Whether you're an investor who owns several rental properties or a homeowner who is keen to tenant your property while you're away on a work contract, you can simplify the process by hiring a good letting agent, says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group.
"The fees charged by such agents are usually around 10% of the monthly rental, but seasoned landlords all know that the peace of mind which comes from having a professional to handle the lease, wrangle the tenants and manage the property in your absence is worth every cent.
Choose a big brand agent
"The real question is, then, how to choose your letting agent? A personal recommendation always helps but if you have to go it alone, you should choose a ‘big brand’ agent who already manages a portfolio of rented accommodation, can provide references from other landlords and has the backing of a national real estate group."
He says you must also make sure that your agent is registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the National Association of Managing Agents, has a registered trust account where clients' money is kept, and only receives fees from landlords (not from tenants).
Get it in writing
"Having made your choice, you should then be asked to sign an agency agreement or letting mandate, which covers the agent's right to let the property on your behalf and sets out the details of how you want the property to be managed and how you will be paid your monthly rental.
“Make sure you read this document carefully and do not sign it if there's any part that is unclear or that you don't agree with.”
Similarly, says Everitt, you should check out the lease agreement your agent will be using and ensure that it complies with the Rental Housing Act, the Consumer Protection Act and various other legislation affecting landlords and tenants.
"Remember, this document is actually a binding legal agreement between you and your tenant, so once again you should not sign it unless you are happy with it.
"And if there are any special or additional instructions you want your agent or tenant to follow, you must put them in writing, date them and append them to the lease. No one is looking for a dispute with their tenant or agent, but it is always better to have things in black-and-white."
Relax and put your feet up
However, he says, once you've gone through this process and your agent is clear on what you want done and what you expect from them, it's time for you to relax and let them do their job.
"Experienced managing agents know very well how to attract suitable tenants and how to check references and credit records. They will also ensure that an adequate deposit is paid before they had over the keys and react quickly and correctly if the rent is not paid promptly or if repairs are needed.
“This is, after all, the service you are paying for, so there is no point in you doubling up on everything your agent is doing."