How to choose a letting agent
The market for renting out residential property has dramatically expanded in recent years with the very strong growth of buy-to-let and the increasing popularity of rental property as a long term investment.
Most landlords will appoint an agent to handle the rental and the choice is extensive. There are considerable numbers of letting agents and the majority of estate agencies operate letting divisions. Given that the agent will be responsible for important long-term financial and legal matters, it is absolutely vital to choose the right one as letting agents are unregulated and there are limited statutory standards set out for service or for fees.
- Letting agent location
It makes sense to use a letting agent that is located in the same area as the rental property. Some landlords prefer to use 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) because they should be following codes of professional conduct and have proper guarantees in place to protect landlord and tenant monies.
- Choose the service level
Most letting agents offer at least two varying levels of service. Tenant-find only means that the landlord will be undertaking the day-to-day management of the letting. Full Management means the agent takes care of everything to do with the letting from start to finish and will only involve the landlord if something out of the ordinary needs their decision. For new or less experienced landlords, full management is often the service level of choice for peace of mind.
A competent and professional letting agency will handle all the paperwork involved in a letting. They will take up references on new tenants, carry out credit-checks, confirm the tenant’s employment details and check that the tenant has the right to reside in the UK. The agent will draw up the tenancy agreement and collate the required gas and electrical safety certificates. Agents can also obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property. This must be given to any prospective tenant.
- 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 as soon as possible. Check that the agent is listing properties on a main internet portal such as OnTheMarket.com and Righmove.co.uk. Find out if they already have tenants on their books who will be interested in the property. To get you the best return, letting agents will advise on what level of rent can be expected for a property and will be able to show you details of similar properties that have let for a similar figure.
- Complying with deposit law
If you choose the full management service from an agent, they should be able to deal with matters concerning the deposit that is paid by the tenant at the start of the tenancy. This money, which is usually equivalent to 4 or 6 weeks’ rent, is held by the agent on behalf of the landlord as a safeguard against the tenant causing damage to the property. 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.
- Safety legislation
There are a number of pieces of legislation in place to protect the safety of tenants. The agent should ensure that the property complies with the rules. In particular, a property with a gas supply must have an annual maintenance check and a Gas Safety Certificate provided by a qualified gas engineer. Any soft furnishings at the property must comply with Fire Safety regulations. Professional letting agents will advise on all compliance. Whilst good letting agents will handle these matters, the legal responsibility remains with the landlord.
There are several other aspects to consider when having a property fully managed by an agent and it is wise to understand the ins and outs of exactly what your letting agent will handle on your behalf, prior to instructing them. If you are thinking of letting your property please feel free to speak to our friendly and professional teams at your nearest office:
Lorna Morris– Alnwick, Northumberland – 01665 511989
Lindsay French – Wolsingham, County Durham – 01388 529579
Victoria Linsley – Barnard Castle, County Durham – 01833 690390
Sheryl Sowden – Bedale, North Yorkshire – 01677 425301