Andrew Parkinson column: All you ever needed to know about letting agents

The team.
The team.

Q&A with Andrew Parkinson.

Q Why do letting agents get such a bad press?

A Letting agents are unregulated and as a result there are inevitably some rogue operators. Both landlords and tenants should check that any agent they choose is accredited to a licensing scheme that insists on membership of The Property Ombudsman, have client money protection and has an effective complaints process in place.

Q Many complaints about agents concern unjustified and excessive fees to both landlords and tenants. Why is this?

A Letting agents like any other service provider are entitled to charge for the service they provide. It is often difficult to determine what is reasonable or fair but all fees should be transparent and commensurate with the service provided. Some agents have hidden charges which weren’t obvious when the landlord signed up, these extra charges can cause resentment. There has been recent criticism by the Advertising Standards Authority of letting agents who do not publish all their fees and new guidance is now in place from November 1 2013

Q What advice would you give to new landlords?

A Letting out a property can be rewarding but it can also be complicated. It is vitally important that all tenancy regulations are complied with, particularly those relating to safety and deposit protection. There is plenty of advice available to new landlords both from government and various landlord associations. My top tip would be to get a good tenant but that can be easier said than done! Should a landlord choose to go with an agent they should approach more than one in order to compare charges and more importantly the level of experience and service provided.

Q You charge a flat rate fee rather than commission. Why?

A We believe that commission based charges are unfair and illogical. Management fees at 10% for example would result in an owner of a property rented at £800 paying £80 but on a property rented at £400 he or she would only pay half that. The actual work involved in managing or marketing the two properties will be much the same. The same advertising has to be done, the same accompanied viewings take place, the same office admin happens, so why are the two fees charged so different? It doesn’t make sense.

Q How is the letting market in Lancaster and Morecambe?

A The local rental market is very strong and this reflects the national trend away from buying and towards renting. We manage 270 properties in the local area and the quality of properties offered for rent has improved dramatically in recent years but demand for all types of properties is still greater than supply. Despite recent government initiatives to boost property sales many industry experts believe the under supply of rented housing is set to continue,

Q You don’t have a High Street presence. Why?

A The dramatic expansion of the internet and improvements in technology allow us to be an online and telephone-based business. We market our properties locally and with Rightmove, which is the UK’s number one property website and is in the top 10 of all UK websites alongside Google, Facebook, Twitter, BBC etc . We now also offer a paper free application process, tenancy agreements are signed electronically online and our viewing staff complete check ins, check outs and property inspections on Ipads.

Obviously there are costs associated with our model but it is still much less expensive than having a shop on the High Street. We can pass on the savings to our customers by offering very competitive, transparent fees and a quick and efficient service.