By Matt Johnson, Residential Lettings Manager
In theory, all letting agents basically offer the same property management services.
In reality, the way these are delivered is extremely different – with some agents providing much less value for money than others.
10 reasons why a landlord may want to change lettings agent
1. Lack of communication
2. Poor-quality tenants
3. Long voids between tenants
4. Overpriced maintenance charges
5. Management issues – no regular inspections
6. Repairs not dealt with promptly or properly
7. Failure to disclose referencing issues
8. Fees not carefully explained
9. Incorrect paperwork
10. High staff turnover
If you’re experiencing any of the above issues, it’s important to understand what a landlords’ rights with letting agents ACTUALLY are!
Know your Agency Agreement
Essentially, all landlords are legally obliged to comply with the terms stipulated in their fixed-term Agency Agreement.
Should you experience any issues, find your agreement and study it carefully before doing anything else.
If your fixed term is approaching or has expired, you can serve written notice on your agent at ANY time – without affecting your tenants’ rights.
In most cases, you’ll be tied in with your letting agent for an initial period, which may vary from 6 to 12 or 18 months.
Quite rightly, this is done to protect agents from the threat of a landlord leaving immediately after considerable time (and effort) has been invested in to finding and referencing a new tenant.
If you do want to end your working relationship, check the Terms of Business you’ve signed as this should outline how to break your contract – and the notice period required to do so.
Usually, the notice period required to end an Agency Agreement ranges from 1 to 3 months’ notice.
Beware of hidden clauses and fees
As you’d expect, most letting agents don’t want to be ‘sacked’. As a result, some protect their own interests by placing clauses and fees into the Agency Agreement.
This may include a ‘Right To Manage’ clause stating that a commission must be paid while the tenants they found remain in residence - even if they no longer manage the property.
In our experience, landlords are often surprised to find these fees and clauses because they’ve failed to properly read (and understand) the contract before signing it.
At Garness Jones, we don’t insert any clauses into our Agency Agreements, which are written in plain English so they’re easy to digest.
We endeavour to help our landlords understand the entire lettings process so that there are no grey areas which could result in confusion or conflict. We also try to make them aware of any current legislation to ensure they’re 100% compliant.
In truth, the legality of this type of clause can be called into question. Whether they are valid or not often depends on how the clause is worded and the individual circumstances relating to the dispute.
As a general rule of thumb, the agent WON’T be entitled to any future fees if they failed to do their job properly and were in breach of contract (under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982).
To find out more, visit the Code of Practice issued by Trading Standards which outlines all the laws and regulations in detail.
Seek independent help & advice
If you’re a landlord who is unhappy with the service received from a letting agent, speak to them directly first and try to settle any issues amicably.
Should your attempt to resolve matters prove difficult or unsuccessful, you can ask The Property Ombudsman to step in and assist.
The Property Ombudsman is a government-approved organisation which was set up to protect homeowners, landlords and tenants.
Around 85% of letting agents are members of this scheme – including ourselves here at Garness Jones.
In our experience, we advise you to proceed with caution before agreeing to work with anyone who is not a member – because it means they do not have to abide by its code of practice.
Every year, the Property Ombudsman deals with around 1,000 complaints from landlords about letting agents.
The aim of the scheme is to hold member letting agents to account for their actions without the need to settle disputes via the small claims courts.
The free initiative is designed to provide fair and impartial redress to landlords who are unable to resolve a dispute with their agent.
Vote with your feet
There’s a common misconception that changing letting agent is a hassle, but it’s actually a fairly simple process - both for the landlord and their tenant.
If things are not working out with your letting agent, give them written notice of your intention to leave and hunt for a new one.
At Garness Jones, we often receive enquiries from property and portfolio owners frustrated by the service they’re receiving from their current agent.
Should you wish to switch agents, we’ll be happy to handle every aspect on your behalf – get in touch or call 01482 564564 to find out how.
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