What landlords should look for in their letting agent

As a landlord, you have a number of responsibilities towards your tenants, such as ensuring that their deposit is safely secured, and you make sure that regular maintenance is carried out in the building. However, before you get to the stage of renting out the property of others, you also have other responsibilities: to yourself.

There are a number of questions you should be asking prior to settling on a letting, or, if you have an existing relationship with one, continuously reviewing the relationship you have with them on an annual or biannual basis, so that you can determine whether you want to remain with the agent, change to another firm, or take on the role yourself. But what exactly do you ask? Whether you are new to the buy-to-let sector, or are a seasoned landlord but are still unsure what to ask, as a bridging loans lender, we understand the importance of asking the right questions and we are here to help.

What type of properties do you let, and what kind of tenant?

The majority of agents tend to do most things, however, some specialise in particular areas of the property market, such as rural homes, student lettings, larger family properties, or letting to LHA tenants.  If you know exactly who your target market is, then asking this question is of vital importance, as you want to choose a lettings agents who is experienced in your tenant market. You want a letting agent who knows the market inside and out and understands what is important to people renting in the area.

Can I see the contract?

It may seem like a glaringly obvious question that a landlord could ask a lettings agent, but you would be surprised just how many do not end up asking this or looking at all at the letting agency’s contract as well as the terms and conditions. However, this can be a big mistake to make, as not all lettings agencies share the exact same letting agent contracts. Before deciding to go with a lettings agent, you must see the contract, and make sure that it clearly states the fees, as well as the roles and responsibility of the lettings agent themselves. For example, do they check and prepare the inventory on your behalf, and do they carry out the handover? These are vital questions that need to be asked as well as verified in a contract.

landlords-lettings-agency

Who is responsible for maintenance issues?

Depending on whether or not the letting agent has been employed by you on a full management contract or not, if it is the case, then agreeing delegated responsibility would be beneficial. That means that should issues arise or disrepairs, the letting agent has to contact you prior to deciding to employ a contractor in order to go ahead with the work. This means you can keep an eye on outgoings, as well as potentially use your own contractor instead if you are uncomfortable with the amount they are charging when you know that you would be able to find someone who is cheaper.

How do you report?

The way in which a lettings agent reports to a landlord is incredibly important. This is especially the case for those who have a fully managed arrangement on their rental property, as they will be looking for an agent who is able to give them regular updates. Therefore, be clear from the very start with them on the level of reporting that you want, as well as getting them to state what they are willing to provide. For example, ask questions such as will they send you reports on a regular basis of the rent and charges? Will you be sent on the details via email?

Do you have samples of your documentation?

It is worth looking at exactly what they end up putting on their tenancy agreements, check out reports and their inventories. You should be making sure that the letting agents is putting as much detail on the prospective tenant as they possibly can. This is key, as it means that in the event that the tenant ends up defaulting at a later date,  there will be a wealth of information available in order to retrieve the payment. If you discover that they barely track any of their tenant’s information, you should consider this as an alarm bell, and avoid using them. It could end up costing you a considerable amount of money in the future (for example, the tenant moves out and the inventory was miscalculated).