Published: 16th July 2019
The recent ban on charging fees directly to tenants has placed lettings agents under the spotlight, with some claiming that the profession, as a whole, is taking advantage of landlords’ understandable desire to minimize their workload, by charging excessive fees which are then passed on to tenants.
This claim, however, overlooks the fact that the role of the lettings agent is an increasingly complex one and that a large part of the reason for the complexity is down to the government and the ever increasing levels of regulation in the private rental sector.
In the old days, this might just have involved checking a property was in good condition, writing a description, taking some pictures and creating a listing. These days, however, properties for let must comply with a range of health-and-safety requirements and those in charge of them must be able to demonstrate compliance if necessary.
Again, up until relatively recently, finding suitable tenants for a rental property involved a combination of marketing skills and “people skills”, essentially confirming a tenant’s status by means of hard checks (such as credit records and employment references) and soft skills (an ability to read people).
Now, however, in addition to all of the above, landlords must comply with the Right to Rent legislation and the Equality Act. The complexity of the former has been well documented.
The latter, however, may seem like a non issue, but can actually be a stumbling block for landlords as it can be only too easy to perpetrate direct or indirect discrimination as a consequence of the need to check a prospective tenant’s legal standing under Right to Rent. It’s also worth noting that letting a property will require some access to the tenant’s personal data, hence GDPR may also be an issue.
While good tenant selection is a necessary prerequisite to a successful (read low-maintenance) tenancy, it is not, in and of itself, a sufficient one.
All being well, tenants will dutifully pay their rent in full and on time each month and completely respect the property, however, even these tenants will need some degree of management as it is almost inevitable that maintenance issues will arise from time to time and these will need to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, otherwise tenants will move elsewhere, knowing that they are exactly the sort of people landlords will want to have as customers.
Not all tenancies fall into this ideal model however; some tenants require more active management such as credit control or guidance with regards to their responsibilities as tenants and what they can expect in return for their rent. This sort of people management takes a good knowledge of the law and excellent people skills.
Tenants’ deposits have become something of a politically-charged topic, which is possibly the single, biggest reason why it is so important to manage end-of-tenancy check-outs correctly. Failure to adhere to legally-compliant process can see landlords forced to foot the bill for tenants’ damage, instead of being able to deduct it from their deposit.