What are the advantages of using a letting agency?

So, YOU have a property you want to let out to generate a bit of cash for yourself.

Do you put a post card advert in a local shop window and hope for the best, or do you opt to spend a bit of money and take on a professional to find you a suitable tenant?

The choice is up to you but experienced landlords usually hand the whole business to a letting agent, for many reasons.

A properly trained and professional letting agent will know all the legal requirements and be able to advise you. Often they can take the burden of getting say, the gas safety certificate or the energy performance certificate (EPC), saving you the bother.

They will have access to online advertising sites such as Rightmove, and will probably have their own website too, not to mention their shop front in the high street where people looking for accommodation can browse professionally taken photographs. Marketing and how the property is displayed makes a difference - Wardhaugh Property Services has extended the range of services already on offer to its clients by adding video tours of properties it is selling.

Many letting agents are used by relocation agents and companies willing to pay high prices for the right property. Usually these companies will only use professional agents for sourcing property for their clients.

A really good inventory is absolutely essential nowadays and landlords who are taken to adjudication by their tenants will have little chance of winning without one. If the matter ever does go to arbitration, the fact that the inventory was drafted up by an independent third party (your agent) will often mean that it is given greater weight by an adjudicator than one that was drafted up by you, the landlord.

A good letting agency will often have staff specially trained to do this work and will usually be able to do a much better job than you can. This includes access to full reference and credit checking services which reduces risk and helps select the right tenants for your property.

How do you go about choosing the right agent? Word of mouth recommendations are probably still one of the best ways but failing that, arrange to meet some letting agents. Your decision about which one to use should be based on a mixture of things including the level of service on offer, the letting fee – exactly what you get for your money in terms of service and reduced risk, and how well you think you can work with the agent. Have a look at the letting agent’s shop front to see how attractively properties are displayed. Can you imagine your property there?

Check whether an agent is a member of any professional bodies and if these have a complaints and disciplinary procedure. Wardhaugh, for example, is a member of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents), SAL (Scottish Association of Landlords), Landlord Accreditation Scotland, and The Property Ombudsman. Additionally, letting agent members are required to have professional indemnity insurance in place. All this should ensure that the letting service which landlords receive is of a reasonable quality.

Before signing up with a letting agent, you should gain as much information as possible about what is included in the lettings service. Because there is no recognised standard service or way of charging, letting agents can include what they want within their fees so be clear that what you want is what is being offered. So whether you just need help in finding a suitable tenant or whether you need a fully managed service you will be able to find what you need. However, with the increasing level of regulation and compliance within the letting industry, a professional letting agent should be able to keep you up to date with your obligations and responsibilities as a landlord and manage many of these on your behalf. This is when, if you consider your requirements and the services on offer carefully, you should see the difference between the fee you might pay, and the value that your chosen agent will deliver.