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The role of the letting agent

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In this article
• The role and benefits of using a letting agent
• Letting agent obligations to landlords and tenants
• Considerations for renting with a letting agent

The main role of a letting agent is to manage properties for private landlords. Responsibilities range from sourcing tenants and collecting rent, to full responsibility and management. If the property you rent is managed completely by a letting agent, you may never officially meet your landlord (though you have the right to their name, contact details and address).

Letting agent obligations
Letting agents charge landlords fees for providing these services and as such they are contractually obliged to put their clients’ best interests first. Tenants are also charged fees for services and in return receive a duty of care; at no point can this contradict landlord’s interests. In other words, a letting agent will not be able to offer a tenant advice in relation to any aspect of the tenancy that would compromise a landlord’s position.

Benefits for tenants
There are several advantages of using a letting agent when looking for a property. A good letting agent will have expert local knowledge of the areas they serve. This is invaluable in saving you time and effort in finding the right home within the pressures of a strict time frame. Letting agents also provide a buffer between you and your landlord should issues or problems arise during the duration of the tenancy.

Most tenants are focused solely on choosing the right property; it is equally important to choose the right letting agent. A small amount of preparation and research can go far in preventing a negative experience with a rogue letting agent. For example, as a bare minimum, you should check that the letting agent belongs to a professional body. National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS), Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) are organisations that standardise a code of conduct to be adhered to. In cases where tenants’ rights are not met, the agency can be reported to the relevant governing body to help raise standards and resolve disputes.

Things to look out for
As letting agent loyalty is first and foremost with their client landlords, tenants need to be proactive regarding their own interests. This includes responsibility for knowledge and awareness of tenant rights and responsibilities; letting agents will never give you advice if it compromises the landlord’s position.

Be vigilant – check professional memberships with government bodies and redress schemes are current (The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property or The Property Redress Scheme); ensure the letting agent has client money protection; be cautious when paying a deposit and always demand a receipt. Never pay a fee to register with a letting agent (this is a criminal offence) and request and examine a list of all charges and fees payable before signing a tenancy agreement.

The Tenants’ Voice approved letting agents
The Tenants’ Voice has created a letting agent directory which clearly highlights letting agents who provide high standards to tenants as valuable paying customers. We have done the research for you; our approved status is a sign of trust which automatically distinguishes the good from the less scrupulous. Approval is only awarded to those letting agents that meet our strict criteria, code of conduct and agree to our tenant pledge.

Letting agents should:
• Be able to answer all your questions
• Show you all aspects of the property including operating appliances, heating and the boiler
• Provide you with copies of gas and electrical safety certificates and an energy performance certificate
• Produce a tailored tenancy agreement for you
• Provide you with your landlord’s contact details (name and address)
• Forward your requests for repairs to the landlord and provide prompt feedback with regard to what needs to be done, when it will be done, and who will act to get the work done

If the letting agent does not have a full management role then you need to make sure you understand what their responsibilities are and on what occasions you should contact the landlord directly.

Letting agent fees
Letting agents accrue income from landlords and their tenants. If you decide to rent through a letting agent you have to be prepared to pay letting agent fees in addition to the deposit and rental payments. Fees cover such services as reference and credit checks, checking-in and checking-out inventories, and administration costs. There may also be subsequent charges when the tenancy agreement is renewed, though some landlords are willing to cover this cost in return for a secure long term tenancy. In return for these fees, tenants receive a level of assurance that the business side of the tenancy will be managed professionally.

Where to go for help
If your letting agent is not meeting their obligations to you then you should file a formal complaint. Details of how to do this should be provided on their website or ask what the process involves in person. If you are not satisfied with the response to your complaint then you should report the letting agent to the relevant governing body or redress scheme.

Rate and review your letting agent in the TTV directory – the benefits in raising awareness to others in the rental community are clear, but your feedback is monitored by each approved letting agent who will actively seek to improve their business and raise standards for tenants. Approved TTV membership will be revoked where letting agents do not receive a majority of positive reviews.

This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.

The Tenants’ Voice advises tenants to act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to their tenancy. If you suspect an infringement of your rights then seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter 0808 800 4444

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