How to choose a letting agent

Letting agents can help you find new tenants, manage existing tenants and properties, and do pretty much everything that needs to be done so you can sit back whilst they manage your investment ( well in most cases)

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A good letting agent will make your life much easier, but a bad one can cause a lot of headaches, not to mention cost you more money than you probably want to spend. Read on for some tips on how to choose the right letting agent.

Selecting a service

First step is to decide what you would like a letting agent to do for you.

Let Only

Let Only is exactly what it says on the tin. Letting agents will generally have a database of tenants waiting for properties to come available and will also advertise on property portals to attract interest.

Rent collection

Letting agents can collect the rent on your behalf which will mean your rent will be collected each month on the agreed date. This is particularly useful if you live overseas.

Full Management

There is a totally hands off approach for landlords which is to ask the  Letting agent to  fully manage the tenancy, carry out maintenance, and do everything a landlord is obligated to do.  The rent just gets paid into the designated account.

How Does it all work

Letting agents can advise you, but ultimately, as the landlord, you are legally responsible in the eyes of the law. This applies even if you signed up for a service and the letting agent doesn’t actually do anything they were contracted to do.

For example, let’s assume you pay for a fully managed service and then go on holiday. The boiler service is due in one of your properties and you assume the letting agent will organise this for you because it says so in the contract!

Time passes and there is a problem with the boiler: it starts leaking and your tenant ends up seriously ill in hospital. Whose fault is it? You could argue that it is the letting agent, but the tenant has every right to sue you, the landlord. You can counter sue the agent to recover your losses, of course, but that’s a long and expensive tale of woe no landlord wants to end up involved in.

You are also liable if your letting agent fails to protect the tenants deposit even if you never saw a penny of that money.

Check the small print on each service

There is no standard service. Some agents include things like property inventories in their managed services whereas others do not. It is very important that you double-check what the letting agent is providing before you sign up.

Letting agents fees vary depending on market conditions. Be wary of a letting agent that promises a 5* service on a bargain bucket price. They are probably cutting corners to protect their profit margins, and if they do that it could come back to bite you.

Big chain letting agents may charge similar fees to each other and probably won’t be willing to negotiate all that much. The smaller independent agents will probably be more willing to negotiate on fees as they don’t have the same overheads as the larger agents. Smaller agents are known to offer a slightly better service as they won’t manage as many landlords so can dedicate more time to you as a client. Book a valuation.

Redress Scheme

Letting agents are now legally required to be a member of one of two redress schemes. These independent bodies can hold a letting agent to account and are there to solve disputes between landlords and agents. If a letting agent is not a member of a redress scheme, their local council can fine them up to £5,000.

The two redress schemes are:

There are also two other redress schemes, which a letting agent may also be a member of. These are:

  • ARLA Propertymark, a regulatory body for letting agents with more than 9,000 members
  • Safeagent, formerly called the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not-for-profit accreditation scheme for letting agents

Letting agents must be members of the first two and they may also be members of the second two.

Check out a letting agent’s website and/or office to see which redress scheme they are a member of. Membership details should be clearly displayed in the shop or online. It is in your interests to use a letting agent registered to a redress scheme. Membership of a scheme means the agent must abide by a code of conduct, and if they do provide a poor service, you can make an official complaint, free of charge.

How will they find your tenant

Pay attention to how fast a letting agent returns your call when you are making enquiries about their services. If a letting agent takes forever to get back to you when you are thinking of using them, imagine how slow they’ll be when you have a problem!

You also need a letting agent that will actively look for new tenants, rather than wait for them to stumble into the shop. Check whether your letting agent uses the main property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Ask them about their marketing strategies. The longer a property remains empty, the more it will cost you. Book a valuation.

Read the contract at your leisure

Go through the T&Cs before you sign anything. Check what the agent’s fees are and how much notice period you have to give if you want to end your contract (if applicable).

Take it away and read it at your leisure. No reputable letting agent worth their salt will put pressure on you to sign then and there.

Go through the terms and conditions until you are satisfied with everything on offer. If there is anything in the contract that raises a red flag, ask a legal expert to cast an eye over it.

We hope this guide helps you in your search for a great letting agent.

If you would like a free no obligation valuation contact Kings Property Consultancy.