In this article
• The importance of finding a good letting agent
• Different types of letting agents
• The importance of professional memberships
The Tenants’ Voice believes that good letting agents are part of the solution to improving the rental industry. The cost of fees for local knowledge, well trained staff, good contacts for repairs and property maintenance, an official complaints process, and mediation with your landlord are services worth paying for when they result in great service for tenants. Furthermore, letting agents have legal obligations to ensure their landlords meet necessary responsibilities such as the annual gas safety certificate.
It is very important for tenants to remember that ultimately, letting agents work for their client landlords. It is too often the case that tenants have unrealistic expectations of agents which can lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment.
Types of letting agent
Services range from finding and vetting tenants and collecting rent to full management. You will need to be aware of what level of service your letting agent provides and what their responsibilities are to you and your landlord. Understanding their role will improve relations:
These agents find tenants for landlords. Under the Accommodations Act (1953) they are unable to charge for registering you or for giving you addresses of properties to rent, but some agents will try to do this. Avoid them; you should only be charged for the property you rent and you can register for free with as many agencies as you like.
2. Finders and managers
These do the finding and also manage the property. In other words, you deal with the agent rather than the landlord when you need repairs and so on. If you can find a reputable and professional finder and manager agent then this can make your tenancy much less stressful.
3. Estate Agents
These often double as letting agents by finding and managing rental properties. They should be registered with professional organisations which have strict codes of professional conduct.
4. Online Letting Agents
True to the name, online letting agents often don’t have a physical office, but operate via the internet. It’s common to find them in online property listing websites, like Rightmove. Online letting agents are considerably cheaper than their high-street counterparts and often offer more support and coverage, even during the late hours, but may sometimes lack the expertise or features like arranging viewings.
Visit this link to find a list of online letting agents.
If you look at the window of any letting agency you are bound to see a range of stickers – have you ever wondered what they mean? Some advertise online websites where you can view their listed properties, but others relate to professional bodies for the lettings industry that you may never have heard of before.
The benefit of professional memberships for tenants is clear –member agents must operate within the professional body’s code of conduct and in the case of a dispute tenants may file a complaint, seek regulation of the industry and possible resolution. It is worth noting that it is not compulsory for letting agents to be a member of one of these bodies, therefore voluntary associations are a positive sign that the letting agent has good business principles. However, be aware that some agents display these logos long after their membership has expired. A quick check on the professional body website is all it takes for tenants to verify current memberships.
Where to go for help
Examples of reputable professional bodies include:
NALS – the National Approved Letting Scheme – http://www.nalscheme.co.uk/
ARLA – the Association of Residential Letting Agents – http://www.arla.co.uk/
RICS – the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors- http://www.rics.org/uk/find-a-member/
HOS – the Housing Ombudsman Service – http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/
TPO – the Property Ombudsman – http://www.tpos.co.uk/find-member.php
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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