Looking after a rented property can be time consuming and complex. In this month’s column, Sarah Coates-Madden considers the pros and cons of using a letting agent…
Many landlords let properties through an agent, as they hope to achieve peace of mind that all legal requirements are fulfilled, a tenant is found quickly and rent is collected on time. They are, however, expensive.
The first thing to consider is that letting agents are unregulated. Most are good, but some offer a very poor service. There is nothing to say a tenant found by an agent will be any better than one you interview yourself and they offer no guarantees against rent arrears.
If you decide to use a letting agent, please consider the following tips:
- Try to use a member of the National Approved Letting Scheme or other relevant professional body, such as the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
- Decide what you want the agent to do – simply find you a tenant or manage the property while it is let. If you opt for a fully managed service, the points below are especially important.
- Check the agent has professional indemnity insurance against being sued and client money protection. Please note that if the agent runs off with the tenancy deposit, you will still be responsible for repaying it to the tenant and if you do not receive rent money, you cannot ask the tenant to pay it again.
- Consider if you want the agent to deal with tenancy deposit protection and discuss arrangements. Check which scheme they use and that the deposit is actually protected.
- Read the management contract very carefully. If there are sections you do not understand, take advice before signing up.
- Check the letting agent is responsible for arranging the annual gas safety certificate and keeping all necessary records.
- Make sure the agent will ensure your property meets other standards. For example, that furniture and fittings comply with regulations.
- Ensure queries from the tenant are dealt with by the agent and they arrange routine repairs and maintenance. They should be authorised to spend up to a specified limit.
If there are several agents who appear equally competent, consider choosing the one who has operated in your area for the longest. They will probably have more local knowledge, which is important for setting rents, etc.
Finally, make sure you keep copies of all correspondence (particularly if any special requests have been made regarding the management of your property), including your contract and any other paperwork.
Sarah Coates-Madden is a specialist in property litigation at Taylor&Emmet. For more information, telephone (0114) 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.