Property Ownership: How to Choose the Right Letting Agent

Juliet D'cruz

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A letting agent is an individual or company that manages rental units for landlords, usually on a contractual basis. The letting agent will find tenants, collect rent, maintain the property, and manage any issues with tenants.

As such, there are many factors to consider when choosing which letting agent to use for your rental property. Below we have compiled important questions you should ask before hiring a letting agent:

Determine the Services You Need

When letting a property, it is important to understand what services you will need. Some letting agents specialize in managing only residential units and others commercial properties.

Before choosing an agent, determine whether your property falls into the scope of their expertise. Keep in mind that letting agents who specialize may be more expensive than letting agents who offer “one-stop-shop” services.

You also need to consider if you want property management or tenant-find services. Property management involves managing the property in addition to finding tenants. Tenant-find services only help you find tenants.

Find a Local Agent

Although there are plenty of national letting agents, local agents usually offer better service. They have the skill and familiarity with the area.

Local knowledge also allows agents to be familiar with the laws and regulations in your local area. And this is a factor that is especially critical if you need any special permits for your rental property.

Any potential agent should provide a list of previous clients so you can speak to them about their experiences.

Also, find out if the agent has a physical office instead of working only online or over the phone. A local presence is important because it leaves open options in case there are issues when dealing with tenants. This allows you to visit an office and have direct contact in case problems develop.

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Compare Letting Fees

Most letting agents charge fees on a per-property basis. The following are the most common types of charges:

Administration Fee: A fee charged at the beginning of each tenancy to cover administrative and property upkeep costs. This type of fee is usually calculated either as a percentage of rental income or as a fixed amount for every month.

Referencing Fee: A fee charged for checking the applicant’s credit history, identity, and even employment information before accepting them as tenants.

Renewal Fees: An ongoing monthly service charge in exchange for continued management services after an initial fixed term has expired.

As a landlord, it is important to understand all of the fees you will be charged by your letting agent and how they are calculated. You should also check the Letting Agent Code of Practice and decide whether the letting agent fees charged meets the criteria laid out in this document.

Check the Letting Agent’s Membership

You should ensure that any agent you are considering is a member of a professional body or trade association. This is important because members of such a body conform to strict codes of conduct and practice.

By choosing an agent that belongs to an appropriate professional body, you can be sure they are likely doing things the right way. You can also expect them to be more transparent on their charges.

Check Reviews Online

A quick Google search will show you if other landlords have had good or bad experiences with a particular letting agent. You can also find online reviews for individual agents detailing various aspects of service. These include quality of work, timeliness, effectiveness in meeting client expectations, etc.

Ultimately you will get a better sense from real-life accounts than any glossy brochure or website copy could ever provide.

You should not just look at the overall rating of an agent. Check reviews for individual services like tenant-find, property management, and maintenance. This will give you a better idea of which aspects of their work they may specialize in.

Check Insurance Cover

As a landlord, you need to make sure that any agent you choose is adequately insured for the services they provide. The level of insurance coverage required should be adequate to cover costs in case of errors or omissions.

Ask if they have professional indemnity insurance. This is the kind of insurance that covers agents from potential negligence or failure to follow professional standards.

If they have it, find out the limits of indemnity and whether there is any excess.

Check Their Marketing Agencies

Quite often, letting agents use subcontractors for certain services. This can be problematic because not all marketing agencies are equally effective.

Before you choose a letting agent, ask to see their portfolio of work. Find out which advertising and research companies they have worked with in the past.

A good agency will have a solid history of working with reputable companies. Asking about partners is also important. It shows how the agent works with others to help meet client needs.

Check Their Other Services

Besides finding tenants and collecting rents, many agents provide other services such as:

Vacancy Management: Providing key holding services while vacant properties are on the market. For example, 24-hour access to the property and receiving calls from interested parties.

Void Management: Managing void periods caused by tenants leaving. During this period, agents should take care of all aspects of maintaining the home so that it is presentable for new tenants.

Letting Compliance: Ensuring landlords and their properties comply with various regulations. They include fire safety, gas safety certification, local council licensing policies, etc.

Risk Assessment: Conducting risk assessments on existing tenants to determine how reliable they are in paying rent on time each month.

They may even give you helpful selling tips for decluttering your property.

Pick the Right Letting Agent

Deciding on a letting agent is not as simple as picking the one with the best website and most competitive fees. You have to ensure they will provide you with a consistent professional level of service. And that should be from finding tenants to upkeep after tenants have moved out.

We hope that the points we have outlined in this post will help you make your choice wisely. For more interesting posts, keep reading our posts.

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