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Lettings agents

Using an agent

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Using a letting agent is the favoured option of the majority of rental home hunters. Using one should hopefully guarantee a certain standard of service and you will always have the fallback of a business with a professional reputation to uphold should there be any dispute anywhere along the way. A good lettings agent will work efficiently on your behalf, be professional and courteous in all their dealings, ensure that the description of the property is accurate and make certain that the property adheres to gas and fire regulations.

On the other hand, you will have to pay them an occasionally hard to justify fee for the work they do, they are usually less flexible than a private landlord (you will not normally be permitted to have pets in your home, for instance) and not every agent is as professional as they might be. Follow our advice below, and you should be able to avoid many of the traps and tricks that catch some people out:

How to deal with them

  • Expect to leave your details with a fairly high number of agents and not exactly be inundated with calls. They will only ever call if a specific property comes on their books within a week of you leaving your details with them.
  • If they have nothing that's specifically right at that time, they'll keep your details on file, but not for very long. They will expect you to have found a place within a week and for you to contact them if you haven't, not the other way round.
  • There is not much point going in to the agency to ask if they have any properties. They can do everything by phone that they can do in person. Properties are not likely to magically appear just because you speak to them fact-to-face.
  • Keep phoning them every day if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Lettings agents will sometimes advertise the same property at three different prices. The descriptions and locations are almost identical, but not quite. This is done to try to attract different types of people and give them the best chance of letting out the property. A good salesman will be able to bend customers round.
  • Sometimes landlords will accept offers if the property has been hanging around with little interest.
  • You may be able to get agent to reduce the price but only if it is by an amount that makes it not worth their hassle showing more people round. Try offering £5 less per £100 of weekly rent on the property. Be prepared for rejection though - landlords are well aware that a small weekly reduction adds up for the landlord over a long period of time.
  • Lettings agents are not in it for the customer. They have a stock of properties to get rid of and are not interested in sourcing new ones for specific customers as it is too time consuming. If you want this, go to a relocation agent.

Other points
You should never be asked to pay to view information about, or the addresses of properties, nor to register your interests and needs. According to the Accommodation Agencies Act of 1963 this is illegal, but it is a practice that still happens from time to time. If it does happen, contact your local council, as they have the powers to prosecute.

When you use a lettings agent, there may be certain charges that you incur before being able to move into a property. These may include referencing charges, preparation of inventory, drawing up of tenancy agreements, administration costs etc. Administration costs can include such things as postage, phone calls, printing charges and so on.

Beat them at their own game! Find out more about some of the tricks that lettings agents use to get you to sign on the dotted line. Click this link.

Find out whether an agent is a member of ARLA, the association for residential lettings agents. Lettings agents have a professional duty of care to ensure that anyone relying on them is offered correct advice. If you find that they have been less than truthful with you, then you should contact ARLA immediately. Read more about ARLA here.

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