How to choose a letting agent: our top tips

As a landlord, you’re probably kept pretty busy dealing with repairs, difficult tenants and property purchases so you don’t need to deal with problem letting agents too. If you pay a letting agent to look after your property, then they should be working in your interests.

While most of them will, there are plenty of letting agent ‘horror stories’ around too. If your agent fails to carry out proper checks on tenants, or doesn’t deal with maintenance issues, then you could find yourself hit with a big bill to put things right.

As letting agents aren’t regulated, it’s up to you to make sure you choose the right one. Here’s what to look for:

1) Membership of the National Approved Letting Scheme

This is the equivalent of the National Landlord Accreditation Scheme. Letting agents who are members of the scheme will have to meet certain standards of customer service. Also look for membership of national trade associations (such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the National Association of Estate Agents). These bodies have a code of conduct for their members.

2) Check for charges

Check through the contract you have with your letting agent very carefully before you sign up. Some will make excessive administration charges for things like carrying out an inventory or signing up new tenants. It’s worth getting contracts from a few local agents and comparing their charges. Sometimes, those with the lowest monthly fees will be those who have the highest extra charges. It can be more cost effective to go with an agent who has a higher up-front charge but doesn’t make extra charges.

3) Talk to other landlords

It can be difficult to work out from a contract how competent an agency will be. If you can get a personal recommendation, you’re likely to be on to a winner. Sometimes, agencies simply don’t have a culture of efficiency, so you may find that repairs take a long time to do, or that they don’t chase up late rent payments quickly. Remember, though, that staff change and a recommendation from a year or two ago may not be relevant now.

If you do end up with a bad agent, your remember that your landlords insurance can help protect you from problems, especially if it includes protection against void periods as well as cover for repair costs.

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