Legal help, services and support for private residential landlords
Tessa’s Ten Top Tips for Landlords on Letting Agents
Be aware that under agency law, you will be bound by everything your agent does on your behalf – even if it is something you told them not to do – so you need to be very careful in your choice of agent
Ideally, they should be a member of a professional organisation such as ARLA Propertymark, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
Check that they are a member of a Property Redress Scheme – this is mandatory. The scheme logo should be on their website, in their office and on their stationery. You can doublecheck on the Redress Scheme website. Do not use an agent who is not a member of a scheme.
They need to disclose all their fees and details of any client money protection scheme. This also needs to be on their website (no more than one click away from relevant pages) and clearly displayed in all their offices. Do not use any agent that does not have client money protection insurance.
Be aware that there are many fraudulent and criminal letting agents around, particularly in large cities. So be very careful, and watch out for anything suspicious. If you use one of these criminal firms you could suffer heavy losses.
If you are choosing a letting agent – decide first what you want them to do. Is it just to find a tenant or do you want the agents to manage the property for you? Will you want them to deal with protection of the deposit, and the Gas Safety and Energy Performance Certificates? Compliance with the furniture and other regulations? Will they carry out inspections during the tenancy? Deal with minor repairs? Make a list and discuss this with the agents you consider.
Check the management contract VERY carefully – particularly if you are trading through a limited company as then you will be unable to take advantage of the consumer protection laws. In particular, check fees and charges, termination clauses and renewal fees.
Make sure that your agents will let you see copies of all credit and other referencing material obtained from prospective tenants. So long as they notify the tenants and other parties that they are doing this, the Data Protection rules do NOT prohibit disclosure to you. Make this a condition of their employment by you. After all, if you are not shown the reference material, how can you be sure that they have checked prospective tenants thoroughly?
If there are several agents who appear equally competent, consider using the one which has been in the area longest. Do not choose an agent solely on price. The cheapest agent is usually not the best.
Keep copies of the agency agreement and all correspondence, and emails with the agents and make a written note of all telephone calls, particularly if these are about the management of the property and their work for you. Ensure that you are also provided with copies of signed tenancy agreements and other paperwork (such as certificates and receipts for work done) in respect of the property. It is your property and you are entitled to this!