Here are five tips on finding a good agent. They could save you time, money and a whole lotta stress.
1 Do your research
Letting agents fall into two categories: the good ones, who deliver what they promise; and the bad ones, who milk you dry. To avoid the latter, do your homework and never take an agent at their word.
All agents will sing their own praises, but what do their current or former clients think? If you know landlords in your local area, ask who they use. Word of mouth recommendations speak volumes. Also look at online reviews and marketing. Look at property adverts in local papers or on the web. Who looks professional and will attract the kind of tenant you’re looking for?
2 Are they registered?
Much work has been done in recent years to clean up the industry, which had quite a shady reputation. As a result, agents must be signed up to one of three schemes: the Ombudsman Services Property, Property Redress Scheme or the Property Ombudsman.
3 Ensure an agent can’t dash with your cash
All letting agents in England must be signed up to a Client Money Protection Scheme. This protects landlords and tenants if an agent goes bust – or leaves town in a hurry. If an agent isn’t signed up to the scheme, steer well clear.
4 Inspections and maintenance
Every landlord has nightmares about a tenant trashing their property. For this reason, regular inspections are important. Make sure your agent agrees in writing to do this.
Maintenance work and the use of contractors is another key issue. Some dodgy agents take kickbacks from contractors. Others charge landlords more for maintenance work than it cost and pocket the difference. Be clear about an agent’s policy on contractors and insist on seeing all invoices.
5 Read the contract
A good agent will detail all costs and services in a contract. Go over this carefully. Look out for hidden fees or clauses that tie you in for a long period of time.
One common pitfall is the Tenancy Renewal Fee (TRF). This is a fee you pay if a tenant continues to rent your property after the initial fixed term. It means you don’t just pay a finder’s fee, you get hit with a fee every time the tenant renews.
A small TRF isn’t unreasonable – there may be some admin involved in renewing a tenancy. But some sharks charge close to £1,000 for what amounts to a bit of photocopying.