Guide For Landlords That Don’t Want To Use Letting Agents

This guide is specifically aimed to help new landlords that don’t want to use letting agents and pay their fees (which can often be extortionate!).

A common misconception is that letting agents provide us with a skill set which can’t be duplicated by the average landlord. We assume that they have an advantage over us by having all the trade tools, resources, local knowledge and all that extensive training they’ve been put through. NOT TRUE. Anyone can be an agent; they have no special qualifications. You can’t honestly tell me you’re surprised.

All agents do is provide us with is a service which we don’t know enough about to confidently duplicate. But when you break it down and walk through the steps, it’s really not that difficult or time-consuming to learn the essentials, which is what my step-by-step guide below will demonstrate.

Letting Agents charge between 8%-15% of the rental rate for their services. They’re expensive. Additionally, the landlord has to meet legal obligations, such as acquiring Gas Safety Certificates and Energy Performance Certificates. Acquiring those products through a letting agent can be the expensive method because agents usually add their own markup. So it quickly becomes easy to see how being a landlord can be expensive when using a Letting Agent. However, their fees can be avoided, and that’s simply by taking the letting agent out of the equation. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

The information below is a step-by-step guide on how a landlord can independently be a landlord without the aid of a letting agent.

1. Make sure the property is legal and in working order

Aside from the non-obligational procedures that any Landlord with a bit of common sense would pay attention to, it’s important for the landlord to meet all legally required obligations. These are all necessary obligations; failing to comply with these could result in prosecution. Here’s a more detailed and up-to-date list of Landlord Obligations / Regulations – The Law

2. Make the property presentable

In this current market, with an oversupply of BTL properties, renters’ are spoilt for choice, so it’s crucial to make your property as appealing as possible, just to help shake off the competition.

3. How much rent you should charge

I see a lot of landlords make this mistake; they have unrealistic expectations and end up asking above the odds. It’s an expensive mistake to make because it could mean the property remains vacate longer than it has to be, which will effectively cost more than having a realistic asking price in the first place.

Landlords commonly overprice their properties because they put their heart and soul into getting a property ready, so they put a value on their blood, sweat and tears, which gets passed onto the asking price. In reality, tenants won’t care how or why a property looks the way it does, as long as it looks acceptable to their standards.

Bottom line, put a realistic and competitive asking price on your property. That means, don’t under or over price your rent. Here’s a guide on how landlords can find out how much rent you should be charging.

4. Know your property

I know this point seems stupid, but it’s amazing how many small, yet important details are unknown by the landlord about their own property.

The following information are just examples of what details you should be aware of, so you can pass on the details to your tenant, or letting agent (depending on if you use a letting agent or not).

  • What council tax band the property is in
  • How much the council tax is
  • What day the garbage is collected
  • Which companies are currently supplying the property with gas & electricity, water and the telephone line

A more detailed guide on the issue: Know The Specifics Of Your BTL Property

5. Think about what kind of tenants you want

Will you allow tenants to smoke? Will you allow pets? Will you allow DSS tenants (tenants receiving benefits)?

They’re the sort of details prospective tenants will expect to see in your advertisements. You need to be clear about what you’re looking for in a tenant, or more specifically, what you will accept.

The important factors to remember is that;

  • the more filters you apply, the less enquiries you will generate, because each filter will automatically make a certain group of tenants illegible
  • the less filters you apply, the greater the risks. For example, pets and smoking may cause damage to the property

6. Market your property to find tenants

There are tonnes of ways landlords can market their property to find tenants. Some of the better methods of marketing require a small budget, but there are plenty of free options.

Here are 17 Ways Landlords Can Market Their BTL Property For Free.

Here’s How Landlords Can Advertise on Rightmove by using Online Letting Agents.

For a comprehensive guide on how to find tenants efficiently and cost-effectively, go to the Finding Tenants Guide

7. Take viewings

During the viewing be sure to discuss all relevant information:

  • Show tenants the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Discuss how much rent is, and the options of how rent can be paid (What’s The Best Way To Collect Rent? )
  • Discuss who is responsible for bills e.g. council tax and utility
  • Make it clear when the property is available
  • Discuss how long the tenancy is for
  • Make it clear that a guarantor is required
  • The deposit required

8. Tenant Referencing

Once the offers start flowing in, get all the relevant information from each prospective tenant which seem the most promising options before committing to any one candidate:

  • Current/past employment status
  • Rental history
  • Reference details from previous Landlords
  • Credit Check

Here’s a full guide on tenant referencing.

9. Pick the winner

Use your own intuition based on the references and the face-to-face encounter to determine which tenant is most suitable for the property.

I generally use the following pyramid diagram as a tool for assistance, The Best And Worst Tenants

10. Make Arrangements

Call the lucky applicant and confirm the arrangement. Agree on a moving in date, and arrange a time to meet at the property.

Remind the tenant that the deposit and first month’s rent is required to be paid by move in day. Arrange how the payment will be made. Also, discuss the arrangements for a Tenant Guarantor. Ideally, the Guarantor will sign the agreement before move in day.

11. Prepare the documents

I always use/provide the following documents with every tenant:

12. Meet the Guarantor

Meet and greet the Guarantor so they can fill in the Guarantor Form and sign it. Make sure they’re aware of their responsibilities.

13. Keys

Ensure you have 3 sets of keys to the property. Keep two for yourself and one for your tenant.

14. Make a confirmation call

A few nights before move in day, call the tenant and confirm everything is still as planned.

15. Move in day

Meet the tenant at the property with prepared documents. Don’t hand over keys until the inventory is completed together, the contracts are signed and first month’s rent and security deposit have been paid. It’s important not to do the inventory BEFORE the tenant moves in, because damage is notoriously caused when furniture is being transported into the property. Only then hand over keys and allow for their belongings to be moved in.

At this point it’s important to refer to point #1 in the list (i.e. following landlord legal obligations and regulations), because some things need to be done either before your tenant moves in, or on the day they move in (e.g. checking smoke alarms). I’ve put together a compliance pack for new tenancies which will help you meet your legal obligations for new tenancies!

16. Perform a comprehensive tour

Show the tenant the important specifics:

  • Where the fire alarms are located
  • Discuss the areas which were revised (point 3)
  • Explain how the hot water and heating work
  • Explain how any electrical items that come with the property work E.g. white goods

17. Contact details

Exchange contact details so it’s clear which is the best way to get in touch with one another.

19. Content Insurance

Remind the tenant that the building insurance only covers the building and not content. It’s their responsibility to get their content insured.

19. Tenancy Security Deposit

The deposit should be secured in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme with in 30 days of receiving the deposit. Get that shit arranged ASAP!

20. Landlord Rent & Legal Insurance

I don’t ALWAYS get Landlord Rent Guarantor Insurance, but if I do, i’d do it at this point.

These insurance policies covers any rent losses if tenants fall into arrears. Additionally, if the tenant runs up any legal costs (e.g eviction costs), then the insurance company will pay for it.

21. Landlord Building Insurance

Landlord BTL Building Insurance is NOT a legal obligation. However, it is highly recommended, along with looking into the other various types of landlord insurances polices available.

Buy-to-let home insurance is NOT the same as regular home insurance. So ensure you have the right type of insurance policy in place for a rental property, otherwise your policy can be deemed void.

If you currently have a landlord insurance policy in place, inform building insurance company of new tenants and update their records. Failing to do so could make your policy void!

22. Registering the new arrivals

Instruct the tenant to inform the following that they’re the new residents of the property:

  • Council tax Office
  • Gas & Electricity company (they’ll also need meter readings at hand)
  • Water company (they’ll also need meter readings at hand)

I personally contact the suppliers myself to ensure the new tenant’s registered as the new occupants! I recommend for all landlords to do this. I’ve heard of too many cases where tenant’s don’t do it, and it causes all kinds of billing issues!

Got anything to add? Let me know.

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20 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Charlee Fisher 27th June, 2009 @ 19:04

Here's move of why I feel you need both. But to make a safe and secure way it's always convenient to hire every tenancy of that particular state or cities. Be it your local, distant, residential or corporate move if you hire an US based licensed and professional moving company definitely that will make you to end up with a more organized and planned relocation not exceeding the property and within day of time.

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Guest Avatar
Steve 27th June, 2009 @ 20:01

Hi
Firstly, great site, i have learned a lot from researching here in the past 2 weeks

Regarding Point 16; do you accept cheques on move in day or only cash?
I have a prospective tenant who is meant to be moving in on Sat 4th July
He has twice missed agreed meetings to sign the agreement [i used yours rather than my solicitors] and hand over deposit and sign the standing order mandate
If i accept the cheque, they move in, cheque bounces, am i stuffed?

Thanks

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 28th June, 2009 @ 10:22

Hey steve,
I wouldn't recommend accepting cheques on move in day, because as you mentioned, they could bounce. If that happens, once tenants move into the property, you'd basically be stuffed. They'll be able to stay there for 2 months without paying rent before you can take legal action!

Kind regards

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Jools 28th June, 2009 @ 17:34

I agree with The LAndlord - all funds must be cleared before they move in. Preferably not cash - cheque or BACS is best to provide an audit trail.

Jools

BTW what the F*** is Charlee on?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 29th June, 2009 @ 16:00

haha shiiiiiit! I thought I was being stupid for not understanding what he was saying.

I think he's basically saying you should get tenants that already live locally. Right? RIGHT, JOOLS?!?!

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Guest Avatar
Steve 29th June, 2009 @ 22:34

Thanks for your replies

I had a 'full & frank discussion' with the propective DSS tenant today reminding him that i needed AST signed, deposit + advance rent before he even thinks of reversing his hertz rent-a-van onto my drive - turns out that meelado didn't, and never did, have the cash for the deposit - he hadn't even booked the van ffs - what a twat

Still, you live & learn

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Feefee 1st July, 2009 @ 13:05

Ohh this is so helpful to me ( seeing as i dont have a CLUE) i dont need to go searching anywhere else now :D

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Leon 6th February, 2011 @ 22:12

Your blog is not only a great source of info, but a very funny read. Respect

I was just about to get into bed with a letting agency, but I really really dont want to pay them close to £3000 in fees and £1000s in rent upfront for doing very little, especially as it's a let-only arrangement.

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Dino 28th November, 2011 @ 14:34

Hi does anyone know if you can drop w letting agent but keep your tenant on? Fed up of paying them to do nothing? Thanks for any advice

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Guest Avatar
Benji 28th November, 2011 @ 15:10

Dino,
Yes you can but there may be a penalty to pay.
Depends on the terms and conditions of your agreement with the agent. Have a good read through, it should tell you in there.
If you feel the terms in it are unfair, you may have a case under the unfair terms etc act.
Even if not, it can be a starting point for negotiations.
Although it doesnt strictly apply to your case, if you mention the 'Office of Fair Trading v Foxtons' case, most letting agents tend to be more willing to do a deal.

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Guest Avatar
Dino 28th November, 2011 @ 15:36

Thanks Benji that's what I wanted to hear.

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Mr X 7th February, 2012 @ 20:32

This is an excellent post. Using this as my blueprint.

Quick question, you touched on this above, but still a bit unsure about the initial payment.

On move in day the tenancy is signed. So tenant would be expected to pay rent and deposit a few days before they move in, would tenants feel ok to do this? Secondly if they don't wish to pay for BAC's transfer, I assume they would need to pay maybe around 3 working days before move in day for the payment to clear?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th February, 2012 @ 08:12

Hi Mr X,

Well, the landlord should ensure he/she receives the deposit and first month's rent before any keys are passed over. Reason being, in theory, as soon as the tenant physically moves into the property, they become legal occupiers of the property. And you don't want to give tenant's that legal right until they have paid for it!!

I've never had a tenant question the prepayment policy in the past, it's pretty standard. Moreover, from what I'm aware, ALL letting agencies (at least ones that know what they're doing) require the tenant to pay the deposit and first month's rent before the tenant can move into the property.

A lot of rental scams have revolved around bouncing cheques. So whatever method you're receiving payment in (e.g. cheque / transfer) just ensure the funds have completely cleared into your account before you pass over keys to the front door.

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Mr X 8th February, 2012 @ 15:36

Thanks for replying Landlord.

Yeh I totally agree with you, just wasn't sure how to go about taking the funds. My concern was answered in this response... "I've never had a tenant question the prepayment policy in the past, it's pretty standard. ".

If this is tricky, I would probably take bankers draft on the day, or even cash.

Thanks for clarifying.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th February, 2012 @ 20:23

No worries :)

Cash is king. I've had plenty of tenants pay cash on move in day!

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Guest Avatar
shula 14th April, 2012 @ 02:43

Hi there
like your site
cant find info on which deposit scheme you use/recommend?
Thanks
Shula

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Chantal 16th July, 2014 @ 01:29

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sheffieldresidential 13th May, 2016 @ 14:43

very well write we should know that the property is legal or not and also history of that property. All is need to be done that we have to research every thing before buy or sell a property.

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Matthew Dickinson 12th July, 2016 @ 12:48

I am a disabled man, who was able to live alone, but now has to live in sheltered housing in Newark. I tried various letting agents, as I am not fit enough to look after the property myself. The letting agents I tried all ripped me off in one way or another and ended up costing me a fortune. Martin and Co. in Newark took over responsibility and the fee they charge is well worth it, as I no longer have to worry.

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Rpecz 27th January, 2017 @ 15:17

Great informative site.
We're currently with a useless letting agent. How easy is it to move agents? We've even considered setting up a letting agency but we're unsure how it would work with getting landlords to leave their current agents and how we do this. Advice anyone?

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