The role of a buy to let landlord is becoming ever more difficult and financial success is by no means assured. Working with a letting agent might ease some of the many – and increasing – responsibilities you have to take on so that you are released to concentrate on what will really make your business thrive.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues.
What you’re up against
Speak to any buy to let landlord and you are likely to discover just how much effort goes into running the business:
- from the very outset – as soon as you begin advertising the let;
- finding suitable tenants;
- conducting reference checks;
- collecting deposits and arranging their formal safekeeping – in accordance with the relevant deposit protection scheme;
- drafting, agreeing, and signing tenancy agreements;
- drawing up and conducting inventories;
- arranging annual inspections for the safety of gas and electrical installations;
- arranging for ongoing repairs and maintenance throughout the tenancy;
- ensuring that rent is paid on time;
- answering all manner of enquiries from the tenant;
- conducting a further inventory at the end of the tenancy;
- agreeing to the terms for the return of any deposit; and then
- starting the whole process over again for the next tenancy.
Little wonder, therefore, that being a landlord can become more than a full-time job. If you want some of that pressure to be taken off your shoulders, you might consider turning to letting agencies. Why? What do they do?
The role of the letting agent
Depending on the specific contract of agreement for letting agency services, landlords typically request help on one of two levels.
Probably the most usual form of agreement sees the landlord handing over to the letting agent responsibility for every aspect of advertising and selecting tenants and taking up references for suitable candidates.
The letting agent is typically then also responsible for drawing up the tenancy agreement, arranging receipt of the deposit, conducting an inventory, collecting the rent, and generally maintaining a channel of first communication with the tenant throughout the tenancy. The letting agent will then conduct the final inventory and arrange the return of the appropriate share of any deposit originally received.
The task of checking and vetting tenants is already quite onerous. The validity of your landlord insurance policy may depend on that vetting to have been done rigorously and the law imposes a further onerous responsibility – the so-called Right to Rent obligations.
The Immigration Act of 2014 included provisions referring to the Right to Rent and the obligation imposed on landlords of private rented property to establish and confirm the immigration status of any prospective tenant and members of their household.
But this, too, is one of the landlord’s duties and responsibilities that may be signed over in an agreement in writing between the landlord and the letting agent instructed by him. Letting agents may need to check and inspect the original documents identifying not only the prospective tenant but also of any other individual planning to live on the let premises and to keep copies of those documents as a record.
Following the Covid outbreak, the government introduced measures to allow these checks to be made entirely online. Those simplified arrangements are scheduled for review at the end of September 2022.
Full-service property management
In addition to the responsibility for managing every aspect of your relationship with the tenants, you may also instruct letting agents to take on wider property management responsibilities, including the responsibility for ensuring that the property is adequately and regularly maintained and that repairs are carried out as and when necessary.
This is another area in which the law is explicit. The Tenant Fees Act came into force on the 1st of June 2019.
As the housing charity Shelter explained in guidance published on the 23rd of February 2022, the provisions of the Act make it an offence for landlords or letting agents to charge tenants fees for services such as taking up references, making credit or Right to Rent checks, administration of the tenancy, or for renewing a tenancy when it reaches its agreed term.
In other words, if you decide to instruct letting agents to take care of all your tenancy matters or on a full-service property management basis, you will need to accept responsibility for meeting the agent’s fees and charges – they cannot be charged to the tenant, and you may face stiff financial penalties if you attempt to do so.
Only you can decide whether you wish to hand over some of your responsibilities as landlord to a letting agent. We hope this blog has given you some food for thought.
Further reading: Guide to choosing a letting agent.