Letting agents provide many important services, especially when you don't have the time or energy required to manage the properties you own. However, when it comes to services rendered, it's important to consider everything you're paying for and determine whether taking a back seat is really cost-effective.
With charges such as tenancy renewal fees considered unfair by many landlords and tenants alike, it makes sense to explore a few ways that you can carry out traditional agent duties for yourself.
These five tips will help you to steer clear of some unnecessary letting fees:
1. Double Check Your Agent's Contract
Make sure to read through your contract carefully and ask questions if certain fees are not clearly spelled out. For example, not all agents charge renewal fees—you should be clear on whether yours does from the outset.
If your agent clarifies a point in your agreement, make sure they add it in writing. Some agents are even willing to negotiate or waive certain fees, if you agree to the rest of their terms.
If you're already signed on with a letting agent, make sure you revisit your contract and understand what fees it lists. By law, fees cannot be "hidden away" in the fine print—don't get duped into paying more than you should.
2. Roll Over Into Periodic Tenancy
When a fixed term contract expires, you have every right to let that tenancy roll into a periodic tenancy (a.k.a. Statutory Periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements). When a contract's due to expire, some agents take it upon themselves to send tenants an eviction notice, so make sure you and your tenant understand and accept the upcoming change to your agreement.
You can find example periodic tenancy forms here.
3. Make Use of Social Media
Letting through social networks is becoming increasingly prominent. For example, you could create a page about your property on Facebook, with lots of pictures and details that are useful for prospective tenants. Think about asking friends and family to share the page around, or post links to it in location-specific groups where people might be searching for their next place to live.
Another way to leverage social media is to create a video tour of your property and upload this to YouTube. Assuming you already own a camera, the costs are zero and this ability to take a virtual look around will really make your listing stand out from the rest.
If you have a reasonable budget, you could even try using social media ads on your property. Platforms like Facebook now have extremely granular targeting, allowing you to hone in on your ideal tenants. Criteria’s include location, gender, age, education, workplaces, and relationship status.
The big advantage letting agents used to have is that they had connections you didn't. The internet has levelled that playing field. Now there are a number of landlord portals, many of which are free, which allow you to advertise your property without the aid of an agent.
Here are some websites you can try:
Gumtree - Large portal of traditional home lets, with additional listings for office spaces, parking and holiday rentals
Rent Direct UK - Online matchmaking service for landlords and credit-checked tenants
- SpareRoom - Typically used for singular rooms in shared homes/flats, offers a buddy up option to tenants
Craigslist - Classified advert site, with vast property section and user discussion forums
Loot - Host of UK-wide, classified ads. Includes filters for short lets, workspaces and student accommodation
5. Consider an Online Letting Agent
Online letting agents are essentially letting agents with two important differences: (1) they operate purely online, without a brick-and-mortar business, (2) going through an online letting agent will let you avoid many of the fees a high-street agent might charge.
They're especially useful for portals like Zoopla and Rightmove - popular websites when it comes to finding tenants, which only agents have access to. A good letting agent will charge you a relatively small fee and then list your property on all of the most popular portals.
Here are some online letting agents to consider:
We've come a long way in the last few years, with the introduction of new policies designed to protect landlords and tenants from unfair letting agent fees, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't still carefully weigh your options whenever you engage with a letting agent.
These few tips are only the start; with a bit of research and creativity, landlords can advertise their properties, screen potential tenants – even handle the legal stuff – totally solo. It all goes to show that in our interconnected age it's becoming simpler, and often more profitable, for landlords and tenants to find each other without the need for an intermediary.