If you are a landlord, or are planning to be one in the near future, one of the first questions you have to answer is "should I use a letting agent or should I do it myself?"
To help solve this dilemma, here is some analysis of what services a letting agent can provide and whether doing it yourself is a feasible option.
A letting agent can prepare a marketing plan for your property which will include setting a competitive rent, together with online and newspaper advertising to secure a tenant. You can prepare your own marketing plan but it will require some research regarding setting an appropriate rent and a financial outlay will be required to implement the advertising. It's worth remembering that a letting agent will often not charge you anything until the property is let.
One area that is often overlooked by landlords is the comprehensive referencing of prospective tenants. Cutting corners in this area can store up trouble for the future, with poor-paying tenants seriously eroding any potential profit. A letting agent is able to reference prospective tenants quickly and will exclude any potential problem applicants.
Preparation and signing of tenancy agreements
Tenancy agreements are available for download on the internet so this does not pose a major problem for a go-it-alone landlord. It is, however, preferable to do this process face-to-face rather than through the post, which is easily facilitated through the branch of a letting agent.
It is vitally important that the landlord carries out a full inventory of his/her premises prior to the commencement of any letting. The contents of this inventory must be agreed with the incoming tenant to ensure that there are no future disputes. A letting agent will carry out this inventory at both the start and the end of a tenancy and by providing a third-party assessment may help to reduce the number of disputes.
Since 6th April 2007, all deposits taken by landlords and agents have to be protected by a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme. All letting agents have a scheme already set up, making it easier than arranging one yourself.
A landlord will need to arrange building and contents insurance specifically for a tenanted property, which is easy enough to do. A letting agent will already have schemes available for a Landlord, usually at very competitive rates. They can also provide rent-indemnity insurance which covers non-payment of rent.
Every landlord’s nightmare is non-payment of rent and it's important that this is handled correctly. If you decide to handle this yourself, you will need to do some research on the dos and don'ts regarding rent arrears and eviction. Letting agents are fully conversant with all the legalities in this area and will ensure prompt action to address any issues.
If you are a bit of a handyman, this area may not pose any particular problem, but be aware that things do go wrong in the middle of the night, so go-it-alone landlords can expect early-hour calls from time to time. Letting agents have numerous contacts with professionals in all areas of property maintenance and can arrange for quotes or emergency call-outs for any repairs.
Compliance with legislation
Letting legislation is a minefield with laws covering gas regulations, electrical safety and furniture and furnishings to name a few. This is one area that a landlord going it alone can really fall down on, as they will need to keep up with the ever-changing legal landscape. Letting agents, on the other hand, deal with these issues on a daily basis and can keep you fully briefed regarding your responsibilities.
One of the first things to understand is that the easy option is to use a letting agent. However, they will charge a fee for every part of their service, which can mount up. Most letting agents will have different levels of service, so at the lower level you can use them just to find a tenant, or else use the top-end service and just sit back and relax. There is nothing regarding letting a property that can't be carried out by the landlord, but you will need to do some studying on the legal requirements and be prepared to be disturbed in the middle of the night for that 'emergency' repair.