Should I Rent Directly Through A Private Landlord Or Use A Letting Agent?

One of my more creepy/weird friends (picture a young Mr Burns from the Simpsons), approached me earlier and informed me that he’s finally going to take the plunge and vacate from his parent’s basement, or “the battle lab” as he likes to call it (he’s a total Star Trek hermit), and move into a rental property with his long-term girlfriend. It’s his funeral, I told him. He then asked me what was the better option, to deal directly with a landlord or going through a letting agent that fully-manages the property. Good question. It’s still his funeral, though.

I couldn’t actually give him a straight answer. Personally, I think both options have their own pro’s and con’s, and it ultimately depends on which package appeals most to the individual and their needs. It’s a tough call. It’s like choosing between Christina Aguilera and Reese Witherspoon. Do I want a good fuck or someone that will cater to my emotional baggage? Arguably, both equally appealing, but for different reasons.

Anyways, here’s my dirty 2 cents worth on the issue. I found it on the floor. Here, take it…

Using a letting agent

Advantages of tenants using a letting agent

  • letting agents are regulated
    Although not legally required, most letting agents are members of at least one regulated body (no one should use an agent that isn’t). This means they are required to abide by a code of conduct; failing to do so may lead to financial compensation to the consumer and further penalties.
  • Letting agents are more likely to know the legal procedures
    Most experienced letting agents will have a better understanding of the law compared to the average landlord, which means they are more likely to ensure that all legal requirements are met by both landlord and tenant.
  • Letting agents can be easily contacted
    Letting agents have an office, multiple members of staff, and unmissable forms of transport in the shape of a highly intoxicated Mini Cooper, so they’re always easy to find/get in touch with.
  • They’ll do the hard-work for you
    If the attention of the landlord is required to approve a repair, for example, the responsibility of tracking the landlord down will fall onto them. So the tenant won’t have to get their hands dirty and deal with any harassment charges.

Disadvantages of tenants using a letting agent

  • Letting agents can be expensive
    While I’ve never understood why the fee exists, almost all letting agents charge tenants with an application fee, which averages at about £100. Additionally, if there are any problems, using a letting agent will result in extra administration and paperwork, which will generally result in more expenses. Letting agents can be an expensive hobby.
  • Letting agents often charge tenancy renewal fees
    Tenancy renewal fees are sickening, so I’ve given it a bullet-point of it’s own, even though I could have crammed it into the point above. Letting agents often charge an “admin fee” to both landlord and tenant when contracts are renewed after the fixed date expires.
  • Letting agents can be annoying
    Dealing with letting agents in general can be irritating; and that’s a sad fact of reality. Of course, you get those genuine, hard-working folks that actually give a shit about your best interest. But they’re a rare breed, and you’ll most likely be lumbered with a typical snake-oil salesman that pollutes the room with his/her bullshit. Kind of like us landlords.
  • Chinese Whispers
    Whether it be genuinely innocent or viciously immoral, there’s a legitimate chance of information getting lost in translation when the letting agent acts as the middle man, and relays information between landlord and tenant. At end of the day, as the tenant, you will almost never know what the landlord said to the letting agent, so by the time the information gets back to you, who knows how much of it is true, and how much of the truth has been fabricated by the middle-man to benefit their own interest.
  • Slower communication between tenant and landlord
    From my experience, 9 out of 10 times a tenant will only contact a letting agent when something needs repairing or when they’re going to be late on rent. Tenants rarely contact the letting agent with good news, consequently it’s important that the information travels from tenant to landlord (or vice versa) as quickly as possible. With an active middle man (the letting agent), it can often take longer for information to reach the right person. In times of urgency, communication should be quick and efficient, like drunk sex with a tart!

Using a private landlord directly

Advantages of tenants using a private landlord directly

  • No additional fees
    I’ve never heard of a sane landlord that charges tenancy renewal fees or any form of administration fees, so dealing directly with a landlord is almost always the cheaper (and fairer) option.
  • You deal directly with the decision maker
    Some times it’s just quicker, sexier and easier to understand a situation when you’re dealing directly with the right person, especially when the topic of discussion is problematic e.g. repairs or rent arrears. It’s easier to compromise and come up with payment plans. More importantly, each party is able to hear the tone of each others voice, which is unbelievably useful. Dealing directly is such a massive advantage, for both tenant and landlord.
  • Opportunity to build a good relationship with the landlord
    When you deal directly with the landlord, you’re able to build a good relationship with him/her. Having the landlord on your side means they’re more likely to let you stay in the property for longer, and attend to repairs quicker. If a letting agent feels they can find tenants that are willing to pay more than what you currently are (and prepared to pay), they may encourage the landlord to serve notice. But if you have a good relationship with the landlord, the extra few pounds they may get from new tenants may seem unappetizing.
  • You get to meet the landlord before the tenancy begins
    When you deal directly with a landlord, you’re more than likely to meet him/her during the viewing of a property. This allows the tenant to make some form of judgement on what kind of landlord he/she will be. Your judgement may not be 100% accurate, but if he/she comes across as unreasonable, rude and badly presented, then you have the opportunity to walk away from the deal before getting tied into a contract. How the landlord comes across at the viewing will most likely be an accurate reflection of how they’ll be as a landlord throughout the tenancy, whether you deal with them directly or through a letting agent.

Disadvantages of tenants using a private landlord directly

  • Ignorant towards the law
    A lot of landlords are unfamiliar with landlord law, so they often neglect their legal responsibilities and take matters into their own hands. Scary stuff!
  • Landlords can be difficult to find
    Landlords can often be difficult to get in touch with, especially when they’re trying to ignore their tenants like the plague.

So as it goes, it’s easy to defend both corners (and I only covered a fraction of it). To be honest, a lot of the points are subjective. For example, while some tenants may be scared away by dealing with private landlords directly because there’s a good chance they won’t be familiar with the law, there are others that may find the ignorance mouth-watering.

It’s an open debate. It really does boil down to personal preference. All I have done is compile a generic list, to perhaps, give you a little extra insight (in case you’re in the position of deciding).

If anyone can think of other points I can add to the lists, please leave a comment below…

Hopefully my friend will find this article useful. I quote, “make the blog post informative, don’t make it sassy…” No idea what he meant by that!

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6 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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Dan Harrison 1st June, 2012 @ 08:08

Completely agree with all of the above. I was very lucky to find a great letting agent. Fixed price, no renewals, recommended periodic terms when contract term expired, increased my monthly income by £70 a month, and found me a tenant with just 9 days void.

But, I'm exceptionally lucky. :)

Dan

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Guest Avatar
Tom Worker 18th June, 2012 @ 09:53

In my personal experience, dealing with landlords is the best option! I have never had a good experience with letting agents and I have been through a few! My current private landlord is professional and always gets what we need done. I don't think I would ever use a letting agent again.

Thanks
Tom

2
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Ellis Parker 11th April, 2013 @ 11:49

Good article. Letting agents have a very important role to play in the residential rental market because they help landlords and tenants come to an agreement. The agent usually takes a flat fee from the tenant although many people increasingly take a percentage of the rental amount .It is very important to remember that there is no government regulation of letting agents.

As a result, you need to be careful when selecting one, try to select good reputable agents like in London; http://www.plazaestates.co.uk/properties-to-rent/buying-to-let is one of the well known and trustworthy firms where you get the best possible service with no possibility of the person cheating you.

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Margaret Brazear 19th September, 2013 @ 07:03

I think it is important to point out that it is much harder to find a landlord for yourself without an agent. Most use an agent, so you may be left with little choice. On the other side, if you have pets like me, a lot of agents will simply say "no" without consultation of the landlord because they don't want the hassle if things go wrong. I know of one agent who put "no pets" in an ad for a cottage on a country estate which I know for a fact takes pets. The other problem with agents is that some will not leave you alone and will want to inspect every five minutes, one even came on the wrong day to someone I know and when she wasn't in, let themselves in! Just a couple more points.

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imogene martyn 23rd February, 2015 @ 23:50

im rather worried as im looking, at the moment to rent from agent . im in a TINY council b
unglow, im in wheelchair. council don't care . this agent says LEASE IS renewed every six months, I have a dog, told them.say its ok. but can I be made HOMELESS??????

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kathryn 23rd March, 2015 @ 10:17

I found my current property through a letting agent but have now found myself dealing directly with the landlord. He gave us his phone number because no messages were getting to him from the agent. Should I ask him to drop the agent and renew directly with us?

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