The Landlord & Letting Agency

 
 

 

For a happy renting experience,
choosing the right landlord or letting agent
is as important as securing the right property!

Get on with your landlord
 

 
Some rentals are managed by a letting agency whilst others involve dealing directly with a private landlord.
Before you sign or pay anything, you need to be sure that the prospective agency/landlord is genuine, and legally entitled to rent you the property. You also want the person handling your tenancy to be fair, helpful and accessible.

Our sections on the private landlord and letting agency explain their respective roles, plus what to check, so you can spot the good guys and avoid the fraudsters!

 

Click here for our printable Landlord/Letting Agency Checklist

 
 
 

Private Landlord

House teal - cropped - wb
 
 

Role of a Landlord

 
To provide a property that is safe, ‘fit for purpose’ and in good condition.

To ensure tenants are aware of their responsibilities and to help resolve any problems before and during the tenancy.

To protect tenants’ deposits in a Government-approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
 
 
 

Things to Check

 
Firstly, verify that the landlord is the legitimate owner of the rental property.
Check ownership, identity and registration:
 

Confirm ownership

Search ownership records on the Land Registry Service.  (There may be a small fee).
 
 

Check identity

Get the landlord’s name and UK contact address – genuine landlords know they are legally required to provide this information, even if the rental is managed by an agent.

Check they do live at their stated address

Search UK Electoral Roll
Lists everyone who is registered to vote: free search for address, further info available for a fee

Ask for photo ID e.g. passport or driving licence, to ensure they are who they say they are.
 
 

Are they registered?

Look for landlords who are members of a professional body or accreditation scheme.  Your local authority can advise about accreditation schemes in your area.  Members must adhere to a Code of Practice, so you can be confident that your landlord has a duty of care to you as a tenant, and any problems can be referred to the relevant organisation.

Do a quick check to verify that the landlord is a genuine member, by contacting the relevant organisation or searching its website:

The National Landlords Association – NLA

 

Verify Your Landlord – NLA

 

The Residential Landlords Association – RLA

 

Check MembershipRLA

 
 

Do they fulfil their legal obligations?

Check that any security deposit will be safeguarded in a Government-approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDP).

Ask to see legally required documents for the property:  Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
 
 

Who manages the property?

If you will be dealing directly with the landlord, ask to meet them if possible, to help establish a good relationship. You want to feel confident that the landlord looks after his tenants as well as his property.
 
 

Accessibility

Check whom you contact for help when needed, including a 24/7 number for emergencies.  Do they live locally? How reliant will you be on them?

Overseas landlords should have a UK agent to handle the rental.   Verify the agent is genuine.  Never send money overseas in return for a promise that the keys will be sent to you – that’s highly likely to be a scam!
 
 

Experience

Ask if they have let before.  If not, be particularly careful.
 
 
 

Letting Agency

 
town-houses-white-backgd-cropped
 
 
 

Role of an Agent

 
Letting agents manage properties for private landlords.  This might mean just finding suitable tenants and collecting rent, or it could involve a full management service.

If your rented home is fully managed by an agency, it’s possible that you won’t have any direct contact with the landlord (although you do have a right to know their name and address).

The agent acts as an intermediary between the tenant and landlord, answering questions, forwarding tenants’ requests for repairs, ensuring landlords meet their obligations etc.  It is worth noting that whilst the agency has a duty of care to the tenant, ultimately they are working for their client – the landlord, and therefore must put his interests first.  So do be aware of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
 
 
7landlord with sign-cropped

Things to Check

 
Letting agents can generally offer more protection to house-hunters, than renting through a private landlord: they vet landlords, check properties and will be aware of scams.  But make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate agent; scammers sometimes set up professional-looking copies of lettings sites, complete with industry logos.
 
 

Check legitimacy

Look up the agent on Companies House – Get information about a company
 
 

Physical presence

It’s safer to use an agent who has been around for a few years and has an actual ‘shop’ you can visit (i.e. avoid agents that are internet only, as it could be fraudsters placing ads).
 
 

Are they registered?

Look for letting agents who are members of a recognised trade body or accreditation scheme; your local authority can advise about accreditation schemes in your area.  Members must adhere to a Code of Practice, so you can be confident that your agent has a duty of care to you as a tenant, and if there are any problems, you will have a system of redress.

Do a quick check to verify that the agent is a genuine member, by contacting the relevant organisation or checking its online directory:

The Association of Residential Letting Agents – ARLA

ARLA Directory

 

The UK Association of Letting Agents – UKALA

UKALA Directory

 

The National Association of Estate Agents – NAEA

NAEA Directory

 

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – RICS

RICS Directory

 

The National Approved Letting Scheme – NALS

NALS Contact/Find Agent

 
If you are interested in a property you have seen on a website, contact the agent via the details published on these trusted trade sites, so you can be certain you are dealing with the legitimate agent (rather than a possible fake copy).
 
 

SAFE – Safe Agent Fully Endorsedsafe-agent-white-backgd

Look for the SAFE Agent sign, which shows that tenants’ funds will be safeguarded in a Client Money Protection (CMP) Scheme.  Moving into a new property involves paying a large sum upfront (security deposit, fees and advance rent payment);  a CMP insurance scheme means you won’t lose your money in the event of fraud or the agent going out of business.  CMP schemes are voluntary, and separate from the statutory Tenancy Deposit Schemes.
 
 

Do they fulfil their legal obligations?

Check that any security deposit will be safeguarded in a Government-approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDP)

Ask to see legally required documents for the property – Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
 
 

Who manages the property?

If it is managed by the agent, find out what level of service they provide, and whether there are occasions when you would need to contact the landlord directly.
Ask to meet the person who will be your direct point of contact, as it will help establish a good relationship.
 
 

Accessibility

If an agent manages the property, they should provide an office number and emergency contact out of hours.
 
 

Tenant fees & charges

Landlords and letting agents in England and Scotland are not allowed to charge tenancy fees. Check here what agents can and can’t charge you for.
However, tenant fees are currently still legal in Northern Ireland and Wales. Fees vary considerably so do compare agents. Any costs e.g. administration fees, must be made clear to you upfront and should be displayed on the letting agent’s website and literature.
 
 
 

Check their Reputation

 
In addition to the important checks above, it’s worth finding out about your prospective landlord/agent’s reputation and experience.
 
 

Online

Looking at their website can’t tell you what the landlord/agent is really like, even if the site is brilliant.  However, some good indicators are:

  • Their professional qualifications, accreditations and membership of trade bodies
  • Testimonials
  • How many of their houses are booked or empty

Search the internet – ‘Google’ the landlord/agent to see what comes up.

Various websites offer reviews of landlords and letting agents, but most have little data or are not particularly user-friendly. Here are a couple of the better ones we found, which have ratings and reviews:

All Agents

Rental Raters

 
 

Word of mouth

Always a useful way of getting information, though this might be difficult if you’re new to an area.

  • At property viewings, talk to neighbours, or the concierge if there is one for flats.
  • If you get the chance, ask the current tenants what it’s like to live there, what the landlord is like, whether they deal with problems promptly, if they interfere or leave you alone.
  • Seek advice from a local university/college. See who advertises with them and speak to the marketing department – they may know from personal experience, which are good/bad.

 
 

First Impressions

What’s your gut instinct?  Was the landlord/agent happy to answer all your questions?
 
 

Find out more:

Dealing with your Landlord or Letting Agent
Where to get help & advice with problems concerning landlords & letting agencies

 

Click here for our printable Landlord/Letting Agency Checklist.
Important points to look for before you sign any contract or hand over money

 
 

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