Saturday, 7 March 2009

Why use a letting agent to let your property in the UK and when you do, make sure that the agent is qualified

Landlords and Homeowners often have full time jobs as well as buy to let investments, it is therefore frequently the case that with so many demands on their time they cannot always be available to handle day-to-day events connected with their property.

If this sounds like you then using a letting agent offering full property management could be an essential and economical way of ensuring the smooth running of a tenancy, while protecting the property and still making a profit.

Whilst letting your property through a specialist letting agent is not strictly necessary, a good agent will take some of the effort out of the job of finding and selecting tenants, drawing up tenancy documents, and the day-to-day maintenance of the property.

Because you are quite literally placing your property in their hands, the choice of a letting and managing agent is as important as in choosing any other professional such as a solicitor or accountant.

Unfortunately demand for property to rent has encouraged many firms and individuals to set up as letting agents many of them are completely unregulated and have little or no experience, do not operate bonded client accounts or are bound by any code of practice. Remember, as the landlord you may be personally liable for any mistakes made by your agent. So choose carefully.

Many of these firms setting up are Estate Agents who have been unable to survive in business because of the downturn in the housing market in the UK. They have gone into the lettings business and a lot of landlords believe they are highly experienced.
A recent example of a prospective landlord believing this was because this person saw numerous boards up in the area. The landlord was told that the agent had been in business locally for many years. In fact the agent had been a practising estate agent for many years but had only set up a sales and letting agency in the last eighteen months.
You don't actually know how experienced the agent is at letting houses, just like if an experienced letting agent attempts selling them.
Ideally you should seek an agent who belongs to ARLA - The Association of Residential Letting Agents. ARLA is the only professional self-regulating body to be solely concerned with lettings. ARLA agents are properly trained to their high standards and ARLA believes that Lettings agents should be required to take a professional qualification before they are allowed to set up shop in the High Street.
Examinations are held regularly and membership rules require all member offices to have professionally qualified staff. Members’ client bank accounts are required to be audited annually ensuring that they conform to a stringent accounting practice.
An ARLA spokesperson has recently said "The fact that at the moment anybody can work as a lettings agent is ludicrous and, more to the point, dangerous as it may create great risks for consumers in the current climate.the standards of the lettings profession are upheld without exception – this means compulsory training and qualifications for anyone wishing to let a property on behalf of another, as well as Client Money Protection, Professional Indemnity Insurance, and audited client bank accounts.
Many agents hold client’s funds mixed in with their own business funds and this offers no protection if the agents business fails."
The UK Government needs to introduce regulation with the compulsory licensing of agents. This will set professional standards for the industry is the first step to eliminating the cowboys. ARLA is not the only professional association in the UK.
There is also NALS - The National Approved Letting Scheme which is an accreditation scheme for lettings and management agents offering peace of mind to landlords and tenants in knowing that they are dealing with a firm which agrees to meet defined standards of customer service.
Unfortunately in 2009 it is not obligatory for an agent to be a member of ARLA, NALS or the RICS (Royayl Instistute pf Chartered Surveyors).
If you are letting out your property, use a qualified agent and remember to make sure you take out the appropriate Landlord Insurance.

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