When it’s time to switch your Letting Agent

publication date: Sep 13, 2009
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books
The biggest complaint about letting agents from landlords is ‘what do they do for the money?’! That’s a fair question as some letting agents don’t take anywhere near enough care of their administration.

Poor service to landlords via companies carrying out lettings is on the increase too. In part, this is because there are a large number of estate agents who have set up a lettings service to help their cashflow while sales are bad! The result being that completely inexperienced people with little training are often running lettings businesses and as a result giving you the landlord a bad service.

How to spot a poor letting agent!

Bad letting agents aren’t actually that difficult to spot, you just need to know the right questions to ask them!

Key questions to ask a letting agent are:-

1.    What lettings training have you and your staff had?
2.    How do you credit and reference check tenants?
3.    How do you keep up with all the lettings legal changes?
4.    What help would they give if a tenant stops paying the rent?
5.    How often does the company update their tenancy agreement?

It’s also worth checking the letting agreement they use and their terms of business before you agree to give them your property or properties. If these aren’t written in plain English, then it’s unlikely that the tenant will understand them either, so think twice before using them.

If the terms of business are more than 10 pages long and don’t include all of the charges on one page, then you are probably going to be charged lots of fees throughout the tenancy that you didn’t realise you had to pay for.

Poor agents typically advertise and charge a small management fee percentage, such as 5%. This might seem a great deal, but often isn’t as it’s virtually impossible to run a good service for landlords based on this level of income.

For example, if you are renting a property out for £600 per month x 5% monthly management, that’s £30 per month. Take it that someone on £30,000 per year earns around £15 per hour, that’s about two hours worth of work on a property every month, but a letting agent would also need to pay for staff, office and business running costs.

The answer to this is that they typically charge a high set up fee which may include very little, so you end up ‘overpaying’ for disbursements such as inventories, EPCs, tenancy deposit costs or paying for tenancy agreements and renewal fees. And it’s likely that they will be the type of agent that just passes on tenant problems to you to sort as opposed to proactively sorting them out for you – which is what they should be doing!

Top 10 tips to finding a good letting agent!

Good letting agents will:-

1.    Belong to the National Approved Lettings Scheme.
2.    Clearly show you all the costs you would incur throughout a tenancy period, on one page of A4, including an hourly charge for any work they carry out that is not included in their fees.
3.    Have fully trained staff.
4.    Be able to access a legal company on your behalf with any tenant/landlord queries.
5.    Ensure your statements are clear and that there are no ‘hidden’ charges that appear.
6.    Send clear and accurate statements on a monthly basis.
7.    Look after tenant issues without asking you to solve the problem.
8.    Ensure the rent goes into your bank account 5-10 days after they receive it.
9.    Not charge excessively on costs and disbursements, for example EPCs, maintenance work, and tenancy deposit protection.
10.  Understand the importance of accurate inventories and carefully co-ordinated check in and check-out procedures.

For more information on finding a good letting agent, call us on 07585 897128 or contact us via email.

Need help with a property problem? Have a question? Why not call Designs on Property on 07585 897128 or Contact Us via email.
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