The first step is to learn how to use the new piece of software by practising and reading any help guides and booking formal training with the software provider.
It’s also important to pick the appropriate software which will offer the business the correct facilities it requires. For example, some software provides excellent front-end advertising at the expense of the client accounting module.
Other software offers excellent client accounting but lacks reporting tools. Letting agents should weigh up the pros and cons of available options. Due diligence will always prevent a headache later down the line.
Keep it simple
To mitigate risk, try to reduce the number of balances showing on the legacy system by paying off as many as you can. It might just be a matter of a couple of pence to pay to a contractor, but the fewer balances there are to move across to the new system, the less there is to go wrong.
If any of your ledgers carry a deficit, consider a plan of action as to how you will deal with this for the migration as some software packages do not allow you to carry forward negative balances.
Minimise the number of invoices
Make sure you load new invoices into the appropriate software system. For example, avoid loading contractor invoices into the old system when the next rent will be paid into the new system.
Go through your outstanding invoices, including rent arrears and consider which ones you will need to carry forward to the new software.
For example, if a landlord owes £100 to a contractor for a gas safety certificate, but no further rent is due on the old system and you need to ensure they will get paid, this will need to be uploaded onto the new software.
Consider part payment
To reduce the margin for error, try to part pay as many landlords and contractors as possible as a one-off, even if you would not necessarily do so.
If it is achievable to part pay eight out of 10 people, say, and reduce the number of balances, there will be less to unpick if there is a mistake. Do make sure you advise those that you are part paying to pre-empt any concerns.
Plan for Non-Residential Landlord Tax
Don’t forget about Non-Resident Landlord Tax (NRL). This is a quarterly tax so if you are migrating software systems in the middle of the quarter, do ensure you make provision for this overseas landlord tax.
Software should ringfence this and hold it in a pot. Consider how to pay this tax to HMRC using both pieces of software during the current quarter and run your NRL6 and NRLY reports on the old software prior to losing access.
Remember to reconcile
Before migrating, ensure that the bank balance matches the software balance. Imagine there’s £25,000 in the bank account but only £24,000 in the software.
Investigate where the discrepancy arose before moving to the new software. This will make it easier to identify where the error has occurred.
Stay in touch
If you have a large portfolio, consider notifying landlords about the migration. When migrating a large portfolio there can be a day or two of down time.
Letting agents should consider informing landlords so they can pre-empt any concerns. For smaller portfolios it can take a matter of hours, so this is less likely to be an issue.
If you spot any problems do not process any money. Resolve the concern and then proceed once again in confidence. Once you start processing money when there is clearly an issue, this adds more layers to the problem and it becomes increasingly complicated to unpick.
Problems at this stage could be caused by a discrepancy or a technical issue but if the financial position is constantly moving it will be harder to identify the issue because it generates more transactions.
Look again and you might discover that the payment you made in a rush to get the task completed was the one causing the problem. It could have been a simple data load problem, so the less data you load, the less complicated the process is and the less there is to go wrong.
Check your balances
So now that you have successfully migrated to the new piece of software, run a balance check again and carry out a second reconciliation. Match the money in the new software with the bank account and a perfect mirror image should be revealed.
*Chris Mason is Operations Manager at The Letting Partnership