8 things every Landlord should consider before choosing a Letting Agent
Qualifications and training
The industry is unregulated at the moment in England, so there’s always a chance you may encounter unscrupulous traders out there. The lettings and property management industry is complex, and there is a whole host of complicated, and often conflicting, legislations relating to what we do. If your letting agent isn’t up to the task, you, as the Landlord could fall foul of many of the legislations (many of which carry prison sentences and large fines) There are training and qualifications available for agents. Ask them about their training.
Background and experience
What has your letting agent been doing prior to this? How long have they been an agent? Were they in retail, or sales? Or do they have a background in tenancy management? Would you really want someone who was working in a fast-food restaurant yesterday drawing up a tenancy agreement that you’ll have to rely on in court should the tenant default? Ask the question. What have they been doing before this?
Client Money Protection
You must ensure that your agent has Client Money Protection Insurance to protect you and your tenant. If you consider how much money actually goes through the hands of a letting agent, with rents, and deposits collected, it can amount to a large sum. In the past, agents have closed and taken all of this money with them, leaving landlords with no tenancy agreements, no rent, no deposit and a very upset tenant. Client Money Protection ensures this can’t happen to you, so check they have it by asking to see a copy of their current policy certificate.
Redress scheme membership
What happens if there’s a dispute between you and your agent? Ask your agent if they belong to a redress scheme, such as The Property Ombudsman so that should you have any bad experiences with them you have somewhere to go to complain and investigate.
Rent Guarantee Insurance
This Insurance isn’t offered by all agents. What will happen if your tenant can’t or won’t pay their rent? Who will cover your expenses, like the mortgage? The policies vary quite considerably, so its worth really looking at the T&C’s before signing up. Some will pay up to 15 months full rent should there be an issue, and will cover the legal expenses too.
Keeping you compliant
Did you know that there are over 178 pieces of legislation for Landlords to abide by, and hundreds of law changes over the years? Make sure your agent is keeping up to date with the latest legislation and keeping you compliant with the law. Check that they are using fully insured, and qualified tradespeople when maintaining your property. Serving notices in the prescribed way and keeping on top of safety checks are all important parts of looking after you, and your tenant.
What’s their focus?
Is your agent more focused on the front end ‘letting’ side of the business rather than the ‘property management’? The Property Ombudsman reports that, year after year, the highest level of complaints received from Landlords is in relation to the lack of service with regards to the management of the property. Ask your agent who will be managing the property? A lettings negotiator focused on their commission from their next let, or a Property Manger?
Local and knowledgeable on the area
If you’re wanting an agent who knows the local area, and understands where you’re investing, pick someone local. They’re more likely to be able to advise you on where a good investment property for the rental market would be. Agents who live in the locality are more far knowledgeable on what’s happening locally than someone from out of town. If you want a more personal service tailored to what is important to you, and a direct contact who’s available outside of office hours, choose an independent agent.