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By Chris Mason

Operations Manager, The Letting Partnership

OTHER FEATURES

Remain vigilant with client money as we return to the office

The letting industry has come a long way over the past few years, embracing regulation and taking pride in doing good work in the field of Client Money Protection (CMP).

We must ensure that we maintain these high standards as we emerge out of lockdown. We don’t want coronavirus to set us back when we have made such great progress.

Today, the letting industry practices rigorous self-regulation. We have embraced Client Money Protection and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) legislation. Gone are the days when the letting industry was at times under fire for a lack of regulation.

Clients we speak to who handle client money at lettings businesses are highly professional and it is a pleasure to support them by providing outsourced client accounting and Client Money Protection.

The letting industry is fundamentally in good shape and we want to help the letting industry to maintain these incredibly high standards by providing advice and support.

But the letting industry needs to remain vigilant. It’s perhaps a cliché to say that the pandemic means we are living in unprecedented, challenging or difficult times.

How many times have we heard these phrases during coronavirus uttered by news anchors, experts or pundits? The thing about clichés is that they become commonplace because there is truth in them.

This pandemic has presented the industry with a multiple new risk factors, from rising unemployment, to the scaling back of the furlough scheme, to an economy already in recession. And the worst may be yet to come.

To stand the best chance of success, the letting industry must maintain the strides it has made in the arena of Client Money Protection.

Now that the government has given businesses the power to decide whether they return to the office or not, and the power to decide how to manage this gradual return to work, letting agents should carry out some essential housekeeping to ensure their efforts are not undone.

While we were working at home, employees may have been given access to client accounts to enable them to continue to work. If they are now back in the office or considering a return, business leaders should check who has access to these accounts and whether this should continue.

Homeworking meant items usually kept safely in the office had to be taken home. Letting agents should draw up a list of bank secure keys, log-ins and card readers and find out who has them and make sure they are all returned. All these critical items should be accounted for and those missing cancelled with the bank as a matter of urgency.

In the spirit of remaining vigilant during a global pandemic, we would also advise letting agents to look out for any unusual activity, specifically changes in bank account details across all client accounts.

Letting agents should watch for employees who are changing bank details when it falls outside of their remit or for employees making changes to bank details at unexpected times.

It is simple to run a software audit which will tell them who has made any changes to bank details and whether any of these details then reverted back to the originals.

No one quite knows what is around the corner. But the letting agents that remain vigilant will be best positioned to weather this storm. Together we can achieve this.

*Chris Mason is Operations Manager at The Letting Partnership

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