Jumping through hoops: the 145 laws and 400 regulations for lettings
Published: 18/11/2019The right lettings agent can be the difference between a successful tenancy, or a disaster for all concerned. And we’re not just talking about empty homes from poor marketing, badly-checked tenants, or unpaid rent. When lettings agents get things wrong, it can now cost a whole lot more with cases running into tens of thousands of pounds.
Given the size of that wallet-stinging figure – not to mention the heartache, headache and stress of having a tenancy go wrong – it makes a lot of sense to know what to ask when finding a letting agent in Berkhamsted or Tring to manage your property, and to find out just what different agents do for their percentage.
You might be thinking: “Come on, agents get money for basically doing nothing”, but having a quality letting agent protects both the tenant and landlord as well as making the process fast and smooth.
The agent’s job is to make a tenancy an easy ride for everyone – you’d hardly want one that made things difficult! But that means staying on top of more than 145 laws and 400 regulations (and that’s before we’ve talked about marketing or maintenance!)
Most importantly, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you need an agent you can trust and rely on when issues arise. So how do you make sure that your agent is qualified to let your property? One tip is to always use a company that is ARLA Propertymark Protected.
ARLA Propertymark Protected agents are regulated to make sure they not only adhere to the law, but work to an even higher standard than legislation demands. They are also backed by a Client Money Protection Scheme; have to take regular training to keep up with legal changes and best practice; and have a nationally recognised Code of Practice.
Agents who are part of the scheme submit independently audited accounts to Propertymark annually and are members of an independent redress scheme, as well as having professional indemnity insurance.
In a nutshell, membership of Propertymark is a sign that your agent is not only compliant with the law, but committed to transparency, and gives you the reassurance that, if anything were to go wrong, the ARLA Client Money Protection Scheme (CMP) would be there to step in and reimburse tenants and landlords.
There are usually three levels of service offered: Tenant Find; Letting and Rent Collection; and Full Management. As you can guess, the first means that the agent finds a tenant, but then you take over all other aspects of the letting. Letting and Rent Collection means the agent finds a tenant and collects the rent, but ongoing management and maintenance issues are dealt with by you. Finally, Full Management means everything from the beginning to end is taken care of by the agent, and only involves you if something unusual needs dealing with (for example, a larger maintenance-spend like a boiler replacement).
You need to decide what level suits you. Full Management takes all of the maintenance, the rent collection and any other issues off your plate - it costs a little more, but it’s designed to ensure all regulations are met. There are various pieces of legislation in place to protect tenants and an agent should be aware of these and able to advice on compliance. The legal responsibility remains with you, however, so it’s important to know the advice you get is correct.
Full Management also means the agent should deal with the security deposit, and hold it for you after registering it with a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme. Make sure your agent gives you details of which scheme they use, and gives you the confirmation that the deposit has been registered. In a fully-managed property the agent also handles the rent and maintenance monies and must show you their membership of a Client Money Protection scheme. Moreover, all money must be held in a Client Account, separate from the agent’s general business bank account, and your agent must be able to demonstrate this. Without all of these in place, the agent is operating illegally.
Whatever level of service you choose from your estate agent, of course you must also ask for proof that they know how to market your property. Good marketing is essential and that means you need to check that your agent is using the main internet portals.
But do take their advice on what level of rent can be expected based on location, size, specification etc. A good agent will be able to show you similar properties they have let locally, so you can be assured they are not aiming too low, or too high.
Finally, it is important to put your property on with a lettings agent who is nearby. Not only will that make viewings easier, it will also mean that they have in depth local knowledge of the area, how to market it and also a list of existing and reliable tenants who might be interested in your property.
If you are having the property fully managed, a local agent makes far more sense to keep on top of all the annual certifications, and other maintenance issues, but make sure the agent doesn’t outsource things like maintenance or accounts to a department on the other side of the country, where nobody knows you or the property. With Nash Partnership, we don’t outsource anything: it’s all dealt with by our experienced teams in Tring and Berkhamsted.
Letting out a property may look as simple as falling off a log, but to have the best experience it’s really important to have an agent who can demonstrate their quality and reliability. That way you can feel confident knowing that you and your tenant are protected, and that your property will be well looked after.
In the end, knowing what questions to ask, and doing your research on your letting agent, will pay huge dividends.
If you have a property in or around Berkhamsted or Tring and would like to talk about renting it, our lettings teams would love to hear from you.
Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000
Tring office: 01442 820420