DO I STAY WITH MY AGENT OR GO IT ALONE….

With the government’s ban on letting fees paid by tenants due to come in on June 1 more and more landlords are questioning whether they should cut out the middle man and ditch their agent to manage their properties themselves. In this article – first published in RLA magazine Residential Property Investor – we look at the pros and cons – and the pitfalls should you decide to take the leap.

Fears that abolishing the tenants’ fees will increase charges to landlords have seen more and more landlords asking whether they need an agent at all, with 70% of landlords questioned in the wake of the announcement saying they are less likely to use an agent in future.

While landlords could, in theory, raise rents to cover any increase in costs, this is a gamble and – in some areas at least – the market will not support it.

This also goes against the whole ethos of the ban, which is to make renting more affordable. Changes to mortgage interest relief, stamp duty and wear and tear allowance mean landlords are already being hit hard in the pocket.

For many, especially those already unhappy with the level of fees they are paying their agent, now may well be the time for change.

So, what do agents charge landlords – and what do you get for your money?
Typically, agents offer three levels of service:

• Finding tenants and establishing the tenancy – often called a tenant find or finder’s fee. The landlord then manages all aspects of the tenancy themselves.

• Full management – a complete package including tenant find, tenancy management and property maintenance, for a percentage of the rent, as well as marketing costs.

• Non-repair or rent collection only – like full management but the landlord handles any repair issues.

Fees differ according to the level of service, the property or properties in question and the agent that you choose, but very generally fees for full management are around 10% of your monthly rental income plus VAT.

If you do opt to stay with an agent then you should always do your homework.

Teresa Galley, director of Doncaster estate and letting agent Galley Properties said a good agent is worth their weight in gold, but you need to make sure you are with a reputable firm.

She said: “It is imperative you make sure you have a good agent. If someone is offering you a deal that seems too good to be true then it probably is. We still hear of agents that aren’t protecting deposits, agents that landlords are having to chase for rent.”

Before employing an agent, ask for a full list of their fees as well as a detailed explanation of what these charges cover.

It is also worth asking whether the agent takes any fees or commissions from its contractors – as some unscrupulous agents can mark-up contractors bills and charge the landlord.

Also look at their reputation. RLA director and property management company director Carrie Kus said: “One of the things I always advise landlords when they are looking for an agent is to ask for a recommendation.

“Ask other landlords who they use and whether they would recommend them, and when you are talking to potential agents ask to speak to some of their existing clients.”

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