a landlord's rental property keys in a hand
Are all letting agents the same? 
The answer is ‘no’. 
There are large national chains and small independent companies and specialists. Unfortunately, some have much higher standards of customer service than others. 
So, how do you choose one that’s right for you and your rental property? 

Things to consider when choosing a letting agent 

It’s a good sign if an agent is registered with an industry body or trade association such as the UK Association of Letting Agents. It’s also a good idea to look for testimonials and online reviews
It is also important that your agent knows the local market, so do some mystery shopping to find out. 

Which services do you need from your letting agent? 

Identifying your ideal tenant – many landlords like to manage their own rental properties but would like some help to find the ideal tenant. This is a valuable service provided by many letting agents that can minimise the problems landlords sometimes face. 
Ideally you will want a responsible tenant who will stay for a reasonable time so that you won’t have the cost of an empty property, for example. Your letting agent can give you advice about whether to furnish the property to meet the needs of your preferred type of tenant. For example, if you are offering a family home for rent, your ideal tenants might already have their own furniture, while a small fully furnished apartment for a professional young person might be a good choice. 
With plenty of experience your letting agent can meet and assess potential tenants to confirm they meet your ideal profile before even beginning the more formal employer and landlord referencing and credit-checking processes. Your agent can also advise you on the permitted fees that can be charged. 
Creating a tenancy agreement – once you have chosen your tenant an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) must be prepared, outlining the contractual terms of the property rental. Your agent can do this for you to make sure that there aren’t any potential loopholes. Many of the professional bodies provide templates but an experienced agent will be able to advise you about any additional clauses you might need to cover pets or garden maintenance, for example. 
The agreement should include the start and end dates of the tenancy, data protection information, details of important fixtures and fittings at the property and in any outside spaces, and an inventory. Your tenant’s deposit will need to be held in an appropriate protection scheme and your letting agent can advise you about this. 
Market value and rental management – your agent can tell you what a reasonable rent will be in the current market and make recommendations about how much and when rent should be paid. If your letting agent manages rent collection for you then there will usually be a monthly fee which is a percentage of the rental, so be sure to agree this in advance. Your letting agent can also provide professional help if your tenant falls behind with rental payments. They can often resolve any problems without the need to go to court. 
Inventory and check-in - a professional inventory is important to minimise the risk of disagreements about damage versus wear-and-tear when it’s time for your tenants to leave. It will include details of the condition of your property and its contents. It can cover everything from the age of the oven to the state of decoration. At check-in, your tenants can (and should) use the inventory and highlight any differences. Once you and your tenants are happy that the inventory is accurate and complete, it should be signed and dated by you all. Any damage during the tenancy can then be recorded. 
Full property management – most letting agents offer a fully managed service which will leave you free from the day to day administration of your rental property. The service can include handling deposits, property inspections and repairs within an agreed budget or on approval by you, certificates of expenditure for your tax return, and giving tenants notice to leave if you want to move in to or sell your property. Ask potential letting agents if they will prepare documentation for deposit disputes involving the Dispute Service or if there are court proceedings. 
Check-out inspections – in most cases your tenant will look after your property well. However, it’s important to make a final inspection to identify any damage which you would aim to pay for from their deposit. Letting agents can handle this process for you and resolve any disputes. They can also check the inventory or arrange an independent inventory clerk who can do this for you, which is especially important for furnished properties. 
If you are looking for a letting agent in the Milton Keynes area, the Letting Genie team will be happy to have an informal, no obligation discussion about your requirements, so please get in touch. 
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