I’ve just had one of my tenants vacate after 4 years of faithful service. It’s an extremely sad and emotional moment… because now, I’m thrown into the agonising process of finding suitable replacement tenants, which despite popular belief, is a gut-wrenching task. Not only that, but it’s also a brain-numbingly boring process, which is often extremely infuriating and frustrating.
Scheduling viewings with potentially dozens of prospectives can specifically be infuriating, because when you start dealing with a large volume of people, you start to realise how unreliable people truly are. That’s just how it is when you work with people. We’re unreliable, selfish idiots. But despite all that, I still refuse to use letting agents and allow them to takeaway some of the stress and hassle, for the following reasons…
Letting agents are expensive
The most obvious reason not to use them: they’re ridiculously expensive, and not in a fair ‘value’ kind of way, mostly in a snake-oil conniving way.
On the surface, their flashing prices can often seem compelling, but the small-print and the super-long T&C’s are often riddled with absolutely cowboy and astronomical fees for absolute non-sense.
Moreover, with the rise of “fixed-fee” Online Letting Agents, high-street prices just doesn’t make sense anymore.
High-street agents will argue that their one-to-one service is superior and can’t be matched by an online agent, but I completely disagree. Yes, once-upon-a-time online letting agents were better geared towards experienced landlords that simply wanted to list their rental onto Rightmove to generate enquiries. But times have changed and for the better.
Online letting agents have revolved; many of them now offer cost-effective fully-managed services that are actually remarkably suitable for new and first-time landlords.
For example, take a look at LettingAProperty’s Platinum ‘Rent on Time’ fully managed package, for £89 per month. Just to clarify, ‘Rent on Time’ means they will pay your rent even if your tenant doesn’t, the package also includes ‘home emergency cover’:
|Letting Agent||Contract||Notes / Includes||Price|
Letting A Property||
Month by month
|Notes / Includes|
"Rent on Time" Package: solution for Rent Collection & Guaranteed Rent, Home Emergency Cover and Legal Cover!
*Landlord pays £149 upfront, and then £89 per month.
*£149 one-off + £89pmInc VAT
LettingAProperty isn’t the only online agent that offers managed services that are suitable for novice landlords (and, to be fair, experienced landlords simply wanting a managed service), but their package is a good example of one. Here is a list of other online letting agents that offer managed letting services.
Tenancy renewal fees
While this reason does come under letting agents overall cost being overpriced, I’ve singled-out this particular cost because I believe the tenant renewal fee crosses a moral line. The fee is unfair, unnecessary and unwarranted. Anyone that adheres to applying this fee won’t receive a penny of mine. Pffft.
Letting agents are just as helpless as everyone else if something actually goes wrong
The bottom-line is, in the unfortunate situation where a tenant falls into arrears, the letting agent won’t lose sleep over it. They won’t even spend a moment worrying about it. In fact, they’ll probably charge me extra for serving the eviction notices, so they may even welcome the occasion.
In reality, if a tenant ignores the eviction notices and refuses to pay rent and/or vacate the premises, there is nothing the letting agent can do. So all that money I’m paying them to manage my property can often seem like money down the drain.
My point is, agents will happily and easily handle the mundane tasks that anyone can do, but if the situation turns sour, I’ll have to take control and do the worrying, so what am I paying for exactly? Oh yeah, rent collection and occasionally dealing with repairs, which isn’t actually that much work.
I’m just as capable of finding tenants
Letting agents don’t have access to a magical list of prospective tenants that anyone else, like you and me, cannot access. We can all reach the same audience by using an Online Letting Agent and their tenant-find service, which can cost as little as £42.50.
I’ve had an high-street letting agent charge me £750 only to find me a tenant that fell into 2 months worth of arrears almost immediately. I eventually had to evict her, which was an added cost. So if you think you’ll always get a better quality of tenant from an agent, you’ve been grossly mislead. Most letting agents run standard tenant referencing steps, which anyone can do. But from my personal experience, a landlord is capable, and has more incentive, of running a much better tenant referencing program.
The middle-man can often slow down processes
Having a letting agent as the middle-man can often slowdown and complicate matters when something at fault needs attention. For example, when an appliance needs repairing, the tenant will need to contact the letting agent, and then they will need to contact the landlord. At this point, the landlord may appoint their own labourer to resolve the situation.
I’m suddenly in the middle of a 4-man chain, which may not sound too tedious, but you’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to distinguish what the actual fault is, to arrange a suitable labourer to remedy the situation, and arrange an appropriate time to resolve the situation between 3-4 people.
The fewer people in the chain, the more effective and easier life is.
No one will care as much as the landlord
It’s a fact. No matter which letting agent I use, they will NEVER care about my investment as much as I do. That instantly makes me want to manage my own property, because I genuinely believe I will mostly make better judgements to protect my investment, while letting agents usually have other own priorities and incentives (and I don’t blame them).
Most Letting agents don’t know the law
Letting agents don’t need qualifications, which is unfortunate, because there’s a lot of red tape in this industry. I’m amazed at how misguided and illegal the advice and practices letting agents advocate- not only do I know this from personal experience, but from the comments other people have left on my blog. That worries me, a lot.
Not only are many of the grey tenant/landlord legal areas misrepresented, but alarmingly, even the statutory regulations are just as frequently misrepresented. For legal advice, I wouldn’t rely on letting agents, ever. I would seek advice from a tenant eviction professional (that’s usually when legal advice is required), Citizen’s Advice, a specialist landlord law solicitor, or become a member of a reputable landlord law society or association.
Simply, I struggle to trust letting agents
I’ve personally encountered many letting agents over the years, some have been extremely decent and honourable people, while many have been lying, money-grabbing parasites. The problem with any commission-based jobs is that it inevitably attracts the latter type of person. It’s the nature of the beast.
I hate stereotyping the industry, because I know there are a lot of good men standing, but unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to spot the difference between the good and the bad without going for a test-drive. And in reality, I can’t afford to take a test-drive, because by the time the ride is over, it’s usually too late (assuming the agent is an idiot). I’d rather avoid the game of Russian Roulette from the start. Basically, the industry is just full of too many idiots, which makes it difficult to trust anyone.
So there you have it, a list of reasons why I personally don’t use letting agents. But I’d like to clarify that letting agents aren’t perfect for everyone, but at the same time, they might just be perfect for someone. Letting agents have their uses, which I won’t and can’t deny.
What are your thoughts? Can you think of anymore reasons to why you shouldn’t use a letting agent?
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be contrued as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.