Letting agents should be proud of the important & valuable service they provide
As we head into new year and yet another new lockdown, letting agents should take a moment to reflect with pride on the essential role they carry out.
The industry has responded quickly to new legislation, which has been changing constantly throughout the pandemic, and has worked incredibly hard to enable people to safely move home in difficult and stressful circumstances.
The Government believes in the importance of the property sector and house moves are currently permitted in the latest lockdown. Agents can continue to work as long as they follow the national guidance on helping people to move home safely.
This means they must ensure they protect everyone, including staff, landlords and potential tenants, which has resulted in many new challenges which agents have bravely taken on.
As a specialist provider of outsourced client accounting and Client Money Protection services, we have seen the challenging job agents have on their hands and we believe they should be extremely proud of their hard work during such a turbulent year.
Letting agents should know they play a vital role in helping people to find housing which is fundamental to leading a happy life, yet the level of service they provide doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves.
For landlords, the property they rent out is often their biggest asset. Frequently it has served as their much-loved home. When a landlord entrusts their property to a letting agent, they do so for the reassurance that all rules and regulations are being complied with and the knowledge that their investment is safe.
For some landlords handing over the keys to a stranger can be the cause of immense stress and worry as renting out a property always poses a risk.
After landlords rent out a property, they lose the right to enter it once a tenancy has started, except in extreme circumstances. They also have to comply with an ever-growing list of regulations, or risk financial or even custodial penalties.
Advertising the property, carrying out covid-safe viewings and finding a suitable tenant is just the beginning. Letting agents must carry out a variety of checks to ensure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ and provides a safe and healthy environment.
This includes having an understanding of safety regulations such as the Furnishings (Fire and Safety) Regulations, Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations, Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations for England.
When a tenancy is agreed, the agent must ensure they provide the tenant with statutory documentation such as a current EPC and Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable). Failure to serve all of the correct documents at the start of the tenancy could jeopardise their chances of taking back possession of the property at a later date.
Agents must provide a detailed inventory and schedule of condition, which records all of the contents, fixtures and fittings of the property and their state of repair. It is critical that this is carried out thoroughly as any future claim on the deposit for dilapidations will rely on it as evidence.
The letting agent monitors the condition of the property during the tenancy and will liaise with the tenant over any repairs. Letting agents have a duty of care to both landlords and tenants, often acting as mediators between the two parties and calming the waters where necessary.
All money received from the tenant must be handled correctly to protect the interests of both the tenant and the landlord, and an audit record kept.
If landlords live overseas then, as well as management of the property, there is also the Non-Resident Landlord tax to consider. Without an agent it would fall to the tenant to operate the scheme!
The agency must also comply with all of the relevant regulations, such as having Client Money Protection to protect landlords and tenants, while making sure the client accounting runs like clockwork. They remove all the stress for landlords of chasing rent, reconciling payments, paying contractors and tax.
If court action is required to regain possession of a property the landlord must be confident that their agent has done everything ‘by the book’ and is up to date with current legislation. There is a very strict procedure that must be followed to legally obtain possession of a property and this has been changing constantly over the last year as a result of the pandemic.
Once the tenancy has ended agents must guide their landlords through the hand over and deposit claim process, acting as negotiator between the parties. This in itself can be a very testing procedure and requires a practical understanding of regulations and a cool head!
As we head into 2021, the role of the letting agent has never been so important, while the work involved in letting and managing a residential property is more involved than ever and yet it remains so underrated. Letting agents should take a moment to stand tall and feel an overwhelming sense of pride.
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