Which Letting Agent? How To Find A Good Letting Agent

Which Letting Agent? How To Find A Good Letting Agent

“The money’s the same, whether you earn it or scam it.”, I once heard a letting agent quote. That’s just chilling.

Dealing with letting agents is always a terrifying prospect – the industry is notoriously rampant with cowboys that wouldn’t think twice before selling their grans’ lungs for a fiver. All the stereotypes and horror stories you’ve heard about them are mostly true.

I’ve personally dealt with dozens of letting agents over several years; some have been pleasant experiences, while others have made me want to blow my puny brains out. It could be a miracle that I’m still around to tell the tale, because I feel prime for a stress-induced stroke after my encounters.

But before my time is up, I want to put my experiences to good use by helping others avoid the letting agents that dwell in the darkest depths of hell, waiting for an opportunity *queue erry music*

With so many rogues operating around the country it is extremely easy for landlords, especially new and inexperienced landlords, to get swindled into bad deals, which usually results in being overcharged for a very unsatisfactory service, if not magnificently worse. Buyer beware.

So here are my top tips on how to choose the right letting agent for you…

From my experience, most agents prey on “ignorance” – they pull all kinds of shit (which they get away) because most of the tenants and landlords they deal with don’t know any better. And that’s the reason why I felt compelled to write this blog post; to help you know better; to help you pick a better letting agent to help you find tenants and/or fully manage your tenancy.

1) Hidden costs / Tenancy Renewal Fees

I’m going to start off attacking the issue most landlords face when dealing with letting agents- and that’s their extortionate fees, many of which are tucked away in the puny small-print. Alas, most landlords only discover how expensive an agent is after they’ve received a bill for something they never realised was even “a thing”, let alone chargeable.

Be wary of hidden costs, letting agents seem to come riddled with them.

One of the more notorious (and therefore noteworthy) fees, often strategically hidden or worded very discreetly, is the ‘Tenancy Renewal Fee’. This is when agents charge the landlord an extortionate fee EVERY TIME the tenancy is continued after the initial fixed-term. For example, if you paid an agent £700 to find you a tenant for a 12 month fixed period, the agent would continue charging you a hefty fee (not necessarily the entire £700 again, but a percentage of it) every time the tenant extended the tenancy beyond that 12 month period. Ouch!

The Tenancy Renewal Fee has been the bane of many landlords existence.

I’m not totally against a Tenancy Renewal Fee, because the agent should get paid for creating new tenancies, but it should be fairly priced (£60 or so, max), and it should not be contractually forced upon the landlord. Unfortunately, letting agents usually do the opposite.

Honourable letting agents will be fair, upfront and honest about their pricing structure by breaking down each cost, which should also be clearly written within the service contract. Ensure to read the contract thoroughly before signing.

2) “Terms of Business”

The ‘Terms of Business’ is the contract between landlord and agent, and it contains the terms of the service the agent will provide. It’s crucial to read it fully before signing on the dotted line. If something doesn’t make sense, get clarification from the agent via email or on paper.

Aside from looking out for the “hidden fees” that are strategically planted in the contract, I would also pay particular attention to the structure of the standard fees and any other monetary clauses, such as penalties.

Also keep your peepers peeled for “tie-in” clauses, which specify how and when you can terminate their services if you wish to, and if there are any associated penalties for doing so. Most agents will force landlords to honour the contract up until the initial term period of the tenancy, which is usually 6 – 12 months, and that’s fair enough. But I’d be wary of any agent that uses excessive force to retain your custom for any longer, so I’d look out for those clauses.

Moreover, look out for the clauses which explain what happens to the tenant if you wish to stop using your agent’s management services i.e. do you get to keep the tenant, or is there a fee you need to pay in order to do so? Ideally, you’d get to keep your tenant without any hassle in the event of changing letting agents, or becoming a self-managing landlord.

3) Only use letting agents that are regulated!

From 1 October 2014, all letting agents have been required to be a member of one of three government-approved letting agency redress schemes- so make sure yours is! If an agent ISN’T a member of at least one, they are NOT complying with the law and could face persecution.

The purpose of the schemes are to increase consumer protection by ensuring agents stick to a certain code of conduct! Failing to do so could also lead to prosecution.

The schemes are:

Most agents will clearly display which approved scheme they are members of, whether it be on their website and/or shop window.

More details: Use Letting Agents That Are Registered With An Approved Redress Scheme For Consumer Protection.

4) Client Money Protection scheme (CPM)

In the same vein as compulsory regulation, since April 2019, letting agents in England have been required to belong to an approved ‘Client Money Protection’ scheme, or they will be operating illegally.

The scheme is there to ensure landlords and tenants are compensated if letting agents cannot repay money, for example, if the agent goes into administration.

Your agent should belong to any one of the following approved schemes:

Every letting agent is also legally required to display a certificate in their public office or website to confirm which CPM scheme they belong to.

5) Year established / Reputation

I would avoid using an agency that opened its front doors for the first time last week. Similarly to the pub trade, dozens of letting agents are closing down on a daily basis. It’s tough out there.

Look for well established agencies/branches that have a good reputation- they’re the ones that will be less inconvenienced by the economic turmoil.

An established agent WILL have a reputation, whether it be good or bad is another question. If possible, talk to other landlords that have used local agents to receive feedback. Moreover, I can almost guarantee that if an agent supplies a poor enough service, someone would have written about it on the internet somewhere. Ahhh, the power of the internet. Use Google to hunt down reviews of your local letting agents.

6) Average time to fill vacancies

A good agent will have a quick vacancy fill rate.

It’s probably worth calling around a few agents and investigating how long it’s currently taking them to fill vacancies. The agents may pull a figure out of their baggy arseholes (and most likely will), but it’s always good to get a benchmark figure. If an agent predicts 2 weeks, and it takes them substantially longer, it won’t reflect well on them, consequently it should be in their best interest to meet their targets and improve on their average.

7) Advertising presence – Rightmove & Zoopla

A good agent will have a powerful marketing presence both locally and on the internet. Find out which mediums’ the agents are utilising. Most of the best agents are spread across local newspapers and the internet.

Personally, I wouldn’t use an agent that doesn’t advertise on the UK’s biggest property portals, including Rightmove and Zoopla– those two are crucial!

8) Image is everything

I hate to be the kind of brother to stereotype, but I gots’ to be that kind of brother. Most agents are complete and utter greaseballs- they will stab their nans’ for a buck.

Go with your instincts and decide whether your agent presents well and seems standup. Be wary of agents that wear too much aftershave and gel. I don’t know why, but they’re usually dickheads.

9) Quick response rate

When I send an enquiry to an agent, I expect a sharpish response. Time is money. But beyond that, a speedy response is plainly and simply professional, and that’s the kind of service I always expect.

I recently read an article (I don’t remember where now), which discussed research which showed that people expect to hear from the agent almost immediately, often within an hour, but definitely within 24 hours. I don’t find that hard to believe for one second.

Late response rates are often a good basis for judgement. If an agent isn’t quick off the mark, you can probably assume that’s the kind of service they generally offer.

Agents should be immediately helpful from the moment you make contact. If they’re not, buyer beware.

10) Different levels of service

A good agent will offer different levels of service, from fully-managed to tenant-only. Each level will have it’s own price tag.

Just because one agent doesn’t offer a package that best suits your requirements, it doesn’t mean another won’t. The services available are very much based on an agent by agent basis. Use an agent which offers a service that best suits your needs.

11) Agent should be able to cover A-Z

Letting agents should have the contacts and resources to handle the entire A-Z for a landlord. That means handling the finer details from arranging all the necessary contracts to ensuring you’re meeting all your landlord legal obligations (bear in mind, it’s YOUR responsibility to ensure you comply, not the agents), including Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and a Gas Safety Certificate. Not to mention, the extra “sensible” precautions, like complying a solid inventory.

Seems pointless using a letting agent if they require you to do some of the legwork.

12) Non-refundable tenant-find fee

If an agent wants to take a non-refundable fee as part of the tenant-find service, then I would shop somewhere else. Why should you pay a penny if the agent can’t find you a tenant?

It’s also worth noting, many landlords use multiple agents to find tenants. For example, I’ve simultaneously used an online letting agent and a high-street agent to try and find me tenants. May the best man win. In that scenario, I don’t want to be shackled with non-refundable fees.

13) Right to reject tenant

Sadly, agents aren’t always looking out for the landlords best interest, especially when the landlord is subscribing to their lower-earning package, the tenant-only service. This gives agents the motivation to quickly fill the vacancy so they can get paid and move on, despite how unsuitable the tenant maybe. Remember, it’s the landlord that will pay for a bad tenant, not the agent!

That said, it’s always sensible to reference and meet any prospective tenants for yourself, and not just rely on your agents recommendation. So it’s important to ensure that your agent will allow you to meet and greet prospective tenants, and in turn, accept and reject any applicant.

14) Type of tenant

Tenants come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good, some are terrible, and some are better matched to certain properties and landlords

A good agent will ask you exactly what type of tenant you will accept e.g. tenants with pets, tenants that smoke, single tenants, DSS, family etc.

If they don’t ask, make it clear what you’re after BEFORE agreeing to work with them, and way they can decide whether or not they’re up for the challenge. It’s also wise to get it in writing, that way you can easily refuse any tenant that doesn’t meet your requirements and they won’t have a leg to stand on.

15) Opening times

Does the letting agency open on weekends, particularly Saturday? And what are there closing times during the week? Remember, most people work during the day, so most enquiries are made during the week and after work hours.

The nature of ‘a tenant looking for a property’ is that they often move quickly- they don’t often wait around for long. So if your agent misses an enquiry from a prospective tenant, there’s a good chance the tenant would have found somewhere else by the time their call is returned.

If you’re planning to use an agent for a fully-managed service their opening times are just as important, as you will want your tenant to be able to report any problems as quickly as possible. Equally, you may need to contact the agent.

Pay attention to the opening times.

16) Flexible pricing structure

In this current climate, letting agents have to be flexible with their pricing structures because everyone is trying to keep costs low. An agent should be prepared to break down costs and give you the opportunity to craft your own package. For example, if finding a tenant costs £200 of the total package price, arranging a tenancy agreement costs £50, and managing the property for the year costs £600, the agent should be prepared to slash the £200 if you’re prepared to find the tenant yourself.

Here’s a guide on how much the average high-street letting agent charges.

17) How appealing are their adverts?

Look at other properties they’re currently trying to let for other landlords; look at their shop window and look on Rightmove & Zoopla. Are their adverts descriptive and well-presented? Would they entice you to make an enquiry?

Pay special attention to the photos being used – they should be high quality (e.g. good composition of the key rooms/features, high resolution and well lit) – they make a HUGE difference.

I’m always left bewildered whenever I jump onto Rightmove/Zoopla (or any other property portal) and see vacant properties with hideous photography; blurry as hell, lop-sided, terrible compositions, and clouded by profoundly poor lighting. Poor presentation will drastically reduce enquiries! Here’s a more in-depth article on the importance of using professional photography and how they improve conversions!

If you’re using a high-street agent (as opposed to an online letting agent), it’s usually their responsibility to take with a good quality camera and wide lens, because that’s what you’re paying a premium for! So make sure you’re getting your money’s worth!

18) Personal website

A letting company who is serious and professional about property management should really have their own website. It would seem a bit weird if they didn’t.

19) Competitive rates

It goes without saying that the best agents will be competitive with their rates. Get quotes and find the best rates. Bear in mind, agents are prepared to haggle, so take advantage.

20) Promotional offers

A lot of agents offer promotional deals, so it might be worth enquiring because that could be the clincher.

I once used an agent that was offering free landlord Rent Guarantee Insurance. If my tenant defaulted on rent payment, the insurance policy would cover the cost of lost rent and legal costs. Amazingly enough, that particular tenant actually did fall into arrears, so it was a stroke of orgasmic luck.

Anyone else got any suggestions?

20 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
GillsMan 24th August, 2009 @ 07:06

Great article. On renewal fees, OFT has been looking into this practice and whether or not it is fair. See press release: http://www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2009/83-09

My understanding is that agencies now have to make this fee abundantly clear if they do use it, otherwise they're breaking the law. Personally, I don't use a letting agent, but it's always good to be aware of their pricing practices.

Guest Avatar
Matthew 24th August, 2009 @ 09:05

I have used three different agents and now realise that I should have stayed with the first, who were very helpful and efficient. I had no worries about the houses or tenants, but subsequent agents have given me a headache, promising the earth and letting me down. My advice is therefore, once you find an honest and efficient agent, stick with him, as it would appear that letting agents and used car salesmen are from the same mould, and most will tell you just what you want to hear. My first agents were Martin and Co and I should have stayed with them!

Guest Avatar
Bruce 16th September, 2009 @ 11:22

One more addition from my perspective as a forward looking letting agent.

Google a few key phrases and see where an agent comes up. Are they 100% reliant on battling it out in property portals with every other cat or do they seek all that extra traffic available from search engines?

This will also indicate whether they are proactive in their marketing strategy.


Guest Avatar
Jo Ward 20th April, 2010 @ 21:17

I see there is a lot written about bad landlords. My friend had a tenant whose deposit cheque bounced..so in effect he did not pay a deposit. THen he had only paid the first month's rent and fell into arrears. All his rent cheques bounced. He ended up by footing the bill as it took 4 months notice etc to get him out and legal fees, and tenant only agreed to go if no claim made for any back rent..He had done it before.. and is doing it again.We have no way of advising other landlords of his name?
Why not a better protection for landlords?

Guest Avatar
PaxListings 6th February, 2014 @ 09:21


Thanks for such a helpful and guiding post.Landlords have no time to manage the property which lead to hire a letting agent.There are a number of things that tenants should look for when appointing a letting agent like Reputation,area agency cover,their fees and specialism.

Guest Avatar
Jon 1st October, 2016 @ 09:57

Gills man spot on re: the publishing of fees section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Agents must display fees prominently in their offices and websites. Northampton council are the primary authority responsible for issuing guidance which him sure a few rounds with Google will offer up the goods.

The real shitter is that portal sites aren't covered by this law.

There's also Committee of Advertising Practice guidance about non optional fees, CMA guidance for letting professionals etc. OFT guidance, and CPRs at least until Brexit rips those up.

Of course many agents don't give a toss about all that and continue to do whatever the f#$$k they like. I know a lot of landlords who have been horrified at how agents have treated their tenants. I understand the necessity to just hand things over but if you're going to give agents absolute control it might be a good idea to periodically enquire directly with tenants re: agents conduct

Guest Avatar
Stephen 19th April, 2017 @ 14:29

So - what percentage of a monthly rental fee should I pay to a high street agent for a full management service?

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 19th April, 2017 @ 14:48

It depends on your local area- I'd get quotes from a couple of local agents and then work from there.

You may also want to check out: How much letting agents charge blog post.

Guest Avatar
Stephen 20th April, 2017 @ 21:56

So have had various quotes lowest so far is 8.5% inc VAT which is seriously tempting. How lo would it have to be for a seasoned landlord to say yes?

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 20th April, 2017 @ 22:07

Sounds pretty reasonable!

Have you Googled for reviews? :)

Guest Avatar
Stephen 20th April, 2017 @ 22:08

Yes well respected local agency. I think the business model of agencies is changing quickly... I sense a Netflix moment in the property world...

Guest Avatar
Stephen 20th April, 2017 @ 22:10

Apologies for hijacking this thread.

Property is leasehold; 12 flats where building insureance is part of service fees.

I intend to take British Gas Homecare for issues - should I also take out a landlord's insurance policy or does the buildings insurance take care of everything in a leasehold world?


The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 20th April, 2017 @ 22:11

Yeah, I think a lot of the high-street agencies are losing business to the online and hybrid agents, so they're having to adapt.. or at least, readjust their fees. The market is definitely changing!

If the 8.5% fully managed service is offered by a well respect agent... seems like a reasonable deal to me!

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 20th April, 2017 @ 22:13

It depends on the lease! First you need to make sure the lease allows subletting, and then you need to find out of the freeholders insurance covers tenants - they normally don't from my experience, so most landlords need to get a separate BTL building insurance policy.

Guest Avatar
Stephen 20th April, 2017 @ 22:15

Yes, am learning quickly - seems to be a umber of local all-in-one inventory/check in/reference/rent guarantee/prof photos agencies popping up.

In other words, all the stuff the online guys can't take care of easily.

Seriously if I were an agent right now I'd be working out how to add value to fully managed. It is their only future.

Guest Avatar
Stephen 20th April, 2017 @ 22:40

Yes it is a good solid sub-letting lease - in fact they even provide a de-facto appendix to add to tenancy agreement of specific rules.

It doesn't cover contents insurance; however as it is unfurnished and all white goods are fitted units within the kitchen, I need to check whether these are covered under the buildings insurance

Guest Avatar
Jane 18th February, 2019 @ 14:44

Can I move my tenants to another letting agent mid-tenancy? I am unhappy with the current agency.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 18th February, 2019 @ 14:46

Here, this blog post might answer your question: how to change letting agents

Guest Avatar
James 11th February, 2020 @ 20:25

Letting agent holding back rental payments, please advise

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 11th February, 2020 @ 20:30


I would lodge a formal complaint with the branch manager, and if that doesn't work, lodge a complaint with the redress scheme they are a member of. Details in the blog post above.

Tactfully threatening the agent that you will file a complaint with the redress scheme before you actually do it might even do the trick.

Best of luck.

















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