A Guide to Letting Property in London - Part I: How to Choose the Right Lettings Agent

Date Published 20 June 2016

At John Wilcox we have an extensive understanding of the lettings market in Kensington and Chelsea, Holland Park and Notting Hill, and we have put together a five-part guide to the process which we hope will give you a good idea of the how to get the most from your property.

Part I – How to Choose the Right Lettings Agent
As a landlord, choosing the right lettings agent it vital. First of all it's important to decide what level of service you require. Do you just want them to find a tenant for you, or do you require property management. In most cases it is a sensible investment to have an expert manage your property, and a good agent should look after the tenant as well as they look after you.

It is important that the agent you choose has the ability to serve your instruction easily and on short notice – and this is much easier to achieve if they are geographically close enough to your property to be available ‘on the spot' if needed.

Track Record
Check that your letting agent knows what they're doing.

What are their qualifications/experience? If their qualifications are not up-to-date they might not be aware of best practice regarding the management of private rented property. You might find yourself with tenants who have the wrong type of tenancy. This affects both security of tenure, and who can determine the rent.

Landlords: ask about their rent arrears, average periods that their properties are empty for, and condition of properties at end of tenancy.

Comparable Evidence
Advice from your agent should always be supported by comparable evidence, and a good lettings agent will be able to show you other properties similar to yours, and explain the rents achieved. A good agent will be happy for you to speak to their existing clients/tenants.

Check what are the other properties like that they let – this might help you find a letting agent who will attract tenants interested in a property like yours.

Proper referencing for potential tenants
With new legislation coming into action proper tenant referencing is now more important than ever for landlords.

A good agent will use a professional referencing company who assess prospective tenants according to an agreed set of criteria. These references confirm:

• That the applicant has a satisfactory credit rating – being registered on the electoral register has a significant effect on the applicant's credit score.

• That the applicant is employed, earns the salary as reported on their application forms, and that the salary is sufficient to be able to afford the rent.

• That previous tenancies, if any, have been conducted in a satisfactory manner.

Some tenants do not fall into the ‘easy-to-reference' category including the self-employed, retired people, students, company lets and those coming from overseas.

In these cases it is important to obtain as much information as possible. You can never be entirely certain that the tenancy will be conducted as you would hope, but the bigger the picture you can draw, the better.

Your rental property is likely to be one of your most important assets and if there is any doubt about the tenants, then it is sensible to be cautious.

Rent in advance and guarantors
If all referencing avenues have been explored and there is still insufficient evidence that the rent will be paid, then there are two further options. You can ask for all or some of the rent to be paid in advance, or have a guarantor to guarantee the tenancy.

For those coming from overseas it is also important to check that they have the right to be in the country. The tenant should have a valid visa (if necessary) for the entire period of their tenancy.

Excellent Back-Office support
The right letting agent will be able to provide and excellent service for rent collection, statements, prompt transfer of rent and be competent to advise on Overseas Landlord's tax issues.

Superb Property Management
This is essential as it forms the basis of how enjoyable a stay your tenant will have. The better the Property Management, the more likely they are to want to extend their tenancy.

Realistic / Competitive Fees
It may be a false economy to choose the cheapest lettings agent, because a proven track record and happy tenants will achieve higher rents from better tenants in the long run.

Client Money Protection
Make sure your agent has this – it means they have arrangements with a scheme so that if anything happens to the rent once it has been paid, then the scheme will consider a claim to compensate you.

John Wilcox is one of the most experienced and respected lettings agent in the Holland Park, Kensington and Chelsea, and Notting Hill area. We hope you have found this useful. Feel free to do drop in to our offices on Addison Avenue anytime to discuss your current or future lettings requirements.

Next time: Part II in the Series – The Nuts and Bolts of the Lettings Process.