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Managing Your Letting Agent

04 May 2017

 Landlords, usually, have two options when choosing a letting agent – they can either take the “tenant finder only” or “tenant finder, plus full management”. Either way it is important to build a positive relationship with your letting agent. 

The main responsibility you have is choosing a reputable agent. 

The first, and most important step in choosing an agent is their reputation. This is built on many different qualities they may have. Here are a few to look out for: 

* Members of a professional trade association. This includes bodies such as the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or the National Association of Letting Agents (NALA). This will provide you with some assurance that you are choosing a company with high professional standards. 

* Client Money Protection and Indemnity insurance. Your letting agent should be able to assure you they have these in place, in order to save your own back, if the unthinkable were to happen. 

* Professionalism. Look at their previous work – this is where you need to let go of your inner snob, look at how they have presented each property on their register, even the ones that may not be as nice as others. It’s not the property you’re looking at, it’s the work. Look at photographs, descriptions, do they offer floor plans? 

What’s in your contract? 

Never rely on verbal agreements. You may as well have built your house out of straw if you’re going to rely on a verbal agreement. 

Read your contract carefully; don’t just assume your agent has told you every nitty gritty detail about what you’re getting into. Review all the terms of written agreement and do not be afraid to negotiate any you are uncomfortable with, before signing. Once you’ve signed there is no going back. 

Under a fully managed agreement, you would expect your agent to deal with all management issues, this includes; 

* Repairs 

* Rent collection 

* Inspections 

* Ending tenancies 

This, however, does not mean that you should forget about your property altogether! You need to check in with your agent to make sure you are aware of any issues that may arrive. Have a regular check-in with your agent to see how things are gong, this may be every few months, and after inspections is a good time to call. It is also recommended that you check the rent you are due after management fees, arrives in your bank safely. 

Agree what they can do in advance without consulting you. 

Do you want a call every time the guttering needs clearing? No? Then let your managing agent know where the boundaries are. This will allow you to avoid being involved with low cost essential repairs, whilst letting you keep an eye on any more expensive repairs and improvements. Having discussions with your agent before any costly repairs will also minimise any nasty surprises! It is always a good idea to ensure you have enough involvement to control expenses. 

A good agent will keep a diary for each property to ensure CP12 (gas safety) tests are up to date, and a programme if maintenance is kept up. This is an important but small expense, due to its importance, ask your agent to keep you informed about this. Relying, completely, on an agent is unwise. Do not be worried about chasing things up, keeping your own diary of when things need to be done or asking questions. If you’re managing agent fails to carry out statutory duties such as your gas safety test, you as the landlord will be held liable for failure as well. 

It’s not me, it’s you. 

Breaking a relationship with your agent isn’t the worst thing in the world. It may be you’ve found someone with a better deal regarding fees, or service, or if you want to go it alone. You must abide by the terms in your contract, which you agreed to. If you have ignored previous advice and have only agreed a verbal agreement, then you will most likely find the terms and conditions on your agents website, will apply. 

For whatever reason you are terminating the relationship with your agent, you must make sure that copies of references, tenancy agreements, energy performance certificates, gas and electricity safety reports and all paperwork involved in each tenancy are obtained. These documents will need to be either kept by you, if you’re going solo, or passed on to your new agent. 

You should always remain amicable, even if you really dislike your agent. Being amicable will ensure a much smoother hand over. 

Remember, your tenant has paid a deposit, which should be registered in a deposit holding scheme. Although the paperwork should be returned to the landlord, together with all the monies due, the tenants deposit is their money and should remain protected at all times. 

The easiest time to end a relationship with an agent, is at the end of a tenancy, so be prepared to think ahead. 

Always have a plan ‘Z’. 

If your landlord ceases to trade, for example if they 

1. Retire 

2. They’re selling up 

3. They’re merging 

4. They’ve gone into liquidation 

5. They’ve just closed the door and disappeared 

It is vital you protect yourself and your tenants as best you can, and stay within the law. Under these circumstances always 

1. Send a letter to dis-instruct your agent 

2. Inform your tenant to pay their rent directly to your bank account 

Main Points 

* Choose a agent who belongs to a recognised body 

* Check and amend contract terms 

* Be proactive in managing what your agent does for you – your legal responsibilities continue even if you use an agent