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Help with Questions to ask a Prospective Agent


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After 2 to 3 years renting my one property to relatives they are now leaving to move to their own home.

I now need to decide whether to sell the house given that prices are generally up from when we purchased 2/3 years ago or to continue to rent out.

I am about to commence a tour of local estate and rental agencies to determine a, what the property is now worth and b, what rent I can expect etc as I have been renting previously at a discount.....

To accomplish this, what I need help with is a sort of check list of questions I need to ask of a letting agency to identify a potentially reliable outfit to entrust the rental management of my property to.

I already have the excellent Richlist landlords list of preferable tennants which I plan to make use of if I go the rental direction but I want to be able to ask some intelligent and searching questions of the agencies before choosing the most suitable.

I just know that some on this forum can help me with this......

Many thanks for any replies.

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Here are a few things to think about.

If you go with a Arla agent they will have had some training to be members but that could be just one person in the office and they could even have left the company. But generally you should get a ok service but you will be paying for it due the high fees to be a member.

Other agents do external training as well but there is no legal requirement so ask the question "what is your training program for staff" and "when was the last legal courses someone when one" If they say they don't need to I would steer clear of them. These courses all give out certificates and a lot of agents have them on the walls.

Deposits: What scheme do they use? The bigger agents use the Dispute Service which means they can keep the funds in their client account and therefore should be able to release it to either the L/L or tenant faster if not disputed. The other option is the DPS where the deposit is sent of to 3rd party. This isn't a bad thing. (there are other schemes but the above is the two main ones used)

Vat: Are they vat registered if not you should save a fair bit in fees but bear in mind the agent could become vat registered at a later date. Also you are likely to be dealing with a smaller company who many not have been training long so it is important to check out their training.

Fees: It is rare to find the only fees you pay are the commission rate. There are likely to me a number of others which some agents aren't so forthright about which you need to specifically ask such as: Contract renewal, set-up, inventory, check-out/in, arranging maintenance, termination.

Advertising: Where do they do it? They should at least do rightmove or zoopla, window display and their own website.

Termination clauses: This is a big one and needs to be clarified. Some agents will tie you in as long as the tenant they placed is living there. What you want is a one or two months notice (3 at a push) period with no restrictions. It may have a minimum period of say 6 month which is fair.

Clarification that no tenant is placed until you say so and to see if you choose to all the referencing paperwork and have a copy of the AST.. Some agents hide behind data protection to not show this info which can be a way of putting dodgy tenants in and or a lack of knowledge of the data protection act. You maybe be asked to sign something stating you wont show any info to 3rd parties.

What legal notices do they serve and their policy for non-payment of rent.

Inventories: Are they out sourced (cost?) or done in-house. Ask to see a copy of one. It should be a mix of photos and descriptions and least 30/35 pages (ours are up to 60-70 pages depending on the size of the property) and signed on every page.

Maintenance: Ideally you want to be informed prior to any works are done except in an emergency.

There are loads more things to ask and I will add to later.

But if it was me and I was after a agent knowing what I know as a agent now I would start off looking for a small non vat registered who had been trading for a while and could show a training program. Then ask/interrogate them about the other issues.

One final thought, as been mentioned on this site previously there has been a major court case effecting the letting industry which is

Superstrike Ltd vs Rodrigues. Any agent who keeps up to date with letting law will be aware of it so I would ask "what are your thoughts on Superstrike Ltd vs Rodrigues and how has it effected you?" Any agent who cant (and I bet there are many)comment or it or looks blankly should be avoided.

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Thanks Grampa this is great!

One question however, you say look for a small non-vat registered agent with a training program...

All of the targets I have in mind in this small town are fairly major locally and advertising weekly in the local rag.

My main favorite is Belvoir which I believe is a national chain simply because family members have been useing them for

some time with good results. Do I need to be looking elsewhere?


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If you are hearing good things about your local Belvoir then that is a good start. But Belvoir is a franchise I believe who have to pay over a % of their earnings to the franchisor so that would be reflected in their fee structure. Also the service can vary from branch to branch in the same way any other muti-branch company.

I only suggest not-vat registered as the fees are likely to be lower and 20% extra is a big chunk.

Try going round your local agents in person to get the feel of them and ask the questions I listed.

Cheap isn't always good but is a starting point but if too cheap service is likely to suffer. Some landlords think they are being clever by trying to shave the agents fees down and normally it is one or two property landlords. For me all that means is I wont chase around too much to get the cheaper contractor in and if a tap washer needs replacing a plumber it is and not a handyman.

The trouble is a good agent will do their best to put in a good tenant (no guarantees) but a good bench mark is how they deal with problems when they arise. A crappy agent could put a good tenant in, more through luck than judgement and because there are no problems on the face of it they appear to be good.

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