Kevin Firth, my Notable Property Person today, is Director of the Deposit Protection Service, one of the three Government authorised tenancy deposit companies. He has been really helpful in answering questions when I have raised points put by readers of this blog, and is a very human face of a large company. So thank you very much Kevin.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
I am Kevin Firth, Director of The Deposit Protection Service, the only Government approved custodial scheme responsible for protecting rental deposits on behalf of Landlords, Letting Agents and Tenants.
The custodial scheme was originally intended to offer deposit protection to small private landlords and their tenants; as it’s free it was seen as the the ideal option for landlords with a small portfolio of properties. However, since we started back in 2006, we’ve seen a surge in our popularity amongst letting agents and landlords with much larger property portfolios and can now boast over 18,000 agents and 220,000 landlords.
Before heading up The DPS, I worked for the Bank of England for over 25 years.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
As an Australian company Computershare was already running a custodial scheme in Victoria so was ideally placed to bid for the UK scheme. I was part of the successful bid team who won the prestigious contract to provide the custodial scheme and so I took my first steps into the property industry when that process began back in 2004.
Since then I’ve seen the other side of the industry as well – with 3 daughters renting student properties, I’m practically a tenant too!
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
In business, I’m particularly proud of growing the DPS business from scratch – unlike the other two TDP schemes we did not have a database of members. Instead we were nervously hoping on day one that we would see some deposits registered. We now average 1500 deposits a day and even have landlords submitting deposits on Christmas day!
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
We’re always looking for ways to innovate and develop our services. We recently launched SMS alerts which help landlords and tenants stay on top of deposit repayment milestones. There are a couple of things in the pipeline but I’m going to keep them to myself for now!
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
The raft of legislation and regulations that new landlords are confronted with when they rent their first property.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
Buying and renting property can bring financial rewards – but remember it is a business that needs investment – paying for services such as independent inventory clerks will greatly reduce any potential losses at the end of your tenancies.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
I’d like them to make a fundamental change to the TDP legislation and place responsibility for protecting the deposit with the tenant. This way agents or landlords would never have access to the cash thus ensuring 100% compliance with the law – simple!
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
Yes I’m a big supporter of social media. I’ve got my own blog (www.thedpsblog.com) and Twitter account (@The_DPS) which I try to keep updated. I think it’s important for businesses to take advantage of these channels; the informality of it all makes them more open and honest so you can really gauge public opinion. I’ve always got Tweetdeck open so I can check the latest news from the industry and answer questions from customers.
Social media provides direct access to a company, in my case the head of the company, what better way to offer your feedback or get your questions answered?
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in Property?
That people leave crazy things behind when they leave a property – it’s really opened my eyes to the nature of the British public – ‘Titillating Tales of Tenants’ Secret Lives’
On a more serious note – there are two sides to every dispute and there will always be an aggrieved party in every case.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
My advice to new landlords would be to join your local landlord association and learn from others’ experiences.
Tenants should treat their rented property as if it were their own; the majority of landlords are good guys and will return their deposits in full if they follow this simple advice.
Thank you Kevin. I hope you’ll let me know about the DPS secret plans in due course!
To find out more about the DPS and the service they offer visit the web-site www.depositprotection.com.