Choosing the Right Letting Agent

Choosing the Right Letting Agent

James White
9th January 2016

To choose a good letting agent, landlords need to focus on the service they deliver rather than the price that they charge.

To help property landlords ensure that they are getting the best deal from their letting company, Hannah McCartan, Managing Director of Swansea-based McCartan Lettings has come up with the following guidance notes for landlords.

Don’t base your decision on price alone.

Cheap doesn’t mean good and more often than not it will cost you more in the long run. Most ‘cheap’ letting agents are not concerned with the overall protection they should be offering to a landlord, investing in staff training, having Client Money Protection insurance/ Professional Indemnity insurance etc. Base your decision on reputation and recommendation.  What do other landlords and tenants think of this agent and are they offering the type of service you are looking for?

Not all Letting Agents are regulated.

There is no regulation of the lettings industry, so the first thing a landlord should check before appointing a letting agent is to ensure their money will be protected. If the agent is a member of a professional body, such as The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), ARLA or RICS they would be bound by a defined set of service standards and will it will be mandatory for them to hold Client Money Protection Insurance. Furthermore, make sure they are a member of an Ombudman scheme, so if there is a dispute which cant be resolved you have somewhere to go. If your agent doesn’t have these in place you will be putting your property and tenants at risk. http://www.nalscheme.co.uk/

What is your agent really doing for their management fee?

The devil is in the detail when it comes to property management and not every agent has the organisation and procedures in place to be able to manage a large portfolio. Are you really getting the level of service you should from your management fee? Do you get 3 monthly property visit reports with photos? Do you get your rent paid to you when you expect it with a corresponding statement? Do you get copies of the tenancy agreement at the start of the tenancy and do you get a say in if the tenant’s deposit gets returned?

Agents Contracts:

Thoroughly check the agent’s contract agreement to fully understand what you will be getting from a letting service. Some agents will do the bare minimum in setting up a tenancy for you, so miss doing important steps which could put you at risk.

What requirements do you have?

Be clear with your requirements from the outset for a tenancy and make sure everything is in writing. If you state you do not want pets, make this a special requirement in your contract and make sure you have a copy, (in order for it to be valid you must have a copy). Be sure you understand who’s responsible for renewing and keeping hold of annual certificates, (such as the landlord’s gas safety certificate) is it letting agency or the landlord?

What charges will you incur?

By law all agents in Wales must display their fees including vat and not hide any ‘hidden extras’ in the ‘small print’ of their contract. Make sure you have read and understood each section of the fee structure and ask if you don’t understand – the agent should be more than happy to go through in detail for you.

Tenant’s deposits:

Which deposit scheme are the letting agent registered to and will they be passing the deposit to you to submit or will they be doing this for you? The law is very clear and very strict when it comes to the submission of the tenants deposit into an approved scheme. There is only 30 days from when the deposit is paid for it to be protected, so if the agent is passing it on to you, you need to be prepared to get it protected as soon as you receive it. www.depositprotection.com

Where does the letting agent advertise and how good do the brochures look online?

A private landlord may rely on Gumtree or local paper to advertise their property, whereas a professional letting company has access to the UK’s largest property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla where the majority of tenants look for their next home.

The speed in which the property will be let will depend on how good the brochure looks to prospective tenants. The better the property looks, the more enquires it will get. Most property searches are done on a mobile device, so again make sure your letting agent has invested in the latest technology to make their website work on mobiles to ensure your property is being seen by the widest possible market. Make sure you check out the letting agents web site first to see how they photograph other people’s properties and how easy they are to view on your mobile devices. Think, would you be interested in viewing one of their properties?!  www.mccartanlettings.co.uk

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