PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: RICS Independent Review | Notice Periods | Proptech Landscape

In today’s news, Andrew Stanton looks at the RICS independent review fallout, the return to normal for lettings notice periods, and the pivoting proptech landscape

Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking and NewsNow.

Wrecking ball of truth unleashed by ‘innocent NED four’ demolishes RICS

Virtually attending the RICS official press conference last Friday, and despite QC Alison Levitt’s best efforts to save the blushes of RICS, I was left feeling that some really bad things have been going on behind closed doors for a protracted period of time.

The official thrust of Levitt’s detailed report was that no one was to blame, and there were two kingdoms inside the RICS body that thwarted transparency. Also, there was a culture of circumventing unpleasant truths by either withholding key information or applying legal pressure on parties to keep quiet.

I am struck that if no one was to blame, why are the innocent NED four, Bruce McAra, Simon Hardwick, Steve Williams and Amarjit Atkar, to receive two apologies from RICS, a private one and a public one, and to have all their legal fees reimbursed?

And if no one was to blame, why did Sean Tomkins, Paul Marcuse, Kath Fontana, and Chris Brooke quit RICS at the very moment the Levitt report was about to see the light of day? Why did Violetta Parylo resign at a moments notice back in June?

I was struck by Nick Maclean’s comment that RICS, moving forward, was going to be the gold standard of governance, and that outsourcing the whistleblowing functionality of the listed company would solve things. 

I was astonished that Sean Tomkins is just going to walk with all the CEO benefits attributed to someone who resigns their position, despite being identified as the person who was ruling RICS like his personal kingdom sitting on a huge problem until a solution turned up out of the ether.

Little was mentioned by either Alison Levitt QC or Nick Maclean, that at the heart of the matter was the financial governance of a professional body that has a turnover in excess of £78 million per annum, or that the whistleblowers were frustrated as they could not get to the truth of things as key players persistently put roadblocks in their way, which engineered their wrongful expulsion back in 2019.

Corporate culture is often brutal the further up you go, and big personalities who hold high office for long periods often act more like despots who brook no opposition, seeing the organisation as their personal fiefdom.

The bigger question though is what now? Apart from the usual, lessons have been learned, safeguards will be put in place, a new CEO and board will be found; all very laudable, but the best advice I have is for RICS to re-attach itself to its grassroots and to reality. 

They need to realise that in a world of digital communication, trying to sit on problems and fudge issues and force innocent parties out as they threaten you is going to end very badly, both for the board and the reputation of this century and a half-old professional body.   

Mixed messages regarding lettings and notice periods reverting back to normal

In what is seen as good news by many, as of the 1st of October 2021, the normal notice timescales or notice periods which accompany serving a Section 8 or Section 21 will apply. So, everything will go back to how it was pre-pandemic and prior to the Coronavirus Act 2020, which pushed out notice periods to half a year. 

Worryingly though, the government website says that it will keep the power to change things back to a pandemic type footing and lengthen periods of notice if the public health situation changes, citing the 25th of March 2022 as the latest date that it has powers to do so.

Are we to read into this that the cat and mouse game of being able to give notice to tenants will be starting up again in October in earnest? To start proceedings in September could mean a slower resolution to disputes. But at any moment the hammer may come down again as perhaps the government is sensing the need for an Autumn lockdown or circuit breaker. 

Earnestly I hope this not to be the case, but it is very hard to second guess what goes on behind those closed doors in Whitehall. 

News: Normal lettings notice periods are to resume as of October 2021
Normal lettings notice periods are to resume as of October 2021

New analysis shows the UK proptech landscape pivot during the pandemic

There is always a lot of hype around game-changing technology and multi-million-pound investment in tech, but an independent analysis has shown that lockdown in the UK was actually a period of maturity for the fast-paced proptech sector. 

At the start of the pandemic back in March 2020, investment in property technology was already losing steam, as many felt that the disruptors were not actually delivering on their promise. The focus was then put on doubling down on more mature proptech companies who, if not profitable, had at least a growing client or revenue base.

By mid to late 2020 though, there was a change. Technology companies began to pivot with everyone talking about changing their approach. The reality was that, with investment harder to source, many teams had to look long and hard at delivering revenue streams quickly. This meant less fluffy conjecture and more commercial applications coming to the fore. 

Now, as the whole country realised that lockdown was not a passing phase, this new study states that technologies such as virtual reality and even augmented reality, as well as video conferencing, became mainstream as real estate grappled with its new business model.

Anecdotally, many feel that even simple business technology moved forward ten years with the work from home explosion. The study suggests though, that the nation, having been forced to use software to do things, also meant an opening up to the commercial benefits of proptech solutions. 

By Spring 2021, there was then a flurry of proptech business tie-ups with aligned technology companies who had non-competing solutions, sharing their pooled client base, as well as larger and better-funded businesses absorbing smaller businesses. 

Also in the residential and letting sector,  by mid-summer property portals were entering the proptech arena more fully by integrating with emergent technologies and looking again at what the business model might be like with CRMs and their fee-paying agency clients. 

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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