A good agent has much more to offer than simply setting up a tenancy – and, although additional services are usually provided as part of the ‘fully-managed’ fee, even if you’re a ‘tenant-find only’ landlord, a good agent will always be happy share their expert advice...
Although most of us are aware that a letting agent can help landlords find the right tenant, perform credit checks, gather references, organise deposits, compile inventories and arrange viewings, did you know that there are a number of other valuable services that a property management agent can provide too?
One of the key areas where an agent can help is in the on-going maintenance of a property: during a tenancy an agent can help identify what maintenance is needed and whose responsibility it is – plus, if necessary, they can often organise contractors on the landlord’s behalf too...
“Due to dealing with properties on a daily basis an agent is going to have a good understanding of the maintenance issues that are likely to arise during the tenancy,” says the proprietor of Belvoir Hitchin Luke Mason. “They’re also going to be able to advise a landlord whether it’s their responsibility or that of the tenant – and this may save the landlord money. Additionally, an agent’s going to have a number of insured contractors on their books who can often offer discounted rates due to the volume of work they receive from the agent.”
Proprietor of Belvoir Southend-on-Sea Wayne Mearns agrees and says, “Agents have a great selection of tried and tested contractors and, in the majority of cases, our contractors can beat most quotes that a landlord can gather. It’s important to remember that a contractor who gets regular work from an agent will be charging less because they get contracts on a regular basis.”
With many agents providing an out-of-hours emergency service, a property management agent is also extremely useful in the event of a maintenance emergency.
“We can advise the tenant exactly what steps to take if it’s something serious, such as a gas leak, plus we’ve got out-of-hours contractors that can deal with things in an emergency,” says Luke. “At Belvoir Hitchin we also have a 24-hour emergency mobile number which tenants can call and they’ll always get through at any time of day or night.”
In fact, throughout the tenancy an agent can help protect the landlord and tenant in many ways...
“Because we deal with such an awful lot of properties we know the best ways to protect a landlord’s property and a tenant’s safety,” says Luke. “For example, it’s very important for a landlord to have a current Gas Safety Certificate and this is something that an agent can organise.
“We have software that tells us when the Gas Safety Certificate is due. Plus we have a regular contractor and can arrange appropriate appointments and access. Even if a tenant is being difficult about allowing access we can take all the necessary steps to protect the landlord and his property.”
An agent can also help protect a landlord’s investment by helping to organise specialist insurances.
“Protecting your investment by having the correct level of insurance is vital,” says Wayne. “Agents have experience about what should be included in a policy so as to minimise any personal expense in the event of a claim. Policies are not all the same and what may seem a cheap policy could mean that the cover is too low or difficult to administer.”
Luke adds, “An agent is going to have a better understanding of what insurance a landlord will need and what kind of things can go wrong when renting out a property. Some ‘accidental landlords’ who are looking to let their own properties are simply alerting their own insurance provider that they’re now letting their property but that doesn’t cover things like loss of rent, damage to the property by tenants and so on.
“Not only that, an agent can often source or provide insurance for a landlord too,” he continues. “As a group Belvoir have secured a deal with a broker that is designed around being a landlord and covers a lot more than a residential policy.”
Knowing the law
Of course, one of the most valuable resources an agent can offer is their extensive knowledge of the legalities and law associated with being a landlord. In a fast-paced industry where legislation is constantly evolving, the experience and expertise of an agent can be vital.
“Our staff are all trained on the legal side of lettings and are constantly briefed and updated on changes in the law,” says Wayne. “And our tenancy agreements are also altered regularly in compliance with the changes in legislation.”
Luke adds, “An agent is going to know all the rules and regulations, especially Belvoir offices as they are updated regularly by Belvoir Central Office.”
Understanding the legal side of lettings and the associated law and legalities is especially important when it comes to collecting late rent or serving eviction notices.
“In the event of late payment or an eviction process an agent is going to know the correct procedure that needs to be followed,” continues Luke. “They’re going to know the law and what a landlord can and can’t do. They can send out proper letters chasing a tenant and serve the appropriate notices when necessary.”
Wayne adds, “It’s very important to stick to procedure and within the law so that the landlord is protected and, in the event of eviction, things can be progressed as quickly as possible.”
In addition to all the services that an agent can provide throughout the tenancy, it’s not unusual for an agent to be able to offer a helping hand long before a tenant moves in – and sometimes before the property has even been secured.
Whether you choose a ‘fully-managed’ or ‘tenant-find only’ service, an agent is usually happy to share their knowledge with new landlords or buy-to-let investors looking for their next investment...
“At Belvoir Bury St Edmunds we provide a complete buy-to-let service for our potential landlords,” says proprietor of Belvoir Bury St Edmunds Patsy Day. “We can look at what properties are available on the market and identify those that we believe will represent a good investment by way of purchase price, condition and location. Our advice is completely independent and unbiased and is based on sound market knowledge – because we don’t sell properties we do not have any conflicts or vested interests.
“We will view the property on behalf of the landlord and compile a report which highlights what they may have to do to that property in order to get it ready for the rental market – from a legislative point of view (i.e. electrics, gas checks etc), and also from a decorative point of view to ensure the property presents well. From here we can advise on what the potential rental return is likely to be. We can also give a prediction of timescales and costs to do the work and to get a tenant moved in. This valuable information helps the landlord determine what sort of price to offer on the property.
“As well as pointing our landlords to those properties that we know will let very well and will have mass appeal, we also have many contacts in the industry so we can recommend good local solicitors, mortgage consultants and accountants.
“We can be on hand to help from the initial purchase of the property to finding the ideal tenant and through to the full management of the tenancy – this will help to ensure that a landlord’s investment is protected and that they stay on the right side of the law. Our service is particularly useful for new landlords who haven’t purchased a buy-to-let property before or seasoned investors who want to save time or simply gain a second opinion.”
Many landlords, such as Susie Boyce, have benefitted from a letting agent’s help in finding them an investment property.
“I have been letting my three rental properties in Bury St Edmunds with Patsy Day of Belvoir Lettings for about a year,” says landlord Susie Boyce. “And, when I bought my latest property Patsy`s input was fantastic.
“When we had narrowed down the choice of available houses Patsy was kind enough to visit the property personally, and I knew if she liked it and felt it was worth investing in, it would do well – she has got extensive knowledge of the local market and understands what does and doesn’t let well. Patsy also gave me an idea about rental values and, indeed, the property was let within a few days for the sum that she had suggested.
“I would wholeheartedly recommend Patsy and her great team to anyone with a property to let. In fact, having her help in finding and securing my latest property was incredibly helpful... and it would have been much much harder to do it without her.”