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Rise in number of landlords using letting agents may not be sustainable

The recent increase in the proportion of landlords who use a letting agent to help manage their property will naturally be welcome news for agents, but it is not clear at this stage whether the spike is sustainable.

A poll of 754 landlords conducted by the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) reveals that 61% currently use a letting agent, which is a 7% rise compared with the final quarter of last year.

This increase was described as a ‘break from the norm’ by the NLA as the proportion of landlords who use an agent has remained relatively consistent over the last few years, having only increased by 1% from 53% to 54% between 2014 and 2016.

The findings reveal that more landlords in the North East use an agent compared with any other English region, although agent usage is highest in Scotland at 79%.

The research also found that the proportion of landlords who self-manage has fallen by almost 10% over the last year, dropping from 46% to 39%.

According to Richard Price, executive director of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA), the fact that more landlords are relying on agents is testament to the professional work undertaken by the vast majority of agents in the private rented sector.

“It is an uncertain time for anyone who owns a buy to let property, so the steady hand of a reputable agent is exactly what many landlords are looking for right now,” he said.

But the recent changes to buy-to-let taxation, as well as well as the planned ban on charging fees to tenants, means that many landlords are likely to look for new ways to save money, which could see fewer using the services provided by letting agents.

“As landlords plan ahead to compensate for the tax changes over the next few years we would expect to see the number who use an agent to slowly fall away, and for more to start considering whether they are able to manage their properties themselves,” said Richard Lambert, NLA chief executive. 

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