What is a letting agent?

Whether you’re renting your home for the first time or are currently a private landlord, you might be wondering how letting agents work, or if you can manage your property on your own.

What is a letting agent and what exactly are their responsibilities when it comes to letting a home?

In this guide, we’ll demystify their role by highlighting how to rent your property through an agency and why it’s better to enlist a letting agent’s help in your venture.

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How do letting agents work?

Put simply, a letting agent is someone who acts on behalf of the landlord and carries out tasks concerning your rental home in various degrees, depending on your arrangement and how much you’re paying them. Landlord fees will vary depending on the level of service you require.

When it comes to letting agents’ responsibilities, you can typically expect three levels of service, which are:

  1. Find tenants and arrange the letting of your property – a basic service that sees your home advertised to prospective new tenants and the initial arrangement of the let itself. This includes photography, website promotion and organising viewings. Once agreed, the letting agent will also follow through with credit checks, references, collecting the deposit, drawing up the tenancy agreement and overseeing the inventory.
  2. Collecting rent – a letting agent’s responsibilities can also include collecting rent from tenants on your behalf. The main benefit here is that a letting agent can act impartially and professionally, so you can avoid awkward and potentially difficult conversations about your tenant’s rent.
  3. Full management – Your letting agent will ultimately manage the day-to-day running of your home, including repairs and maintenance, cover renewals and facilitate renegotiations. They’ll also oversee problems, like tenancy deposit scheme disputes and act accordingly on your behalf.

Why use a letting agent?

Most landlords use letting agents because it’s easier. Plain and simple. Letting agents are also helpful when the landlord doesn’t live in the same area as the home they’re letting out.

Letting agents’ responsibilities are to provide you with expertise, professionalism and efficiency, especially where your own time is limited and would prefer someone else to deal with your tenants’ queries and problems – not to mention, they can advise you with their thorough understanding of current legislation whenever you may need it.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned landlord with a multimillion-pound portfolio or you’re a budding new landlord starting your career in property, letting agents provide peace of mind and support in your venture, especially where legal knowledge and awareness of compliance is limited. You can let the property yourself, but you may find it easier and cheaper in the long-run to use a letting agent.

Managing the rental home yourself means that you’re well-versed in the latest landlord regulations. You’re also expected to be hands-on and ideally live nearby. You will need to deal with tenants’ queries and problems immediately, and as such will have a fleet of reliable professionals, like plumbers and electricians, to fix problems where you can’t. A letting agent is qualified and has the appropriate contacts to cover these on your behalf.

Choosing a letting agent

If you decide that a letting agent is the way forward, how do you choose the right one? All good letting agents will be a member of a professional standards body, such as ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents). They will also have Client Money Protection (CMP) which is a scheme to cover your losses in the event of them going bust.

What is ARLA?

Letting agents are expected to adhere to a set of minimum standards in order to be recognised as a member of ARLA. These include:

  • Compliance with handling and accounting for clients’ money.
  • The mandatory ARLA Client Money Protection Bonding Scheme.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • Dealing with Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures.

As a member of ARLA, Wards regularly liaise with ARLA so that we are up-to-date with all the latest legislation and are fully conversant with their most current Code of Practice.

But that’s not all. On top of this, we make sure that in every branch of Wards, at least one member of our team holds a relevant industry qualification that’s recognised by ARLA. For all other staff, we operate ongoing training and evaluation to meet ARLA’s exacting standards.

Other similar bodies exist too – such as the UKALA (UK Association of Accredited Letting Agents) and NALS (National Approved Lettings Scheme) so, when you come to choose a letting agent, make sure yours is a member of at least one of these.

…and finally

Letting agents offer peace of mind, but you’ll still need to do your research and find the right one for you. If you’re considering managing your property through a letting agent, a good start would be to take a walk down your local high street and make some enquiries with local letting agents, like Wards. If you’re a private landlord or currently have your property managed with a letting agent, get in touch with us about Lets Switch and see if you can get a better deal.

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