Choosing the right rental agent is vital

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Although everyone will tell you that you need to work with a good agent when letting out property, finding the right person with the right ethos is not always as easy as it first appears. What does a good agent do differently to one who is mediocre at best and what sort of questions should property owners be asking before appointing a letting agent to do this important job?

There is a vast difference between a selling agent and one who specialises in rental property. Registered agents are legally able to deal with all things property and as such can sell or rent a home. However, just as selling is a specialised field, so too is leasing property and it is therefore wise to choose a person who is not only aware of what is available to rent, but who fully understands the legalities involved.

Most selling agents will tell you that they prefer to stay away from the rental market. Likewise, most rental agents are not interested in selling property. There is a good reason for this. The laws governing property rentals in this country have changed dramatically over the past couple of years. Anyone who is not au fait with these changes is going to land in hot water.

How do you know that the person you are dealing with is on top of his game and is not only willing to guide the landlord through the rental process, but is able to satisfactorily manage a tenant? Asking the right questions will go a long way toward ensuring that the right person for the job is employed from the very start.

  • Is the agent registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board? Every agent, regardless of whether they sell or lease property, has to be registered. Ask to see a copy of a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate.

  • How long has the agent been letting property and how many homes are presently on the agency’s books?

  • What steps is the agent prepared to take to protect the landlord’s interests? Landlords should ascertain how the agent goes about ensuring that the right tenant with the right credentials is allowed to get the key to the front door. What happens when the rent is late or remains unpaid, and what is the agency’s policy on dealing with damages?

  • Ask to see references from other landlords currently dealing with the agency concerned. Keeping landlords happy is not as easy as one might think. Being a successful rental agent takes a great deal of time and consistent effort and anyone who is not up to the task is going incur the wrath of disgruntled landlords.

  • Does the agent always insist on a deposit? This should be a non-negotiable aspect of any rental deal. However, there are still agents who are willing to hand over the keys to someone else’s property without ensuring that there is a deposit in place.

  • Ask to see a copy of the agency’s standard rental contract before you agree to rent out property through the company. Reading and understanding the contract beforehand allows the landlord to fully understand both his and his tenant’s obligations. It also affords the landlord the opportunity to tweak or amend the contract to suit his personal needs.

  • What services does the letting agency offer? This is particularly important for absentee landlords. By law, a rental property has to be maintained to an acceptable standard. While this may not be a problem for a landlord who lives close by, it can become a major issue for landlords who stay far away. Good letting agents should have a list of reputable service providers, including plumbers and general maintenance people, who are able to attend to any problems with the minimum of fuss and at a reasonable rate.

Securing the services of the right agent, which means one who is not only qualified to do the job, but who takes an active interest in their chosen career, is vital. The risks associated with renting property are growing and landlords need to ensure that they have covered all the bases before they rent out what is probably their most expensive asset.

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