Letting agents should stand proud of their record helping both landlords and tenants, especially in these more difficult times.
That’s the view of an industry supplier - outsourcing service The Letting Partnership - which says agents should champion their demanding role.
The supplier’s compliance and development manager Gill Waller says: “They play a vital role in helping people to find housing which is fundamental to leading a happy life, yet we think the level of service they provide can sometimes go under the radar.
“For a lot of landlords, the property they are renting out is their biggest asset, and often it has been a home that they have invested time and emotion in. When a landlord entrusts their property to a letting agent, they do so for the reassurance that all rules and regulations are being complied with and the knowledge that their investment is safe.”
Waller suggests there are three areas of critical importance to the industry where letting agents come into their own.
1. Starting out
“Renting out a property always poses a risk, and for some landlords handing over the keys to a stranger can be the cause of immense stress and worry” she suggests.
Advertising the property, carrying out covid-safe viewings and finding a suitable tenant is only the tip of the iceberg. Letting agents must carry out a variety of checks to ensure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ and provides a safe and healthy environment.
This includes possessing an understanding of safety regulations such as the Furnishings (Fire and Safety) Regulations, Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations, Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations for England.
2. Moving in
When a tenancy is agreed, the agent must ensure they provide the tenant with statutory documentation such as a current EPC or Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable). Failure to serve all of the correct documents at the start of the tenancy could jeopardise their chances of taking back possession of the property at a later date.
Agents are also required to provide a detailed inventory, or schedule of condition, which records all of the contents, fixtures and fittings of the property and their state of repair. It is crucial this is carried out thoroughly as any future claim on the deposit for dilapidations will rely on it as evidence.
“During the course of the tenancy the letting agent will monitor the condition of the property and will liaise with the tenant over any repairs. Letting agents have a duty of care to both landlords and tenants, often acting as mediators between the two parties and calming the waters where necessary” Waller states.
3. Money matters
All money received from the tenant must be handled correctly to protect the interests of both the tenant and the landlord, and an audit record kept.
If landlords live overseas then, as well as management of the property, there is also the Non-Resident Landlord tax to consider. Without an agent it would fall to the tenant to operate the scheme.
The agency as a whole must also comply with all of the relevant regulations, such as having Client Money Protection to protect landlords and tenants’, while making sure client accounting runs like clockwork. They remove all the stress for landlords of chasing rent, reconciling payments, paying contractors and tax. Agents are also on hand to guide landlords through the processes around the end of the tenancy.
Waller concludes: “At the end of the tenancy there is a very strict process that must be followed to legally obtain possession of a property. The rules surrounding this process have been changing constantly over the last year as a result of the pandemic – sometimes on a weekly basis! Letting agents have had to keep up to date with these changes.
“The role of the letting agent has never been so important, while the work involved in letting and managing a residential property has never been so involved and yet so underrated. Letting agents should feel proud.”