If you're currently a landlord or are thinking about renting your property out, you might be interested in finding out what help letting agents can give you.
The Letting Agent Code of Practice
From 31 January 2018 any person working for or as a letting agent has to adhere to the Letting Agent Code of Practice. The code practice should help landlords understand what they should expect if they rent their property through a letting agent.
Under the code a letting agent must:
- Carry out their business in a way that complies with all appropriate legislation.
- Be honest, open, transparent and fair in their dealing.
- Provide information in a clear and accessible way.
- Apply all procedures and policies consistently and reasonably.
- Carry out services provided using reasonable care and skill.
- Make sure all staff and any subcontractors comply with the code and any other legal requirements
- Keep records to show that a they have met the requirements of the code.
- Make sure that all private information is handled sensitively and in line with legal requirements.
- Respond to all enquiries and complaints within reasonable timescales and in line with any written agreements.
- Inform the appropriate person promptly of any important issues or obligations in the use of the property..
- Not unlawfully discriminate against a landlord, tenant or prospective tenant on the basis of age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
- Not to provide information that is deliberately or negligently misleading or false.
- Not communicate in any way that is abusive, intimidating or threatening.
If you think your letting agent is not complying with the code, you should complain, in writing, to the letting agent. The complaint must be dealt with with the letting agent’s complaints procedure.
If you are still unhappy after the letting agent has responded to the complaint you can apply to the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber.
Find out more about the Letting Agent Code of Practice.
What can an agent help you with
The role of an agent for you as a landlord is that they:
- Act for the landlord and have a duty of care to the tenant
- Find a tenant for you and manage the property (including dealing with repairs) or just manage the property once you’ve found a tenant
- Help you, as the landlord, comply with all relevant statutory obligations.
What an agent does not do:
- Agents are not legally responsible if there is an accident on the property or the property is damaged – you still need to get adequate and appropriate insurance and make sure the property meets legal obligations.
- They can register the deposit for you - but as landlord, you still retain responsibility for ensuring it is registered.
- Register you as a landlord – you need to register as a landlord with your local authority.
- Apply for an HMO license for any property that is rented out to three or more unrelated tenants.
Check your letting agent knows what they’re doing
Make sure that any letting agent you use knows what they are doing. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Are they a member of a suitable professional membership organisation?
- Ask if they have client money protection. Client money protection is a scheme that protects rental payments.
- Make sure you know what happens to the tenant's deposit and how much rent is paid.
- Ask if they have a complaints and disciplinary procedures.
- What are their qualifications/experience?
What is the agent's track record?
- Ask about their rent arrears, average periods that their properties are empty for, and condition of properties at the end of tenancy;
- Ask how efficiently they deal with repairs. Are their properties well presented? Do they act fairly?
- Ask if you can speak to some of the agent's existing clients/tenants.
Check what other properties they let – this might help you find a letting agent who will attract tenants interested in a property like yours.
Ask some questions about day-to-day activities
Ask about emergencies – how quickly will their maintenance staff be at the property? How will they inform you of any problems? What do they define as emergencies? How do tenants contact the letting agent outside of working hours if there is a maintenance issue? What qualifications or accreditations do their maintenance staff have?
How often do they arrange with tenants to inspect the property? What does the checklist look like that they go through for each inspection?
When they first take your property on, how will they check it meets fire and safety standards?
What kind and costs of maintenance will they pay for and speak to you about later? Is there a cost of repairs that they will need your approval to do?
What is the standard charge (fees are usually a percentage of the rental income over the letting term) and how often do you have to pay them?
- What is included in the standard charge and when will they charge you extra (such as the tenant renewing the agreement or arranging an energy performance certificate)?
- Do they expect payment when the property is empty?
- Some agents operate a no let, no fee basis, so double check this.
Check they are registering tenants’ deposits with tenancy deposit schemes. Ask which one they use, so you are well informed. Remember registering tenancy deposits is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility.
What are their opening hours and where is their office located – are both convenient for you?
Check how often they send out statements and how the payments are broken down.
After you’ve chosen a letting agent
Check the agreement you have with the letting agent with a legal lettings expert. One hidden clause could be that a letting agent has a minimum term of the contract with you, so you pay the fees even if you cancel the agreement – there may even be cancellation fees.
Check any payments taken from your account by your letting agent.