Some Simple Tips On Choosing A Lettings Agent
By Marcus Whewell, CEO of Guild of Professional Estate Agents
Given the rapid growth of the lettings industry, it is surprising that there is still no requirement for lettings agents to meet any minimum standards of compliance, nor is any accreditation qualification required.
With properties in such short supply it can be all too easy for an eager tenant to ‘snap up a bargain’ and not worry too much about the record of the agent and/or landlord. Yet when things go awry, the consequences can be significant and dramatic.
A relative of mine was recently let a property with no gas safety certificate in place, no electrical checks, and with no receipt for his deposit. When the heating broke down, the tenants suffered for over 3 months whilst the landlord remained completely unaware of the problems. The agent also tried to retain 30% of the deposit for ‘administrative costs’.
Most tenants depend on their estate agent to protect their interests, and the same applies for landlords. However, it is not always transparent that a particular agent has the experience, moral compass, and fortitude to operate diligently and consistently.
Tenants and landlords rarely physically meet, so it is therefore vital for both to work with an agent that can be trusted. Fortunately, there are certain simple checks that anyone can and should always undertake:
- Is the agent a member of a recognised tenancy deposit scheme?
- Does the agent ask for suitable references?
- Does the agent check that landlords have a suitable mortgage in place e.g. ‘buy to let’?
- Do the staff in the agency receive regular training on legal changes and best practice?
- Does the agent regularly visit the properties in its rental portfolio to check everything is in order?
- Are the appropriate checks undertaken, such as gas safety and electrical testing at all the lettings properties?
- Are you clearly informed of your obligations, and the process and options available should you have a problem?
- Is the paperwork clear and accurate (including contracts, inventories, and receipts)?
- Is the agent part of a leading recognised, national network, such as ARLA, NALS, The Safe Scheme, or The Guild of Professional Estate Agents?
In the end, perhaps the acid test for any potential tenant is to decide whether he/she would be happy to trust their own property with this agent. If the answer is yes, then the odds are the tenant and the landlord will be in safe hands.
For more information on Guild of Professional Estate Agents visit www.guildproperty.co.uk
or telephone 020 7629 4141.