Landlords and Agents: the perfect couple?
PUBLISHED: 09:27 02 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:27 14 July 2015
Holding your hand through residential lettings, laws and more
It occurred to me as I was looking at the in’s and out’s of renting, letting, landlords and tenants that the “lettings” business is not unlike a dating agency… it is all about good matches: between landlord and agent, property and tenant, and landlord and tenant. The hope from the very first meeting is that the relationships are lasting ones.
At the outset, the chemistry between landlord and agent must be right. Both sides hope that this is a partnership that will be long-term; for you as the landlord, you are putting your home in the care of someone other than your family. Can you trust this person to find the perfect tenants, to advise you on tax issues, health and safety and fire regulations, to meticulously reference your tenants, to draft the lease that is right for all parties, to ensure a properly detailed inventory is done? The commitment that is needed from your agent to make sure everything is properly done is total.
In order to make sure you have the perfect partnership from the start, you need to find out everything you can about your potential agent: how do they find tenants? Who would be the main point of contact for you – and will they always be there when you need them? Have they been successful in letting out your type of property before? What is the commission – are there any other costs you need to know about?
Your agent will need to return the favour, and delve into your hopes and wishes: how long will you let your home for? Furnished or unfurnished? Are you looking for a certain level of rent to cover costs, or is it all about timescales for you? You might have very firm ideas about the type of tenants you envisage living in your property - ones without children or pets for instance. You might be after the highest rent you can get, or you may simply be interested in people who will be good neighbours to your neighbours.
Spending a little time on appearance before the next stage of matching will make all the difference. When you let your property, you need to detach yourself emotionally – don’t think of it as your home, but dispassionately as an asset. Undergoing a “makeover” can make a big difference: taking a little care, attention and, yes, spending a little money on the kitchen and bathrooms for example can make a noticeable difference to the rent you can get. If you’re going out on a date, you want to look good in any light: whether you are planning to let furnished or unfurnished, there are basic things to show your property off in its best light. It needs to be clean and in good decorative order – and this includes curtains, carpets, windows and walls.
I am aware that the next conversations you need to have are not your “light, first date” type of talks – but you need to know that your potential agent is up-to-speed on all things technical and taxable.
Let’s start with the technical: it is a fantastical world of rules and regulations that is constantly changing – for example you have to take into account the Tenancy Deposit Scheme requirements, Energy Performance Certificates, Gas and Electric Safety, Houses in Multiple Occupation, looming Immigration Act requirements, Housing Health & Safety Rating System, and new legal requirements to install smoke alarms are expected later this year … Your agent will become your new “best friend”, holding your hand through the considerable legislation and systems involved to ensure compliance.
Once you have jumped through the technical hoops, you may well need to be escorted through the world of tax: your rental income is potentially taxable wherever you are living. Rental income will need to be declared to HMRC and, if you are moving overseas you will need to know about the Non-Resident Landlord’s Scheme.
You’ll need your agent by your side to make sure you have everything ticked on your checklist: household insurances and PLI, that any gas and electrical appliances comply with regulations, that you have obtained superior landlord consent (if it’s needed), mortgage provider consent is in place, that if you are letting a furnished property, your furniture complies with safety regulations, that you have professionally cleaned your house and even swept your chimneys...
The next time you meet, you can really get into deep and meaningful conversation – property management. Banter will never run dry on this subject! There are two options: you do it, or your agent does! If you don’t want to be called at any time of day or night by your tenant, or can’t visit the property immediately when problems pop up, then professional property management could be just the thing. On a serious note, research shows that tenants do stay longer in managed properties – and you can relax knowing that a trusted network of contractors are being directed to look after your home in your absence: on that basis, you hope to have a happy tenant and a happy tenancy – and so that the happy relationship with your agent goes on beyond just the one perfect match.
Let’s be honest: making any partnership is not an exact science – ultimately, as in life, go with your feelings.
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354862