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Levels of service

Let only

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Different agents have different definitions of a let-only service. Before you enter into an agreement with them, be sure to check their schedule of service so that you are clear about the exact nature of the duties that will be performed and what is included in the price.

The activities that will normally be included in a let-only service (though some things may have additional fees attached) are:

Competitive Market Analysis
Although the final decision rests with you, the lettings agent will perform a Competitive Market Analysis to help you set an appropriate level of rent for your property. Having inspected the property and compared it to similar properties recently let or currently on their books, the lettings manager will be in a position to advise you of the estimated rental value. At this stage you are not normally under any obligation to use the full lettings service of the agent.

Advice & consultation
There are a lot of decisions ahead of you as a landlord, and much of what you decide will have an impact on your investment and your experience of letting property. The lettings agent is there to help you make the right choice when faced with these decisions. They will usually be able to offer you help and guidance on the following areas:

  • Types of tenancy.
  • Legal issues that impact you.
  • Obligations on landlords and tenants.
  • Advise you on your obligations with regards to safety requirements and arranging gas safety checks.
  • Implications for insurance and mortgages.
  • Whether to offer the property furnished or unfurnished.
  • Tips on décor and presentation, choice of appliances and so on, to help you attract the right sort of tenant to your property and maximise the rent against the necessary expenditure.
  • Recommendations regarding fixtures and furnishings.

The goal of the marketing activity is to find a tenant at the level of rent which you have agreed with the agent. This normally involve a blend of advertising methods including newspaper advertisements in national and local press, website updates, mailshots, postings in the office window, to let boards and circulation of property availability lists to the branch network, corporate clients, relocation agents and any other distribution outlets. The lettings team will also field calls relating to the let, weed out timewasters and arrange viewings with genuine tenants.

A member of the lettings team will accompany prospective tenants on visits to the property. As experienced negotiators, they will work to emphasise good points and convert a viewer into a tenant. The agent will need to be given full set of keys in order to be able to show the property to prospective tenants. As time goes by, they should keep you informed on progress regarding the let.

Tenants need to be vetted in order to assess their suitability. This should include a credit check and a verification of the tenants' references. The agent will have access to a professional credit referencing agency, who will let them know whether the tenant applicant has an adverse credit history. There may very well be a separate admin charge for this.

Preparation of legal documents
This involves the preparation and completion of appropriate tenancy agreements. Many lettings companies will not allow you to use their services unless you agree to using the standard tenancy agreement prepared by their solicitor. However, you should have some discretion on break clauses and other details relating to things such as pets etc. You could be charged anything up to £75 by the lettings agents for the compilation of a tenancy agreement.

Inventory & schedule of condition
The lettings agent will sometimes prepare this themself and on other occasions it will be arranged via an independent agent. These documents should be completed by or when the tenants move into the property.

The agent or the third party acting on their behalf will then be instructed to re-enter the property at the end of the tenancy to look for variations from the initial report. These will then be reported to the agent and a decision will be taken as to whether or not they constitute fair wear and tear.

Once again, there is likely to be a separate charge of anything up to £100 from the lettings agent for this service.

Other administration
There are a number of other administrative tasks that some lettings agents will help you with. They can help you transfer the council tax liability to the new tenants, as they can with utility accounts. This will also involve arranging for the meters to be read.

Many landlords also find it prudent to arrange a variety of insurance products to safeguard their let, including rental income insurance, legal expense cover and emergency repair policies. The lettings agent should be able to either arrange these for you or at least put you in touch with suitable providers.

Rent & deposit
The lettings agent will arrange for the initial collection of the deposit and first month's rent prior to installation of tenants at commencement of tenancy.

A statement of account will be prepared for you in order to show rent and the deposit received, less fees that go to the agent, resulting in a net payment to the landlord. This also usually involves deducting and paying tax on rental income for overseas landlords.

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