Unsure how to choose your letting agent and also what they do?
Many landlords will appoint a letting agent to handle the management of their rental property. But with over 150 Letting Agents to choose from in Nottingham alone, how do you choose which letting agent to use? Given that the agent will be responsible for important long-term financial and legal matters it is absolutely vital that you chose the right letting agent for you and your rental property.
Be mindful that up until recently lettings was an unregulated business and so there was absolutely no statutory standard for service or fees. As of October 2014 however, it became mandatory for all letting and managing agents to sign up to a redress scheme. There are two redress schemes currently in operation, The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme. But many agents still operate under the radar and some agents have even been expelled due to misconduct!
In order to assist you when choosing a letting agent, we have pulled together 10 Top Tips to consider below:
It makes sense to use a letting agent that is located close to your rental property. We recommend looking at agents within a 5 mile radius at most. Many towns will have firms who are letting specialists only, whilst many estate agencies have separate letting divisions. Those who are offering sales regularly see lettings as the ‘poor baby sister’, and so we would recommend working with an agent who focuses purely on lettings.
Landlords should also look for agents who are members of a trade or professional body such as ARLA Propertymark (formally the Association of Residential Letting Agents) or NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme). This effectively means that the agent follows a strict code of professional conduct at all times. Each of these organisations also set out a responsibility for agents to undertake continual professional development (CPD), with the idea being that member agents are furthering their education at all times.
Did you know? It isn’t a requirement for letting agents to become a member of ARLA or NALS. But in our opinion, any agent worth their salt will take the relevant steps to do so.
Letting agents will often provide three levels of service.
Tenant Find Only – Under the tenant find or ‘let only’ service the agent is normally responsible for the following: marketing of the property, conducting viewings, checking the tenant(s) and setting up the tenancy agreement. But the landlord would be responsible for the ongoing day-to-day management of the tenancy after this.
Tenant Find + Rent Collection – This service often involves the agent finding the tenant and then collecting and processing the rent. Agents offering rent collection will also generally manage any rent arrears and provide the landlord with regular rental statements. All other matters then become the landlord’s responsibility.
Full Management – This is a more ‘hands off’ service whereby the agent takes care of everything to do with the letting from start to finish and tend to involve the landlord only if something out of the ordinary needs further input. For new or less experienced landlords, full management is often the service level of choice for peace of mind.
Did you know? The overriding responsibility for legislation during the tenancy falls on the landlord regardless of which service level is chosen. It’s important therefore that you choose an agent who can demonstrate robust procedures and a deep knowledge of the legal framework for lettings.
A competent and professional letting agency should handle the paperwork involved in the letting of the property. This involves taking up references, carrying out credit-checks and confirming the tenant’s employment details. Whilst also obtaining a previous landlord reference and checking that the tenant has the right to reside in the UK. The agent will often produce the tenancy agreement and collate the required gas and electrical safety certificates prior to letting. Agents can also obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property amongst other requirements. This must be given to any prospective tenant at the start of the letting alongside additional legal documentation.
Did you know? Many agents fail to have a robust system in place for proving that all relevant legal paperwork has been provided to the tenant(s) at the start of the agreement. Be sure to ask your agent how they will protect you under these circumstances.
4. Marketing, Advertising and Rent
A property without a tenant will cost you money, so make sure the letting agent will be pro-active in finding a good tenant once they are instructed. Ask the agent where and how they plan to market your property. Check that they are listing properties on a main internet portal such as Rightmove. Find out if they already have tenants on their database who will be interested in the property. To ensure you get the best return, letting agents will advise on what level of rent can be expected for a property. They will be able to show you details of comparable properties within your area.
Always ask the agent how they intend to market your property online. Do they undertake professional photography? How do they plan to write the property description etc?
5. Client Money Protection
Letting agents handle deposits, rents and other monies as part of the letting process. Landlords and tenants need to be certain that this money is safe and won’t go missing. A reputable and professional letting agency will be able to demonstrate that it operates within a Client Money Protection scheme. In the event of any fraud, the landlord and tenant will be reimbursed for any loss under these schemes. All landlord and tenant money should be held in a client account, separate from the letting agent’s general bank account. Be sure to check that this process is followed when speaking with agents.
Did you know? Client money protection will become mandatory in April 2019 as part of the governments drive to professionalise the sector. Slater & Brandley have been members of a client money protection scheme since we set up the business in 2011!
6. Deposit Protection
If you choose the full management service from an agent they should be able to deal with matters concerning the security deposit. This money is collected by the agent on behalf of the landlord as a safeguard against tenant damage or rent arrears. This can sometimes be the equivalent of 6 or 8 weeks rent.
By law, such deposits must be registered with a government approved tenancy deposit scheme. Ask the agent for details of the scheme they use and for confirmation that the deposit has been registered. There are currently three such schemes, each with differing policies but ultimately offering the same legal framework.
7. Safety Legislation
There are currently over 160 pieces of individual letting legislation in circulation. These are designed to protect the safety of tenants in rental properties throughout the UK. A good letting agent should have a robust knowledge of this legislation and will be able to highlight areas of non compliance. In particular, a property with a gas supply must have an annual maintenance check and a gas safety certificate must be provided by a qualified gas engineer. Most agents can make the arrangements for you on your behalf. If electrical items are provided by the landlord, they should also be safety tested by an electrical engineer. Again, the letting agent should be able to deal with these matters on your behalf.
We have created a page outlining all of the main legislative requirements for landlords. You can find this here.
Did you know? We are often approached by landlords who have been letting property for many years but do not know fully understand their legal responsibilities. Ignorance is simply not an excuse in court! Let us help.
8. Repairs and Maintenance
Every property needs looking after properly. Ask the letting agent if they carry out regular inspections to ensure that the tenant is keeping the place in good order and to check for any maintenance issues. Letting agents usually have a panel of trades who can be called upon to make repairs, maintain gardens and carry out routine tasks such as clearing gutters.
Ask the agent how they go about selecting their trades. E.g. are they VAT registered (and thus incorporate an additional 20% of cost)? Are they using big maintenance firms with hefty overheads? Do they stick to sole traders to keep down the cost of works? And finally are their trades insured and regularly checked for standards? These are all important factors in the ongoing management of your property.
9. Reviews / Testimonials
A good letting agent should have a good track record to follow. This is often showcased through client testimonials and online reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask an agent how they can back up their service offering. Better still, do your own research and discover how they fair via both Google and Facebook reviews. This is where you are likely to find real examples of how they look after clients.
Don’t forget to search for tenant reviews too. Many agents focus only on the landlord whilst tenants suffer in the background. This can easily lead to shorter tenancies as tenants choose better service levels elsewhere. A shorter tenancy means a higher turnover and increased costs for you. It is really important you find an agent who focuses on landlords AND tenants.
Did you know? At the time of writing this, we have over 138 5 star reviews on Google. We also offer to put any new clients in touch with some of our current landlords, meaning you can get an accurate reflection of how we operate day-to-day.
10. Finances / Accounting
Ask the letting agent what arrangements they have for accounting to you the rent received, costs, and charges. How often will they transfer balances to your account? It isn’t uncommon for agents to wait until the end of the month to remit funds, regardless of when the tenant pays.
A good letting agent however will make regular payments to landlords throughout the month. This means that you are never waiting long for the rent to land in your account.
We hope that the above Top 10 Tips prove to be useful. As an Award Winning, Independent letting agent, we meet all of the above requirements and more! On average we let our properties in 9 days or less and have an incredible 4.8 star rating on Google.
If you are looking to find a professional letting agent that will enable you to rent out your property securely, to an appropriate tenant and for the best possible return, then give us a call today on 0115 981 9651.
We look forward to hearing from you.