What your agent does for you – Part 4 Tenancy Agreements

In this section we look at the role the tenancy agreement plays in ensuring a successful tenancy.

A good agent will ensure that the agreement is fair, current, and written in clear language, to ensure that both parties are fully aware of what they are signing and what they are, and are not, responsible for.

The agent’s experience of drawing up these documents and altering clauses where necessary can save the landlord money on solicitor’s fees. The costs of a solicitor drafting a bespoke document for each tenancy are likely to be higher than the agent using their standard documents and clauses. Where additional legal advice is needed Agents often have access to legal advice at competitive rates because of their long-standing relationships with legal representatives.

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Your agent should be willing to spend time explaining any terms and conditions to the landlord or tenant, if they do not understand what is meant in the Agreement. Time spent at the beginning of the tenancy in ensuring each party is happy with the document can save so much time and energy later because then each side enters into the agreement in full understanding of what they are agreeing to.

An efficient agent will get documents drafted in plenty of time to allow for all this to take place. It is important that if the document is to be relied on in any later dispute that the tenant was given time to fully understand what they were signing.

Although the agent is working for the Landlord they have a duty of care towards their tenant too, so they should ensure that the tenant has time to read any documents before signing and if necessary the tenant should be allowed time to consult with legal representation, or in the case of non-English speakers they may want to get the document translated before signing.

If the document becomes evidence in a legal dispute at some point in the future it is in the Landlords interests for the agreement to be seen to be fair in its terms and clear in its meaning.

It goes (almost) without saying that a good agent will ensure that any Tenancy Agreement that they are using complies with current legislation. although laws in this area are well established and change infrequently there are matters that need updating from time to time. The may also other documents that need to be served correctly on the tenant in order to ensure tenancies are correctly set up, for instance if the landlord is not setting up a Shorthold Tenancy they are obliged to serve a notice informing the tenant of this fact.

Not all tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies, and where they are not used correctly then statutory tenancies are created which may grant the tenant more rights than the landlord intended.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies allow landlords to let their property for a short period only between 6 and 36 months and

  • The Tenant must be an individual not a business or holiday let
  • The property must be the Tenant’s main home
  • The  rent cannot exceed £25,000 per annum and there must be some rent payable
  • The Landlord must not occupy the same property – this includes flats converted from a larger building in which the landlord occupies a portion of the building even if they are both self-contained.

If court action is needed, this can be obtained on a number of different grounds against the Tenant.If the property is let under an Assured Short hold Tenancy, the Landlord can gain possession by issuing a Section 21 Notice which guarantees him possession once the original term has ended. This must give the tenant at least 2 months notice.

In practice although a tenancy can be set up for less than six months it is unlikely that a court will grant possession to the landlord within the first six months under a Section 21 Notice. However if a tenant has breached the terms of their agreement by nuisance or not paying rent then possession may be granted sooner.

If you want further advice on how we can help you to let and mange your property please do get in touch, one of our experienced team in our London Office would be happy to help you 020 7394 1160.

Part 5 will come out next week.

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What your agent does for you – Part 3 Getting References

In our previous posts we looked at marketing and finding a suitable tenant

We are now going to look into the next step, which is to obtain the references. At this stage we will have already met the tenant and discussed their requirements and their background to ensure it meets your requirements as a landlord. Now we need to formally confirm this and to ensure that the tenant is likely to be able to afford the rent.

Obtaining references

While it could be argued that finding a tenant is relatively easy in London where population levels are high and decent property can soon be let if the landlord will accept the first offer. The agent’s job is to find the right tenant for the property. This is built up from a number of indicators including the impressions the tenant gives when dealing with the agent; their demeanor and attitude; their credit rating; previous landlords’ references and employer’s reference.

We use specialist referencing companies who are able to concentrate on getting financial and employment information quickly. This is an efficient way of building up a tenants profile, plus they can also offer a range of rent guarantee products to our clients. This is an improvement on trying to contact each of the references yourself, chasing people up and trying to speak to the right person all of which can take up valuable time at times that you are trying to work yourself.

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Occasionally tenants do not fit into the boxes that mark out the perfect tenant but with some background digging and gathering other financial information about the tenants it may be possible to satisfy the landlord that the tenant is a genuine case. It is in these cases that a good agent can really earn their keep by using all their experience to rule out poor tenants and include good ones.

Obviously if it turns out that the tenant is not going to be a good risk then we advise the landlord who is likely to then make the decision not to proceed with at tenant. Again this avoids a confrontation for you as landlord as we are used to handling this process in a professional manner – to avoid personal conflict.

Negotiating

We are addressing this out of order as the negotiating is done prior to the reference procedure, but it ties in to the last point about personal confrontation. Many landlords struggle to negotiate a good deal find because they find it stressful as tenants haggle for the best terms they can get. Using an agent imparts an emotional distance to these negotiations and often results in a better deal for the landlord.

In our next post we will look at the legal paperwork surrounding tenancies and how your agent can help you with these.

Part 4 will come out next week.

What your agent does for you – Part 2 Finding the right tenant

In the second of our series looking at the role of the Letting Agent we focus on actually finding the right tenant for you as landlord.

Finding a tenant

This includes the agent ‘qualifying’ each tenant before they see the property to ensure that they meet the landlord’s criteria and that they will be able to fulfill the tenancy if they decide to proceed. Although this is simple series of questions it is often a step that a private landlord might miss – either because they are not sure questions to ask or how to ask them. our agent should know what to ask and how to ask it in order to quickly build up trust and rapport, and to gain a valuable insight into the tenant’s lifestyle.

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Equally there is no point in taking hundreds of tenants to see a property that doesn’t meet their requirements, we would be just wasting everyone’s time if we did this. While this predominantly inconveniences the inefficient agent it can also alienate prospective tenants, and any current tenants in your property who get fed up of having a trail of uninterested people trouping through their home.  It is far better to have a few qualified viewings (and to secure a tenancy from one of those), than to take everyone who is prepared to view it and risk not getting a tenant because none of them are seeing what they want.

A good agent will listen to the landlord to find out what pointers are most important to them, if the landlord says no smokers then a simple question to a prospective tenant will avoid any problems later. Your good agent will also listen to what a tenant finds most important and they will then try to marry one to the other (although not literally, a good agent often operates like a matching agency).

Another benefit of using an agent is your agent can usually arrange to accompany viewings at times that you may find inconvenient. This includes the ability to react quickly for a request for viewings. Many tenants will line up a series of viewings over a day or two and then just pick the best of what they can get in to see. The commitment of renting is not the same as buying and so tenants make decisions much quicker than potential homeowners. Flexibility and convenience often clinch a deal, particularly with time-poor professional tenants, who tend to be the landlord’s preference.

There will be more in this series but in the mean time please do contact us if you have any questions.

Part 3 will come out next week.

What your agent does for you – Part 1 Marketing

We like to blog in series – giving our clients information in bite sized pieces that they can easily digest. In our latest planned group of blogs we are going to look at the role that the agent plays in managing your property

Obviously different agents will have different services and different ways of charging for what they offer, so this is a broad overview of the sort of amenities that benefit you as a landlord and why they are worth paying for. Check with your agent what they offer and what they charge, it is always worth asking if they can provide something you want even if it is not listed in their promotional material.

The difficulty of being a good agent who is efficient at their job is that it can all seem too easy. There is a feeling among some that property management is ‘money for old rope’, but in fact it is a complicated job made easier by experience, manpower, systems and software. All of which may be unavailable to the private landlord.

The first task to discuss is how to get your property noticed by prospective tenants as it becomes available to rent.

Comprehensive marketing

This is something that is difficult for a private landlord to do, even in the age of internet marketing. The problem with putting a small add on a social media site or other sales site is that it is a tiny drop in a large pond, or to use a property analogy a small voice in a very big towerblock. You will possibly find a tenant through your private contacts especially if you have a very desirable property but it is much less likely than agents who can access large property portals as well as their own websites.

Agents use a range of marketing techniques including having a website and building brand awareness through office space, sign written cars, leaflet drops, agents boards, and not least their network of clients built up over years of experience. They may also be able to offer products that are not available to the private landlord including professional photography and floorplans.

Tenants find property through a number of different routes and good tenants often work on word of mouth recommendation. By building up a good reputation agents can attract friends of existing tenants without even needing to advertise, because they have marketed the service their business offers. If existing tenants have enjoyed a good relationship with their agent and they need to move within the agent’s area then they will usually contact the agent first to see what else they have. Given that these tenants are going to move anyway it is much better to keep them in-house as they have a proven track record, and so if you find an agent that you like to work with the chances are tenants are happy to stay with them too, this means you get access to their best tenants and there is no better reference than a prior knowledge of a tenant through your agent.

If you want to know what tenants and other landlords think of your agent then you can find reviews online. AllAgents offer a easy way for clients to leave feedback about agents which is then publicly available to all. Click on the link below to see reviews on Riley Marshall and others.

Part 2 will come out next week.

 Estate Agent and Letting Agent Reviews