Renting a property is not an easy task. As well as the myriad, complex and ever-changing regulations to adhere with, you need to feel confident you've let to trustworthy tenants. It's a lot for one landlord to cope with, especially when they have other interests or live far from the actual property.
It's no surprise, then, that so many landlords devolve all responsibility to a letting agent, allowing an expert to take over the entire operation - from advertising and safety checks right through to tenancy deposit schemes and arranging repairs. With so many letting agents out there, how can you choose the right one? Here are a few top tips:
Research and meet the agents
We live in an age where just about every business or service is rated and reviewed so it should not be too difficult to obtain information about local letting agents, as provided by current and previous customers. While some of these reviews should be regarded with a degree of caution and a pinch of salt, they should offer enough insight for you to at least sort the wheat from the chaff.
Once you've drawn up a shortlist, go in and meet the agents. The Telegraph claims that the mark of a good agent is that they equally take care of tenants and landlords alike, so go in and pose as prospective tenants - if you like the way you're treated, you may have found a good agent.
Check they are accredited
To avoid engaging a cowboy agent (of which there are, sadly, many), it's pertinent to choose one which belongs to an official industry body, such as The Property Ombudsman, the National Approved Lettings Scheme or the Association of Residential Letting Agents. Membership to one of these assures landlords the agent complies with a specific code of practice and operates professional high standards. The industry isn't currently regulated, so the accreditation should offer some extra reassurance.
Read the small print
Upon signing up with a letting agent, you will be supplied with some terms and conditions. Make sure you read this document carefully. It should comply with legislation, so you might want to get it looked over by a solicitor - particularly if your letting agent of choice is not accredited with those bodies mentioned above.
Identify what you get for your money
As you will be paying their fees, naturally you want to establish exactly what the agent will do for you to ensure you receive value for money. Typically, 'full property management' should include the following:
- Advertise the property
- Find and vet tenants
- Produce the tenancy agreement
- Arrange the collection of rent and transfer initial monies into a protected tenancy deposit scheme
- Provide professional indemnity insurance
- Take care of the property and arrange repairs when required
- Handle tenant queries and issues
- Carry out accompanied visits and inventories, reporting back to you
- Liaison with utility companies and local authorities - including the Gas Safe certification.
Ultimately, you want a letting agent that can provide you with peace of mind and the knowledge your property is in safe hands. By following the tips above, you should be able to find the right one.