Finding a good letting agent 1st Aug 2016

There are a lot of letting agents to choose from these days so how do you pick the best? How do you find out who you can trust with what is arguably one of your biggest assets?

Choose a reputable dedicated letting agent.
A lot of estate agents turned to lettings when the recession hit and sales dropped. For a while now their interest has been firmly back in sales, with the lettings arm of their businesses becoming side lined as a result. There is a wealth of regulation and legislation surrounding the Private Rented Sector, and unless this is kept abreast of and fully adhered to, then landlords could find themselves (not their agent) in very hot water.

In life, you get what you pay for.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to services. There are a lot of letting agents out there offering highly competitive management fees, however these letting agents cannot possibly meet their overheads AND offer a quality service. The day to day management of your investment property will be compromised. Also beware as budget letting agents recoup fees by adding on all sorts of miscellaneous extras charges. In the lettings industry cheapest certainly is not best.

Choose an agent who is a member of industry lead bodies.
Within Scotland quality letting agents will likely be members of the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) and the Council of Letting Agents (CLA), and Landlord Accreditation Scotland (LAS). Check they belong to these or other recognised professional associations.

Visit or speak to the letting agency about what they offer.
Do your research and draw up a shortlist. Then find out about their services in detail. What services are offered and how much do they cost? Where will your property be advertised – do they use the main lettings portals such as Citylets, Lettingweb and Zoopla? Will there be a letting board? How are tenants reference checked? What happens with the deposit and rent? Which deposit scheme is used? What happens regarding inspections and check outs? Do you get written reports? Do you get monthly rent statements? Ask to see copies of the Landlord Agreement and the Lease up front and read these carefully before signing up to any agent.

Ask about all fees and charges.

You need to know where you stand and reputable letting agents will be up front and transparent about all costs and will have no hidden fees. Check your up-front fees. Are there re-letting fees? Inventory fees? Reference checking fees? Charges for doing a new lease or any other paperwork? Any administration fees? Are there any charges when the property is vacant? Does the letting agent charge for any other services?

How long has the letting agent been in business?
It is one thing if the agent has expanded their business and opened new premises (a good sign as obviously they are offering good service and their business is thriving), however it’s another matter if they are new to the game and therefore lacking in experience. Reputable letting agents undoubtedly have experience with almost every issue you may encounter. They will have been around for a number of years and have grown through word of mouth recommendations.

Ask about trades contacts.
A good letting agent who has been around for a while will have built up good relations with local tradesmen who will offer a responsive service. It is vitally important that there are experts on hand (also out of hours) who can respond to any issues within your property. Before signing up with any letting agent ask them about their trades contacts.

Are you confident that the agent is fully up to date with all legislation?
The rental industry is becoming increasingly regulated to ensure properties meet acceptable standards. Landlords have a responsibility to ensure legal requirements are being met. There are large fines for non-compliance. Letting agents will be able to advise on all requirements. As mentioned above, they will also have good trades contacts who can carry out necessary safety checks, including landlord gas safety certificates, electrical safety certificates, heat and smoke alarms, and legionella testing. Does the agent arrange all of these for you and take responsibility for ensuring the checks are done when required, eg annually? New legislation is being introduced to this industry the whole time, and so it is essential you have somebody who is in the know keeping you updated, and dealing with this for you.

Does the letting agent have professional indemnity insurance?
Check the agent does carry insurance which protects against them being sued. Insurers will only offer packages to letting agents who meet certain standards and criteria.

Letting agents provide a buffer zone between landlord and tenant. Landlords who manage their own properties can run into all sorts of problems if things go wrong with the tenants. You risk having them on the phone to you at 3am, demanding their toilet is fixed. By using a letting agent, the relationship is kept on a business footing, allowing you to relax, knowing your property is in safe hands. They will be able to guide you through the vast amount of legislation that landlords must deal with, as well as dealing with the complexities of lettings, and offering solutions to practical issues. Not everyone is suited to being a hands-on landlord. Your rental property needs to be managed, and if you don’t have the time or the skill to do this, they you need to find a letting agent who does. Delegating the work to someone who knows what they are doing makes sense, in that it saves times and shifts the responsibility to someone you can trust to do a good job. However use the above guidelines and choose a letting agent carefully.

The Key Place is one of Scotland’s leading letting agencies, managing properties throughout Edinburgh & the Lothians, Central Scotland and the Scottish Borders. We are members of industry lead bodies. Please contact us now if you would like any advice on your rental property.