operate in a vacuum, regardless of a fast and ever-changing regulatory landscape. The best PropTech should be flexible and adaptable to offer a credible response to a fluid rental environment.

New legislation and regulations are being introduced with high frequency, and an adaptable tech solution should be flexible enough to allow new rules to be incorporated into existing processes.

With major rental reform still coming and the likely enforcement of ROPA recommendations looming in the future, firms with the ability to adapt quickly and efficiently while remaining transparent will be at an advantage.

The cons

No tech is 100% perfect

Like anything, tech is not infallible. As a result, an over-reliance on it could prove costly if there isn’t a human review system in place. This isn’t a reason not to use technology, just a reminder to rely on common sense as well: we all use Google Maps to get around, but we also know better than to follow it the wrong way down a one-way street.

To ensure full compliance, you should check regularly that your processes and protocols are working correctly and efficiently post-implementation. The best PropTech will do the job for you in the background 99.9% of the time – but it’s always good to do regular health checks and have a fallback option just in case.

The loss of the personal touch

Relying too heavily on technology alone for all compliance issues could also potentially cause issues in the personal relationships with your clients, whether they are landlords, tenants, sellers or investors.

Generic, automated e-mails and chatbot facilities can save you time and help you respond to queries more quickly, but they can also lack nuance – not ideal for something like compliance where details matter. It’s important that there is a real person to answer any compliance queries in addition to bots.

On the other hand, improving your compliance record with technology can also be a good thing for your clients. Results speak for themselves: if your tech-assisted agency earns a reputation for being on top of compliance requirements, clients are likely to feel far more reassured.

Even though I’m a great believer in technology, I’ve said it many times before – it will never entirely replace the human workforce because there are things, particularly from a personal and emotional point of view, that we can’t leave to our software.

But from a compliance point of view, it can be a great time-saver and a force multiplier for your agents – giving them more time to deliver that vital personal service.

*Neil Cobbold is Chief Sales Officer at PayProp

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    Interesting views, but the big view being missed is that of the consumer, amazon with its multi trillion valuation shows that the public like fast, accurate service and are willing to pay for it. Are their goods the cheapest or best quality? No but they are convenient and can be ordered through the prism of a smart phone. Face to face is becoming less of a thing, surely 'boring stuff' is for coders and software to cure, whilst people have more time to go walking with their dog. a much better use of time and mind.


    So bored now of all these comparisons to Amazon, Netflix, Uber, etc. 'Face to face is becoming less of a thing', what an inane statement to make, it's a people business, always will be, get over yourself.

    Dharmesh Mistry

    @Property Pundit: All the tech players like Uber and Amazon have PEOPLE, they are just businesses after all. The key point is they use technology efficiently and make life easier and better for buyers/sellers. Property is a business that involves a lot of paper, process and people, all of these add friction to buyers/sellers. The trick is to use technology to remove as much friction and increase the value to people.
    While all the insurance brokers, record shops, bank branches diminish from the high street, the same will happen with estate agent branches...

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    • N W
    • 01 September 2021 11:39 AM

    face to face is coming back...… More and more people now want face to face meetings with their agents rather than by Zoom. Zoom has been great and served a real purpose (and may do again) but right now, we are still very much a people business and that's where it is heading back again!


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