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Top tips for choosing a letting agent

The letting agent you instruct for your buy-to-let property could have a major impact on your landlord experience.

While a decent letting agent should make your life as a landlord much easier, a incompetent agent could cause you unnecessary stress.

A good letting agent should market your property proactively, find you the right tenants, and handle the rental paperwork, all for a reasonable letting agent fee.

If you choose a management service, your agent should also capably deal with any day-to-day rental issues.

ARLA Propertymark has provided some top tips for choosing a letting agent that you may find useful as a landlord.

Phone a friend

Start by asking friends and family to recommend letting agents they have used in the past to help you pull together a list of potential agents that suit your needs. If your family or friends have had a positive experience, there’s a good chance you will too.

Check industry credentials

Although the government has recently proposed that property agents become regulated, at this moment in time letting agents in England are currently unregulated and there is a risk you could come up against a rogue agent. Look for the ARLA Propertymark logo to give you peace of mind that your money will be protected. ARLA Propertymark agents commit to the highest standards in the industry; use our find an expert tool or look for the ARLA Propertymark logo on websites, letting boards and in office windows.

Know what you should be charged for

As of June 1st, agents can no longer charge additional fees that are not considered ‘permitted payments’. This means lettings agents can only charge for a holding deposit capped at no more than one week’s rent, a refundable tenancy deposit capped at five weeks’, change or early termination of a tenancy, and payments arising from a default, which include late rent payments or replacing keys.

Speak to current tenants

Another way to get good insight into a letting agent is to ask your existing tenants if they’ve had a positive experience.

Local knowledge is best

Asking about the local area will give you a sense of how experienced the letting agent is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to choose an agent who has a branch in the area you’re looking at. If the agent is an expert in the local area they will be able to share key information with you, such as the cost of council tax and how far the property is from the nearest transport link.

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    Surely another criteria would be to ask to prospective letting agents whether they have 'handymen' (or 'handywomen') available to fix minor problems such as fitting a new toilet seat or a new curtain rail that really don't take much longer than a few minutes, and ask how much this would normally cost. My experience is that they sometimes charge very excessively for these very small jobs.

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    Avoid the big boys at all costs where you are just a number, the staff are all under 25, and wet behind the ears. I have an excellent letting agent here in Norwich, Spencer Ward, money paid into my account on the same day they receive it, I first used them 20 yrs ago, since then as properties have come vacant I have handed them over to them, not had a bad tenant from them yet.

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    A good letting agent is a valuable part of being in this business. A LA should be street smart not afraid of keeping a tenant in line & working for YOU not the tenant

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    I'm afraid the ARLA thing guarantees absolutely nothing. I spent the last 3 months using a huge agency, which an ARLA member, and in 3 months they put forward 3 candidates, the first of which was a bankrupt (under circumstances which made no sense) and his wife, and joint tenant, claimed to own a small business but had no idea how much she earned, without asking her accountant. A simple Google search revealed that the second candidate had been prosecuted for property fraud, the third candidate told glaring lies in his references, and then fourth candidate claimed he had sold his house for £1M +, (and therefore, rather conveniently, could not provide a previous landlord reference) but it later turned out that when he said he had sold the house, he meant he had received an offer for the house, and therefore had no money but stated his intention to move into my property anyway. He also had 3 large dogs and a long list of alterations he wanted made to the house, including concreting the driveway, which he wanted me to pay for. In other words, the agent was not only not vetting tenants, and leaving me to do it myself (presumably hoping that I was too naive to do it properly, so they could get their commission ASAP) but were actively putting forward wildly dangerous tenants, and when I finally put that to them, they turned the tables and tried to blame me. They were the second ARLA accredited agents I used - the first signed me up and I never heard from them again.

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