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The Letting Agents Role
Letting agents play an important role in the buy-to-let industry and a good agent can help make or break your lettings experience. So what should you expect from your letting agent?
To attract good tenants, the agent needs to be well established in the local area and have a good reputation. Try to find agents that are members of national letting organisations, such as ARLA, as these will provide peace of mind for both you and your potential tenants.
Credit checks and references
Once a tenant's offer has been accepted, the letting agent will do some background research to ensure they are suitable.
Credit references from the bank or building society, plus personal references from employers and where applicable, previous landlords are all standard. For the self-employed, references are expected from an accountant or solicitor.
Through their own experience, letting agent's should be able to assess the suitability of potential tenants and advise if they feel that somebody would not be suitable.
Once the suitability of the tenant is assured, an inventory and condition report will be drawn up. This records the condition of the entire property, including carpets, curtains, furniture, wallpaper and paintwork, along with a list of the entire contents of the property.
At the end of the tenancy, the inventory is used to check that the contents and condition of the property are the same as they were at the start. Changes resulting from general wear and tear are taken into account.
Although it is possible to purchase tenancy agreement forms 'off-the-shelf', an agreement produced by a letting agent is likely to give better legal coverage having being revised on numerous occasions by specialist property lawyers.
The agreement should include:
-- Length and cost of the tenancy
-- Deposit to be paid
-- Responsibilities of the tenant
-- Any other specific matters important to the property
It is also a good idea to ensure that a clause is included that allows the letting agent to begin showing the property to new potential tenants, once the existing tenancy has nearly finished. This will help to ensure that you minimise the amount of time that your property is vacant.
Once the tenancy agreement is signed by both parties, the agent will need to advise the tenant on changing the utility bills and council tax payments to their name. They will then need to wait for the cheque for the deposit and first month's rent to clear. Once this has happened, the keys are given to the tenant and they are allowed to move in.
Throughout the tenancy the agent will be responsible for collecting the rent, arranging for maintenance repairs to take place, alerting the landlord to any major issues, plus periodic visits to the property to check all is well and that the tenant is satisfied.
Concluding the tenancy
At the end of the tenancy, the agent is responsible for checking the contents and condition of the property against the inventory report, returning the tenants deposit, minus any monies for damaged property or missing items and ensuring that utility bills and council tax payments revert back to the landlord.
Don Suter is Managing Editor of the UK Property Portal (http://www.ukpropertyportal.co.uk), an online directory and magazine for UK property sales, rental, surveyors, mortgages, conveyancing, property insurance, removals, news, investment and development.
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