Under the hood: how OpenRent helped our 3.2 million landlords and tenants get EICRs during a 600% spike in demand

As we mentioned in our last couple of newsletters, the legal deadline for landlords to obtain an EICR was April 1st.

A long time ago – almost a decade – OpenRent began building a nationwide network of trusted safety certificate suppliers, and used our clout as the UK’s largest letting agent to negotiate super-competitive pricing on these certificates for our customers.

Since then, more than 3.2 million landlords and tenants have signed up for OpenRent. 

That’s great for us, and great for our landlords and tenants: it means we’re all winning the fight together to build a safer, easier, and more transparent version of renting than traditional high street letting agents can offer. 

But what actually happens when the government changes the law, and OpenRent needs to help those millions of people obtain a safety certificate to remain compliant, and avoid massive fines?

It’s a pretty serious job, and we knew we couldn’t let our customers down on it. 

An EICR (which stands for Electrical Installation Condition Report) checks that all electrical installations in the property – such as light fixtures and electrical sockets – are safe before the tenant moves in. 

OpenRent has always recommended landlords carry out an EICR every five years: that’s because the previous legal requirement was for landlords to ensure the electrical wiring of a property was safe, and the best way to make sure you’ve done that – and have evidence of your compliance – was to have a certificate from an electrician saying that the wiring of your rental property is safe. 

So we’ve always provided EICRs to our customers – and quite a lot of them, too.

But since 1st April, actually having an EICR and serving it to your tenants has become a legal requirement across the country (except in Wales). 

This resulted in a 600% spike in demand in the months leading up to the legislation changing – which meant we needed to be able to provide six times as many certificates as we usually needed to.

No letting agent has ever needed to do this for that many landlords. 

How did we actually manage it?

Step one was making sure that you – our customers – knew well in advance of the changes in legislation. 

At OpenRent we have an internal review of new legislation monthly: that’s so we’re 100% certain that we know exactly what is required of our landlords at all times.

The best way we can tell you about new legislation is in our regular newsletter. You can sign up to our monthly newsletter here.

So – we started bleating on about the new EICR requirements months and months ago. It saves you the hassle of having to check up on this yourself – a summary of legislative changes arrive in your inbox every month, alongside guidance on how to follow it.

The next step was to ensure we actually had enough electricians to actually perform the certificates. We looked at how many certificates we provide currently, and how many we’d expect our landlords to need when they became a firm legal requirement.

Once we worked that out, Rob – our Head of Commercial Operations – began working on signing up more trustworthy electrical suppliers, and slowly integrating them with our existing supplier network. 

The final thing we did was making actually getting our landlords the certificates easier and more transparent. 

We knew that a landlord would not be in breach of their duty to obtain the certificate if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.

Until recently, OpenRent simply gave the supplier who was going to perform the certificate the landlord or tenant’s contact details, and then the supplier would get in touch by phone or email to arrange the visit.

This worked okay, but it didn’t necessarily result in a paper trail showing that the landlord had taken reasonable steps to comply with the legislation (ordering the certificate and attempting to arrange for it to happen as soon as possible).

So Lisa and Katie from our Product team started working with Iwan and Chris from our Engineering team to build a messaging system so our landlords and suppliers can now communicate by message, on our website – the same way you can for messaging tenants.

We launched the new messaging feature before the legislation changed, and have had overwhelmingly positive feedback. 

Jobs are getting booked in more quickly between our customers and suppliers, even fewer jobs are getting cancelled, and most importantly landlords receiving a clear paper trail showing they’ve made reasonable efforts to comply with the new legislation – meaning that anyone who has ordered a certificate from us is fully compliant.

And – of course – the certificates purchased from us stay stored in your OpenRent account indefinitely, so they’re always there when you need them.

So: we’d added more supply to cope with the increased demand ahead of time. We’d made sure our landlords had been notified of the legislation changes as soon as we knew about them, and reminded you regularly of the deadline that the law was changing.

The result was that we were able to help our 3.2 million customers across the UK – from Truro to Thurso – ensure they were compliant with the new legislation, and the tenants safe in their homes.

This isn’t something that’s ever been done in this country at this scale, and we’re proud of it. We’re proud of our suppliers, too – old and new – for coping with the unprecedented demand.

But mostly we’re proud of you – our customers – for making sure you’re legally compliant, and keeping your tenants safe in their homes.

But what about the future? How are we helping you make sure you never miss a legal deadline again?

Lots of you already use our checklist tool. We think it’s really useful, and so do the landlords who use it.

You just need to put the dates at which each certificate you currently hold expires, and then we’ll automatically send you reminders when it’s time to renew.

And – don’t worry – if you’ve bought a certificate from us in the past, we’ll automatically know when it expires, and remind you anyway.

It takes all the hassle and stress out of remembering when each certificate is due, so we’d really recommend you fill it out now to save yourself stress down the line.

You can set up those reminders – for any property, whether you’ve advertised it on OpenRent or not – here.

And – as always – if you’re a landlord in England who missed the deadline, or a landlord in Scotland who doesn’t have an EICR at all, you should order a certificate immediately to avoid penalty.

Start the discussion at community.openrent.co.uk

This article is not intended to form legal or investment advice. Investments in property are not guaranteed and can decrease in value as well as increase.

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