A substantially slowing sales market has lead to many estate agents who have never before dealt with residential lettings to begin doing so in order to supplement their income.
According to ARLA-registered Leaders – one of the UK’s largest independently owned letting specialists – this means there are now more novice letting agents out there than ever, potentially putting landlords and tenants at risk through lack of knowledge and experience.
This is on top of the fact that there are no formal regulations governing letting and estate agents. At present, anyone can open up an estate agency without any qualifications or permission from any official body.
As demand for letting services increases, Leaders – along with Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) – are urging the public to take care when choosing their letting agent.
A good letting agent needs an in-depth knowledge of the local letting market; a thorough understanding of the complex legislation surrounding letting; and the resources to look after the needs of a range of clients efficiently and professionally.
Says Leaders managing director, Paul Weller: “Letting is not something you can easily dip into and out of when it suits. There is a lot at stake, not least the safety and wellbeing of tenants and the success or failure of a landlord’s investment.
“Getting it wrong can have dire consequences for landlords, including huge legal expenses, loss of rent, long void periods, loss of tenant’s deposit and penalties for not complying with legislation. For tenants it can be a matter of life and death if legislation regarding the safety of the property and its contents is not complied with.”
For peace of mind it is best to choose an agent that is a member of a professional body, such as ARLA, NAEA or RICS. ARLA membership shows that the agent has been practising lettings for at least two years and has at least one ARLA-qualified member of staff.
Fortunately, according to a recent survey by Leaders, the majority of landlords are well aware of the benefits of using an ARLA member agent, with 80% saying they consider ARLA membership to be important. However worryingly, 20% were either not bothered about ARLA membership or thought it only a consideration when choosing their letting agent.
There are six key questions you should always ask a letting agent before deciding whether to rent or let through them. And the answer to all six should be YES:
Are you a member of a professional body?
Do you maintain separate client accounts?
Are you bonded?
Do you hold professional indemnity insurance?
Are your staff qualified?
Are you a member of a tenancy deposit protection scheme?
Says Paul: “As well as being able to answer yes to all the above, your chosen letting agent should ideally specialise in lettings, with many years of experience in the industry and an excellent local reputation. The staff should have a thorough understanding of your local market and most importantly, they should be completely impartial. We strongly advise landlords never to take the advice of an agent who is also selling you a property.”
To check if an agent is an ARLA member, visit www.arla.co.uk