In this guest post by Russ Jones, the founder of PropertyWorkshop.com, he shows how to protect your investment by choosing the right property letting agent, so that you can get on with what matters.
As a diligent landlord, your focus is on your property, and growing your portfolio. As such, you’re likely looking to outsource the task of finding a tenant, together with finding someone to manage the property. This is sometimes easier said than done.
Don’t let your careful planning and hard work come undone by placing your property in the hands of an unscrupulous letting agency. Make sure your investment is in safe hands with these tips on what to look for when choosing an agent.
1. What Type of Letting Agent Do You need?
The first thing you should perhaps consider is how much responsibility you want to transfer.
Will you be looking for a “let only” agency, who will source and place a tenant in your property, leaving you to manage the rest? Or would you prefer a full management service, including rent collection and property maintenance, leaving you to pursue and concentrate on your next project?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the type you need, let’s take a look at what you need to consider.
2. Are They Regulated?
The most important factor in appointing any letting agency is the confirmation that they are regulated by a redress scheme.
It goes without saying that any agency that isn’t regulated by either scheme must be avoided.
3. Are They ARLA Property Mark Protected?
Accreditation with either ARLA, or safeagent (formerly NALS), isn’t compulsory as far as the law goes. However, membership with either of these regulatory bodies carries credibility. ARLA and safeagent are there to protect the consumer and ensure high standards. Members are regulated and must follow codes of practice such as Client Money Protection and Professional Indemnity Insurance. You can find out more here: https://www.arla.co.uk/join/ppds/.
4. How Successful Are They?
A successful letting agency retains its landlords, and a generous catalogue of ‘let agreed’ properties could be a good indication of satisfied clients. Monitor the market and see which agencies demonstrate a stable presence in the rental industry. Naturally, referrals give credence to reputation, so speak to other landlords and ask for recommendations.
5. What Are Their Customer Service Levels Like?
When it comes to appointing an agent, good customer service is essential. We all want to be treated with respect, especially when it comes to entrusting someone else with our assets.
Before signing any agreement, it’s important to get a feel for how the agent conducts their business, and how they interact with their tenants.
6. Which Tenancy Deposit Scheme do they use?
Since April 2007, any deposit paid to landlords and agents for an assured shorthold tenancy agreement must be protected in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme.
Ask the letting agent which tenancy deposit protection scheme they use to ensure business conduct is above board and complying with the law.
7. Client Money Protection
Is the letting agent covered in the event of company administration? By law, letting agents must join a Client Money Protection Scheme. This is to protect both landlord and tenant in situations where the letting agent is unable to repay any money owed. You should request to see a certificate to confirm membership to one of the six government-approved schemes.
8. Do They Do Periodic Inspections?
As stated in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords and their agents have the right to enter the premises (with 24 hours’ notice, at reasonable times of the day), to view its “condition and state of repair”.
By carrying out an inspection on your behalf, your letting agent has the opportunity to flag any maintenance issues. They can also ensure the tenant living conditions are satisfactory and there’s no illegal activity taking place. While it can help to build trust and maintain a good relationship with the tenant, visits that are too frequent may be considered harassment, so there needs to be a balance.
9. Use Tilt Solo Software
If you prefer the idea of managing your property yourself, you could use Solo, Tilt’s software package designed exclusively for Landlords and Investors. Features include personal portfolios, rent collection, expenses tracking, property management, maintenance jobs and marketing.
In the meantime, if you’re not quite ready to go to market and your recently acquired property requires renovation or updating, take a look at Property Workshop’s article, 31 Home Improvements that Add Value (and 7 That Don’t!).
NB: This post has been written as a guide only. Please ensure you seek additional information and professional advice prior to proceeding with any letting or sale of your property.