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The right lettings agent can be the difference between a successful tenancy, or a disaster for all concerned. And we’re not just talking about empty homes from poor marketing, badly-checked tenants, or unpaid rent.  When lettings agents get things wrong, it can now cost a whole lot more with cases running into tens of thousands – and even millions – of pounds.


Given the size of that wallet-stinging figure – not to mention the heartache, headache and stress of having a tenancy go wrong – and it makes a lot of sense to know what to ask when finding a lettings agent in Surbiton or Long Ditton to manage your property, and to find out just what different agents do for their percentage.


You might be thinking: “Come on, agents get money for basically doing nothing”, but having a quality letting agent protects both the tenant and landlord as well as making the process fast and smooth.


The agent’s job is to make a tenancy an easy ride for everyone – and you’d hardly want one that made things difficult! – but that means staying on top of more than a hundred and forty-five laws and four hundred regulations (and that’s before we’ve talked about marketing or maintenance!)


Most importantly, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you need an agent you can trust and rely on when issues arise. So how do you make sure that your agent is qualified to let your property? One tip is to always use a company that is ARLA Propertymark Protected.


ARLA Propertymark Protected agents are regulated to make sure they not only adhere to the law, but work to an even higher standard than legislation demands.  They are also backed by a Client Money Protection Scheme; have to take regular training to keep up with legal changes and best practice; and have a nationally recognised Code of Practice. 


Agents who are part of the scheme submit independently audited accounts to Propertymark annually and are members of an independent redress scheme, as well as having professional indemnity insurance. 


In a nutshell, membership of Propertymark is a sign that your agent is not only compliant with the law, but committed to transparency, and gives you the reassurance that, if anything were to go wrong, the ARLA Client Money Protection Scheme (CMP) would be there to step in and reimburse tenants and landlords.


At Humphrey & Brand we offer two levels of service for rental properties in Surbiton: Tenant Find Plus Rent Collection and Full ManagementTenant Find Plus Rent Collection means we find a tenant and collect the rent, but everything else is dealt with by you. Full Management means we take care of everything and only involve you if something unusual needs dealing with (for example, a larger maintenance-spend like a boiler replacement). 

In both cases we deal with all the paperwork: taking up references, credit-checks, confirmation of employment details, and residency status. We'll also collate the gas and electrical safety certificates, and the Energy Performance Certificate. All these must be given to new tenants.


You need to decide what level suits you. Full Management takes all of the maintenance, the rent collection and any other issues off your plate, it costs a larger fee, but it includes getting yearly gas service checks, ensuring fire regulations are met, and testing electrical appliances supplied by the landlord. There are various pieces of legislation in place to protect tenants and a good agent should be aware of these and able to advice on compliance. The legal responsibility remains with you, however, so it’s important to know the advice you get is correct.  


Full Management also means your agent deals with the security deposit, and holds it for you after registering it with a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme. Make sure your agent gives you details of which scheme they use, and gives you the confirmation that the deposit has been registered. In a fully-managed property the agent also handles the rent and maintenance monies and must show you their membership of a Client Money Protection scheme. Moreover, all money must be held in a Client Account, separate from the agent’s general business bank account, and your agent must also show you this. Without all of these in place, the agent is operating illegally.


Whatever level of service you choose from your estate agent; you must also ask for proof that they know how to market your property. Good marketing is essential and that means you need to check that your agent is using the main internet portals, and crucially Rightmove. Some agents have cut back on their advertising expenditure and cancelled their Rightmove subscription because it’s the most expensive portal, but that’s a false economy as it’s by the far the biggest source of enquiries. The results are more than worth the investment and an agent is losing a huge audience for its properties and clients by not being a member.


But do take your agent's advice on what level of rent can be expected based on location, size and specification. A good agent will be able to show you similar properties they have let locally, so you can be assured they are not aiming too low, or too high.


Finally, it is important to put your property on with a lettings agent who is nearby. Not only will that make viewings easier, it will also mean that they have in depth local knowledge of the area, how to market it and also a list of existing and reliable tenants who might be interested in your property.


And if you are having the property fully managed, a local agent makes far more sense to keep on top of all the annual certifications, and other maintenance issues, but make sure the agent doesn’t outsource things like maintenance or accounts to a department where nobody knows the landlord or the property.  At Humphrey & Brand we don’t outsource anything: it’s all dealt with by our team here in Surbiton.


Letting out a property may look as simple as falling off a log, but to have the best experience it’s really important to have an agent who can demonstrate their quality and reliability. That way you can feel confident knowing that you and your tenant are protected, and that your property will be well looked after.


In the end, knowing what questions to ask, and doing your research on your letting agent, will pay huge dividends.


If you have a property in Surbiton or Long Ditton and would like to talk about renting it out or having it managed, our lettings team would love to hear from you.