Once upon a time there was a couple – let’s call them Jack and Jill – who wanted to find the perfect property to let in a lovely town, just south of London. They didn’t have the time to look themselves, as they were both busy people. So they decided to find a local agent to help them out.
The problem was that they didn’t know the area very well. After walking around for a while, they stumbled on a small looking agency on the corner. There were properties in the windows and the man seemed friendly, so they were quick to give their details in order to find somewhere as soon as possible. A couple of days later, the agent rung them back and told them that he’d found them the perfect property to let. To get access to it, the agent insisted they sign quickly and then he’d take them there immediately. But they had to sign just to ensure they got the property before anyone else did, he hastily added.
After about a half-hour drive out onto the edge of town, Jack and Jill started looking a bit concerned. They asked the agent why it was so far out and were even more dismayed when they saw the building. It wasn’t exactly in good condition, let’s just put it that way.
We don’t think this represents what we’re looking for, said Jill. Could we please see something else?
Sorry, that’s not possible, replied the agent. You’ve already signed a document. It says that if for some reason you pull out of the contract you’ll owe us some money…
I’ll let you guess as to how this story ended. But needless to say, it wasn’t pretty and Jack and Jill ended up forking out a LOT of cash. And herein lies the moral of the tale: make sure you know what you’re signing when you get involved with a letting agent. This is because one of the main complaints about letting agents is the lack of clarity regarding costs, which can be extortionate, particularly for those who are impressionable, young and/or keen to find a property as soon as possible. There are often extra admin payments too. The key here is to make sure that any fees are outlined in a clear and transparent way.
Here are 4 things to check before you sign up with an agent:
Recommendations work for a reason. If you’re looking for a letting agent and you don’t know the area very well, just like poor old Jack and Jill, try putting some feelers out to get an understanding of reputable agencies. This takes the stress out of finding a property as you know you’re in reliable hands. Membership of the UK Landlords Association (UKALA) means that they must adhere to a code of practice and another bonus is that they utilise Client Money Protection Insurance to protect your cash during the tenancy.
Depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll have more luck with some agencies than others. For example, some agencies specialise in large, family homes, while others will have an array of studios on their books. You can get a feel for the agency’s target market by looking at their website.
Deposit Protection Scheme
The Deposit Protection Scheme is a must, so it’s important to double-check the agent will put the cash in this within 30 days of the tenancy starting. This is a legal requirement and ensures your money is safe in the event of a dispute about damage when you leave the property.
Make sure that the letting agent regularly visits the property to check for maintenance problems. As well as this, the agent should carry out gas safety checks once a year to make sure the property conforms to the right standards. Ask the agent if there’s an out-of-hours service so someone can get there urgently if necessary. And always ask them to inform you of costs as soon as possible!
We hope these tips help you when searching for a honest and reliable letting agents (yes, they do exist). Common sense and searching questions are a must. Good luck!