What did a letting agent ever do for you?

publication date: Oct 9, 2017
 | 
author/source: Guest article - Carrie Alliston, Hunters Estate Agents.

 

What do letting agents really do? 

There’s so much more to being a letting agent than simply advertising properties to let and finding tenants; the role is wide and varied, and provides a vital link between a landlord and tenant.

What few people realise is that to let and manage a property legally, you have to know more than 400 rules and regulations that tenants, landlords and properties need to abide by.

We spoke to Carrie Alliston, head of lettings at Hunters, to find out more about what her job entails.

“Every day is different for a letting agent,” says Carrie. “And the job certainly doesn’t stop once we’ve matched a tenant with a property. As agents, we are here to ensure properties are rented legally and safely, and managed properly to keep costly disputes at a minimum. The role of property management is now more complex than it’s ever been and lettings agents need to ensure they stay up to date with latest legislations.”

While many letting agents will just ‘let property’, good, properly qualified agents such as Hunters will help both landlords and tenants throughout the letting process.

Here are some of the ways Carrie says a letting agent will help:

Before landlords invest in a property
Talking to local letting agents is always a good idea before investing as they know the market inside out and know what types of properties tenants are looking for and what rents you can realistically expect to achieve.

Why is this important?
Investing wisely is one of the keys to success; if a landlord buys a property type which is not in demand in a particular area, they will struggle to let it out.

Before a landlord markets the property
A good letting agent will help landlords comply with the hundreds of laws and regulations, from ensuring the property has an EPC to organising gas safety checks with a Gas Safe-registered engineer and checking the property meets the 29 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) rules the local authority is responsible for.

Why is this important?
Abiding by the rules not only helps keep tenants safe, but good maintenance protects a landlord’s investment. Councils now have powers to fine landlords up to £30,000 if they don’t follow the rules – and persistent offenders can even be banned from letting.

Marketing the property
Finding a tenant can be easy… but finding the right tenant takes a lot more work. A good letting agent will organise viewings, show tenants round and begin the process of finding out if they are suitable

Why is this important?
When a letting agent takes over the task of showing tenants round a property, it means the property’s owner is free to concentrate on other aspects of their business – or the day job if they are a part-time landlord.

Tenant referencing and prescribed information
A good letting agent will carry out Right to Rent checks to ensure a tenant can legally live in the UK and they will fully reference check a tenant and their financial situation, not just purchase a basic online reference check for a few pounds. They will also contact previous landlords if the tenant has rented before; if they haven’t, they will carry out referencing on their guarantor, too.

Before a tenant moves in, they should be given the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), Gas Safety Certificate, How to Rent Guide and prescribed information explaining how their deposit has been protected. A good letting agent will take care of all of this and any future updates.

Why is this important?
Some landlords, especially those new to the business, can be so keen to get a tenant into their property that they underestimate the importance of paperwork and referencing. But apart from complying with the law – they could face a £3,000 fine for failing to carry out Right to Rent checks, for example – it’s an important step to help prevent problems such as rent arrears or malicious damage, and therefore protects their investment.

Check-in
A good quality agent such as Hunters will check tenants into the property and provide a helpful service in giving them a tenant information guide, including local info, rubbish collection days, taxi numbers, contact info for a cleaner and more. They will also test the smoke alarms on moving in day and, if required, ensure carbon monoxide alarms are fitted.

Why is this important?
Happy tenants tend to stay longer and are more inclined to look after a property as if it were their own. As for the alarms, they are legal requirements and the agent will make sure they aren’t forgotten.

Throughout the tenancy
If a landlord chooses a fully managed service, they can relax and leave all the day-to-day running of the property to their letting agent. The agent will arrange and carry out periodic management visits for the landlord, which can uncover things such as illegal subletting, issues with neighbours, costly leaks etc. If repairs are required, they can recommend tradespeople and, if required, organise maintenance on their behalf.

Why is this important?
Management visits are not just to keep an eye on the property and ensure tenants aren’t ignoring any developing maintenance issues, but to find out if tenants are happy or if they are looking to leave and what may encourage them to stay.

Because a letting agent can manage the maintenance, it saves landlords having to deal with issues which may require particularly qualified tradespeople and need certificates, guarantees and warranties. If necessary, agents can also deal with emergencies such as lost keys and stave off perceived emergencies, such as light bulbs needing to be replaced, which is the responsibility of the tenant.

After a tenancy
Even when a tenant has moved on, letting agents are there to help, organising the switch of utilities and return of the deposit and also to ensure the property is left in good order which reduces any costly disputes after the tenant has moved out.

Why is this important?
If water is supplied by Welsh Water or Dee Valley Water, for example, a landlord is obliged to inform the provider of tenants’ details. Failure to do so means the landlord and the occupier are both responsible for paying the bill.

And deposit disputes can cost a fortune; get it wrong and landlords could face a penalty of up to three times the deposit, which could add up to over £10,000. The Tenancy Deposit Scheme dealt with 11,794 disputes in 2015-16, and the biggest dispute of the year cost £18,250!

(Source: https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/annual-reports.html)

Click here to contact Hunters or give them a call on 0800 008 6906.

Top 10 tips for managing a successful let - Hunters

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