The popularity of short-term letting sites such as Airbnb has led to an explosion in new landlords, renting out their homes to generate a bit of extra income.
Yet these amateur landlords often do not comply with the rules and regulations that govern the wider lettings market.
This may all be about to change. In a landmark move, the Scottish government recently announced that local councils will have the power to enforce a licensing scheme governing short-term lets from 2021. Many of the rules have been in place since the Civic Government (Scotland) Act was published in 1982 but they have never been enforced previously.
Scotland may be the first country to take a firm stance on short-term lets but it’s likely that the rest of the UK will soon follow.
The issue is particularly pressing in cities such as Edinburgh, home to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, which seen 4.5m tourists flock to the city last year; 9 times the city’s population. In Edinburgh alone, there are 12,000 Airbnb listings, which equates to one listing for every 42 residents in the city. This number has doubled over the past three years.
One outcome of this new legislation is that Airbnb hosts, among others, will be forced to comply with safety standards in order to operate. The aim is to protect guests, ensure that properties are fit for purpose, and to professionalise this burgeoning industry.
However, this presents an administrative nightmare for many hosts. In order to keep letting rooms or properties, they must now ensure their gas and heating is maintained, checked and serviced regularly to be legally compliant.
To reduce the burden, landlords can now use the BigChange platform to connect with experienced tradespeople, such as Registered Gas Safe engineers to service their boiler. All work will be logged on the system, providing a transparent “paper trail” to prove the landlord is fully compliant.
Michael Cairns, BigChange customer and company director at celsiusplumbers.com and founder of safehostbnb.co.uk, believes this could be a great time-saver for hosts.
“The software will automatically book in an appointment and follow-up appointments, which takes the pressure off the landlord/hosts so they can focus on other tasks.”
“They can do this safe in the knowledge they are legally complying with new licensing laws, which will demand that all certification safety checks are up to date and above board.”
It takes a lot of time to manage an Airbnb property or other short-term let and many businesses have been created to help ease the administrative burden. From property maintenance to restocking to cleaning to dealing with booking queries and responses to visitor questions, outsourcing agencies have helped lighten the load.
“BigChange’s platform is another helping hand for these hosts.”
“Given the number of short-term lets in the South of England, it is likely the licensing scheme will be rolled out in the UK in the not-so-distant future,”
“This creates a big opportunity for businesses to jump on board and make life easier for landlords/hosts to be safety compliant.”
The BigChange Collaboration Network attracts many innovative and dynamic young professionals aiming to expand services to their customers.
Michael Cairns of Celsius Plumbers is one of the young) and creative individuals who has partnered with BigChange to simplify and centralise his business operations. We recently sat down with Michael to discuss his journey into the heating and plumbing industry, reflecting on some key advice to young business owners looking to expand their operations.
BigChange: Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got started in the industry and some of your most significant accomplishments?
Michael Cairns: I started my journey in 2003 as an apprentice plumbing and heating engineer. At the time finding an apprenticeship as someone over 16 was very difficult, but without a doubt it has had a major positive impact on my life and my families.
After completing my apprenticeship, I gained industry qualifications and started working for the McSence Group. I spent less than a year as a Heating Engineer for McSence before being made redundant from my position.
Following my time at the McSense Group, I decided to start my own business. That big jump happened at the end of 2007 and has grown into Celsius Plumbers.
BigChange: How did your experience as an apprentice plumbing and heating engineer shape your understanding of the value and importance of vocational apprenticeships in the service sectors?
While some things have change since my time served apprenticeship, many of the features and industry wide problems have remained in the heating and plumbing sectors. One of the biggest issues we are currently facing is a major shortage of qualified plumbing and heating engineers. Without skilled professionals giving over their years of experience, there could be significant concerns about the next generation of skilled labour in the UK.
There currently seems to be many independent trades people, way more than ever before. These small businesses are fantastic and take great pride in their work, but not necessarily interested in taking on apprentices due to time and financial constraints. This trend could prove to be a major issue, as older plumbing and heating engineers retire.
We really champion apprenticeships and have done so for many years. We have been training apprentices here at Celsius since 2007. We have proudly trained 7 apprentices so far, all of whom have gained their full industry qualifications. we currently have an apprentice in his 3rd year and are about to start a new 1st year apprentice, which is really exciting for us. The reason we feel so strongly about taking on apprentices, is because we recognise the value and importance of passing on the knowledge to the next generation. I suppose, I recognise personally how much an apprenticeship shaped my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today without one.
BigChange: How has the BigChange system enabled you to streamline operations?
Michael Cairns: After being frustrated with our previous software provider, we were contracted by BigChange and we immediately saw how the system could help our business. The BigChange system has allowed us to do everything we couldn’t do in the past. We used to face various challenges at every step, but with BigChange we have been able to significantly optimise and automate our operations.
With BigChange we have transformed the way we do business. The workflows, Alerts and system process automation have added so much value. When we are faced with an operational challenge, we look to the system to find a solution. The system breeds consistency which is fundamental in any business.
We run on the BigChange flag system, which has built major staff member accountability. It offers our staff a full understanding of what their responsibilities are. Each flag has its own procedure, which answers the fundamental ‘WHY’ question, especially amongst our millennium team members. This has also simplified how our line managers measure performance. As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
BigChange: How has your time working at Celsius shaped your vision to be more globally aware and receptive to diverse customer needs?
Michael Cairns: We currently operate in England and Scotland and through the BigChange collaboration network, we are looking to expand nationwide, while also resolving workforce turnover. Having to delegate responsibility and having the systems to simplify how we do business, has enabled us to think about developing staff to better fulfil their roles. By having clear systems and processes our staff can operate more independently and work to the best of their abilities.
BigChange: What advice can you give over to small and medium sized businesses trying to scale up operations?
Michael Cairns: Surround yourself with a good team and Learn from making mistakes. You must be aware of the trends that are driving the market, it can really impact your overall success.
Your team is your biggest asset, having a company of engaged team members is challenging to achieve, it takes years to properly understand what makes people come to work. When your team know what is expected and have a clear vision of where the company wants to be, the business owners job becomes a whole lot easier. Set goals and reward success when you achieve your goals. How can any business properly grow, unless the team have clarity around the fundamentals? By doing this, we have built a team that are engaged, loyal and dedicated to helping our business grow.
Lastly read books, like the E- Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber. This book changed my whole thought process around business.
BigChange: What major trends are most likely to make the most impact in the next 5-10 years, in your view?
Michael Cairns: Customers ability to obtain information quicker, as people’s lives become busier.
Additionally, of all the breakthroughs impacting the industry, Uber-style driver tracking features have made the most significant effect on improved customer satisfaction, driving increased transparency. With this and other methods to solidify communication, we’ve increased the tools and information our team can use to solve customer issues the first time.
Through massive and industry wide innovation and ease of access via the web, people will no longer be waiting for a price offered by a contractor. The customer journey will start earlier and the customer will want instant price quotes (much like how amazon operates). The customer is very educated, more than ever and you can’t cheat them. Customers want a polished website which is geared towards instant payment and connects directly with engineers. That said, with all the technical innovation, our customers still want a personal service.
Quality of service and accessibility to technology will shape the growth of businesses in the plumbing and electrical sectors. In the end people want a personal connection based on good service and quality customer service. We don’t make things complicated; we try to help them resolve their issues. We don’t over promise and under deliver.
We’ve taken a lot of inspiration with how BigChange does business, we see CEO Martin Port as an innovator and a mentor who is always happy to give advice. BigChange have helped us to better engage our staff. We feel the simple things are important. It’s not just technology or smoke and mirrors that drive business, its investing in your staff and building quality customer service.