Not all property owners or investors want the responsibility of being a landlord in practice. The idea of having to organise maintenance, being at the beck and call of a tenant or preparing agreements, deposits and rent are enough to leave anyone overwhelmed.
Despite having the most compliant and co-operative tenants, there is still plenty of work that comes with being a landlord and requires their full attention. It is for this reason that many choose to hand over the responsibility to experienced letting agents like City and County.
Below, we outline what agents look after on behalf of a landlord or property investor, to help you decide whether you want to self-manage, or leverage the services of a letting agent.
What does a letting agent do for a landlord?
Letting agents take on the management of properties on behalf of private and portfolio landlords. In exchange for a monthly fee, they ensure that landlords are fulfilling their legal obligations, while also looking after the property maintenance and repair that is required and upholding tenant relationships, providing a route of communication.
There is usually a choice of Fully Managed and Let Only packages offered by letting agents. At City and County, we offer two different levels of Full Tenancy Management; you can find details of both services on our Landlords page.
Letting agents have a duty of care towards their clients and are contractually obliged to put the interests of landlords first. Much of the day-to-day work is tenant facing, but ultimately, serves landlords.
Good tenant relations mean there is no reason for rent to be delayed, and problems with the property are dealt with quickly before they have the opportunity to escalate and become more expensive.
Letting agents can also provide expert and specific, localised advice to investors and landlords, tailored to their property. This means advising of any areas that can improve the rental value of the property and the correct rent for the local area.
What is a letting agent responsible for?
The responsibilities of a letting agent are determined by the level of management you want them to have. They often include some or all of the following:
Marketing your property
Including taking the right images, highlighting special features and significant practical aspects of the property, and creating a buzz around your property by promoting it on the right platforms.
Finding and referencing tenants
This means finding the right tenant – not the first tenant. Part of the referencing process means running background and financial checks, character references and immigration status checks. You will need to gather official documentation like copies of passports. It is a criminal offence to let a property without doing this.
Creating tenancy agreements and schedule of condition
Tenancy agreements must be legally compliant and fair, and tenants should be provided with a copy before moving in. A full property inventory or schedule of condition details and records the condition of the property and its contents, including ‘fixed’ features like cupboards, doorframes and flooring, at the beginning of a new tenancy.
Protecting tenant deposits
If you are offering an assured shorthold tenancy, a Tenant’s deposit must be placed in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it.
Failing to do this can result in fines.
Collecting rent and handling arrears
Part of a letting agent service is to look after rent collection, often prompting tenants to organise monthly Standing Order payments, and providing the details to do so. They will also chase up late payments.
Protecting tenant personal data
The process of a rental agreement means that personal information will be passed over from the tenant. The handling of the data will need to comply with GDPR ruling, and it is best practice to give tenants a privacy notice that explains how their data will be used and stored.
Complying with health and safety rules
Tenants have the legal right to live in a rental property that is in a good state of repair and hazard-free. To ensure this, landlords are required, by law, to ensure the property is fit to live in.
- Electrical items must be safe and checked every five years.
- Smoke alarms are installed and working on each floor
- Kitchen, bathrooms and toilets are sanitary
- Rooms with solid fuel-burning stoves are installed with carbon monoxide alarms
- Any gas equipment is installed by Gas-Safe registered engineers and inspected each year.
- Any furnishings must adhere to Fire and Furnishing regulations.
Providing tenants with legal information
Landlords are legally required to provide tenants with the following information at the start of a tenancy:
- Full name, address and contact details
- A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for the property
- A copy of the Gas Safety Certificate for the property
- A copy of the Electrical Installation Report with any necessary remedial works actioned within the permittable time
- If the agreement is an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, tenants must be given a copy of the governments How to Rent guide.
Organising repairs and maintenance
Landlords are responsible for the upkeep of their property. As well as general maintenance, this also includes structural repairs to the roof and exterior and taking care of issues with gas, heating, hot water and electrics. The property must be inspected regularly, and problems must be resolved quickly.
When it comes to evicting tenants, there are strict legal procedures that landlords must follow. If accused of carrying out an illegal eviction, you could face criminal proceedings.
Landlords need to obtain a court order and serve a Section 21 notice before moving forward with the steps that are outlined in the tenancy agreement.
This list is not exhaustive, and services and responsibilities with vary between agents. For a list of what our full tenancy management services offers, please visit our Landlords page.
How to choose a letting agent?
When looking for a letting agent to manage your property, it is best practice to make sure that they are registered with a professional body, such as the following:
- Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
- UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
- National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
- National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS)
- Property Ombudsmen’s Service
- Property Redress Scheme
By choosing an agent that complies with the rules and regulations set by these associations, landlords have more protection.
It would help if you had an idea of the level of service you are looking for and whether the agent offers these services. It is also best practice to look at reviews from both other landlords and tenants and meet with the agents to see if you build rapport.
You might want to ask questions such as
- How often they let properties in the area?
- What type of tenants they usually let to?
- How do they vet tenants?
- How would they intend to market the property?
All good agents will be fully transparent and forthcoming with their answers, giving you enough detail to make an informed decision. When it comes to fees, going with the cheapest agent might leave you facing difficulties and more costs in the future.