It’s time to ponder one of the property market’s existential questions. We all know what letting agents look like – they tend to be well-presented, silver-tongued folk – but what, precisely, do they do? And, perhaps more importantly, how can they help you find the perfect home and live happily ever after?
We explain all below so you’ll know exactly what to expect. We’ll also introduce you to the other common species in the lettings jungle: the landlord. How does their role differ and who’s responsible for what? We’ll clear up any confusion you might have along the way…
The letting agent
Usually spotted behind a desk in an agency office, driving around town in a nifty branded vehicle, or showing potential tenants around various properties, the letting agent acts as an intermediary between the tenant and landlord. They value a property, market it, find suitable tenants, vet applicants, prepare an inventory, and set up the ‘tenancy agreement’ or contract.
The first time you’ll meet your letting agent is usually in the office when you enquire about a property, or when they physically show you around. Their role thereafter, however, depends on the level of service the landlord is paying for.
Sometimes a letting agent’s role begins and ends with finding a tenant. But most landlords opt for a part-managed (i.e. they collect the rent too) or a fully-managed service, where they’ll field any questions the tenants might have and organise necessary repairs and maintenance during the tenancy. Then the landlord can sit back with a piña colada and watch the rent roll in without lifting a finger.
This is essentially the big boss. He or she owns the property; it’s their baby, and they’re the ones who ultimately receive the rent (minus the letting agent’s cut, of course). How much you see them, however, depends on whether the agent is fully managing the property or not. If it’s the former, then you might never meet your landlord.
Some landlords own a single property, whereas so-called professional landlords might own dozens. However, you can always make contact with your landlord if you really want to. All tenants have the legal right to ask for their landlord’s contact details and the agent must comply within three weeks. This is a good option if you’re unhappy with your letting agent.
Who’s got whose back?
The letting agent, if we’re totally honest, often has the landlord’s best interests at heart. Without landlords, letting agents don’t get paid. So, the agent will normally try to keep a good relationship with the landlord at all costs.
However, that’s not to say that tenants are unimportant. No siree. Tenants are the ones who ultimately pay the rent. And if the tenants move out then they’re faced with the prospect of a costly void period. The agents won’t get paid then, either.
Consequently, it’s in everyone’s interests to keep the tenants happy. Think of it as a symbiotic circle of lettings life. And it’s the letting agent’s job to keep this circle from going pear-shaped.
What the law says …
The landlord is always legally responsible for the property, even if they play a hands-off role. This is because they own the home and the tenancy contract is between landlord and tenant. These are their most important responsibilities:
- Protecting your deposit
- Never harass you
- Maintain the property and carry out repairs
- Ensure the property is safe and meets the regulations
However, the letting agent isn’t off the hook entirely. They also have certain responsibilities, including:
- Answering your questions
- Showing you the property
- Producing the tenancy agreement
- Sharing the landlord’s contact information
- Forwarding your requests and feedback to the landlord
Your letting agent therefore plays a vital role during a fully-managed tenancy. Always contact the agent first if a repair is needed or you accidentally break something. That’s what they’re there for, after all.
But don’t automatically blame the letting agent if the problem isn’t resolved right away. Landlords are busy people, they can be hard to track down, and they sometimes like to get multiple quotes before approving remedials. What appears like foot-dragging isn’t always the agent’s fault.
Things agents don’t do…
Although the letting agent should be your first port of call during a tenancy, and they’ll help you to get settled, there are still some things to sort out yourself.
For example, agents won’t arrange your council tax, utilities, media, and broadband. The contracts for these suppliers will usually be in your name (unless the landlord is covering them) so you’ll need to organise these yourself and pay your bills – not to mention the actual rent - on time.
There is an alternative, however. Letting agents that partner with us can offer you a complimentary Home Setup Service. This involves us contacting the council, arranging removals, switching your TV licence, and sorting out your utilities for you. We can even hunt down a great green energy tariff and delicious deals on your media and broadband, too.
Always ask your agent if they offer a free home setup through Just Move In. After all, nobody likes going round the houses when they move into a new home.