The first thing a property investor or landlord should check before appointing a letting company is to ensure that their money will be protected. Is the Letting Agent a member of the National Approved Letting Scheme or one of the professional bodies that support this scheme including:
Property investors and landlords will have peace of mind knowing that the Letting Agent has agreed to meet defined standards of customer service, is part of a Client Money Protection Scheme and has a customer complaints procedure offering independent redress.
The lettings company should also protect the landlord by being registered with the Property Ombudsman (Lettings) and the Deposit Protection Service to be able to comply with tenant deposit legislation.
Service levels offered to landlords by lettings agencies
Private landlords looking to use letting agencies will find they offer different levels of service and the landlord needs to decide which level is the most appropriate according to their specific requirements. For example, the landlord may want the letting company to simply find a tenant for the property. Alternatively the landlord may not wish to be bothered with the hassle and stress of dealing with tenants and property maintenance issues so look for a professional lettings agency who can take care of the day to day management the property.
Currently letting agents are not regulated, like solicitors, mortgage brokers or estate agents, so whichever option a landlord goes for, it is essential that they check that the lettings company has professional indemnity insurance and that they have client money protection insurance in place which shows their professionalism and serious intent on giving you the best service.
If you are a private landlord appointing a letting agency for a full management service for the first time, you should also check the management contract very carefully. If there are sections you do not understand, take advice before signing.
Guidance for Landlords from a Swansea Letting Company
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:
- Thoroughly check the agents 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, but miss doing important steps which could put you at risk.
- 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.
- 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). Be sure you understand if the letting agency or the landlord is responsible for renewing and keeping hold of annual certificates, such as the landlord’s gas safety certificate.
- 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 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? Does your rent get paid to you when you expect it with a corresponding statement? Did 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?
- Which deposit scheme are they registered to? Will they be passing the deposit to you to submit or will they be doing this for you?
- 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 or Base your decision on reputation and recommendation – What do other landlords and tenants think of this agent?
- 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.
Where does the letting agent market their properties and how good do they look online? The speed in which the property will be let will depend on how good the brochure looks to prospective tenants. 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.
Choosing the right Lettings Agency as a Landlord
If you have identified several letting agencies who meet your criteria, then it’s always a good idea to appoint one that specialises solely in residential lettings to get a more dedicated landlord service rather than a more generic estate agency where sales are more important than lettings.
A specialist letting agency will be experts in the local rental market and won’t be distracted from the need to ensure your property is let as quickly as possible, at the best price and to fully checked to ensure full compliance by the landlord and protection of the tenants.
McCartan Lettings is a local, professional private landlord letting agency that specialises in the rental market in Swansea and the surrounding area.
For more details on the expert services offered to private landlords by McCartan Lettings, please call us on 01792 430100