How to Choose a Letting Agent
Unless you know somebody who can recommend a letting agent, choosing the right company can be a real headache. And if you have no prior experience of letting a property, where do you begin?
Whether you are a prospective landlord or tenant, first impressions count. Judge the company by how long it takes for the phone to be answered? How professional is the person answering the phone and is that person able to deal with your query straight away? If you have to leave a message, how long does it take anybody to come back to you?
Staff qualifications & membership of professional bodies
Check that the agent is a member of a recognised industry body such as the Property Ombudsman, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Association of Estate Agents. Experience should always be backed up with professional qualifications and you should always ask how many members of the lettings team hold a recognised qualification. If nothing else, this gives a good indication of the professional integrity of the firm.
The majority of enquiries come via the web and therefore it is essential that your letting agent’s own website is professional, clear and easy to use. The website should be updated daily and the property details displayed on Rightmove to ensure maximum exposure.
Quality of paperwork
How professional is the brochure and all the accompanying paperwork? Typos and grammatical errors do not give a good impression and you need to consider the likely quality of the advertising and website listing.
Make sure you are well prepared for the valuation appointment. Go through the agent’s brochure carefully before the appointment and highlight questions to ask. Make sure you fully understand what level of service you can expect for the fee and what is and isn’t included as part of the service. It is always a good idea to get a couple of rental valuations but don’t choose the agent who gives you the highest valuation unless this can be backed up with evidence to show it is achievable.
Knowledge of the law relating to lettings
There is a huge amount of legislation covering residential lettings from the requirement for a Landlord’s Gas Safety certificate to the legal Notice required to end a tenancy. It is essential that a letting agent is fully up to speed with all current legislation and keeps abreast of developments as the law changes.
Who carries out the viewings? The existing tenant? You, the landlord? Make sure that you know what the viewings policy is and remember that letting your house successfully is more likely to happen if the person carrying out the viewing is able to answer any question that may be posed by a prospective tenant.
Tenant selection and referencing procedures
A successful tenancy is highly dependent on matching the right person to the right property. A professional agent should be able to assess a potential applicant’s suitability from the outset, in line with your requirements as the landlord. You should always check whether the agency employs the services of a third party credit and referencing agency or whether they carry out thorough vetting themselves.
Since the tenancy deposit legislation was introduced by the Government in April 2007, it is more important than ever that an accurate Inventory & Schedule of Condition is drawn up and agreed at the start of each tenancy. The inventory should ideally be drawn up by a professional and independent inventory clerk and you should make sure that there is an adequate system in place for agreeing the schedule of condition with the tenant at the start of the tenancy. This ensures that there can be no dispute at the end of the tenancy!
Property inspections are an essential aspect of managing a let property. A letting agent is not only responsible for ensuring that your tenant is looking after the property but also for checking that there are no maintenance issues which need addressing. Who carries out maintenance inspections and how often are these carried out? Does the agent give you a comprehensive maintenance report?