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Save your energy – and make money!

publication date: Nov 27, 2012
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The beleaguered lettings agent has a hundred (at least) elements to completing every let; one of the most fraught can be the issue of supplying gas, electricity and water to let properties. Who’d have thought that the basic, but vital, services could take up so much time? Closing off the current tenant’s accounts for gas and electricity at the right time, opening the incoming tenant’s account (at the right time), transferring data for council tax, dealing with incorrect billing, delayed moves and complaints. What joy, it’s the whole reason you went into lettings isn’t it? 
If you don’t find these areas of the business fun, fear not, you are not alone. Providing these basic needs is a time consuming and costly headache for most agents. It never was simple, but since the supply of energy was deregulated, over sixty companies compete for business, creating confusion and frustration. 
Some agencies invest in large expensive management departments; others just wish the whole issue didn’t exist. The good news is that agents can, in fact, make it go away and, instead of spending money, make some instead. 
Established in 2002, and having just celebrated their tenth anniversary, Hallmark Corporate Services remains the only provider to offer a complete solution to this combination of headaches. It may sound too good to be true, but highly respected agents, including Feather Smailes and Scales, Davis Tate and Burchell Edwards, are all long term users and trust the Hallmark’s schemes. In fact Hallmark now provide their services to over 1200 letting and estate agents across the UK. 
The services remove the time and hassle of energy contract transfers. There is no fee to the agent – or tenant – or landlord but what is unique about the service is that now the letting agent has no documentation to complete. Following on from a £150,000 investment in new bespoke software, Hallmark’s systems are now in place to send – directly to the tenant – all utility documentation on behalf of the letting agent. No form filling, no hassle, the agent just sends the data to Hallmark and they take care of the rest. 
Steve Knox, HallmarkThe new process could not be simpler. Hallmark take care of all documentation whether it is ‘check outs’, ‘check ins’ or change of tenancies. Hallmark then sends out all documentation on the letting agents behalf to all of the utility providers, and the service is free of charge. 
With new regulations around the supply and management of utilities, such as the Water and Flood Act, which is designed to make landlords more accountable for any tenant bad debt, it is more important than ever that letting agents administer their utility services in a professional manner. Hallmark has the expertise, systems and resource to do this on behalf of the agent and landlord which makes the agent’s job so much easier. In addition to offering this unique service, Hallmark will also deal with any energy billing problems once a property has been transferred to a preferred supplier. That means there is no more hanging on the phone for hours on end trying to resolve a problem on an energy bill, the agent simply sends the details to Hallmark and they will do the rest. 
Hallmark is spending an additional £100,000 over the next six months to make their systems interactive with the letting agent. That means it will be even easier for letting agents to send data and they will also be able to view the status of any correspondence on any property through the new system. 
Hallmark’s preferred supplier is SSE (Scottish and Southern), but Hallmark processes all documentation irrespective of the utility suppliers. There are no long-term contracts or tie-ins, but, as the arrangements are made by Hallmark, the agent can be confident that the services are set up properly – and that they will be correctly finalised when the tenant leaves. 
Kenny Bruce, MD, Burchell Edwards “I have been extremely impressed with how easily the Hallmark Utility Management Scheme has been integrated into our processes. We have been able to make not only significant savings in time and administration, but are enjoying a valuable additional income stream into our business as a result.” 
Andrew Johnson, Keates Hulme, Stoke-on-Trent “The Scheme has been well received by our tenants due to the convenience of having all utilities arranged by signing one single form. The fact that the gas and electric are supplied by one of the largest utility companies (SSE) and they are not tied into a long-term contract has made them feel a lot more comfortable in allowing me to arrange this for them.” 
Andrew Markham, Braemore Property Management, Edinburgh “We have been impressed by the ease of implementing the scheme within our current processes and the support we have received from Hallmark. We have noticed significant savings in both time and administration and the income we are receiving will prove increasingly valuable as our business continues to grow.” 
Philip T Chadwick, Director Gascoigne Halman “We have used the utility management services provided by Hallmark since February 2006. We have found their service to be of great benefit to our business in terms of the time saved by our administrative staff. The customer service provided by Hallmark is exemplary and the scheme is very simple to integrate, plus it earns our business a very useful supplementary income. I would have no hesitation in recommending their services to other agents”.