Common dilemma for tenants, to deal directly with a private landlord or to go through a letting agent?
I won’t make the decision for you, but what I will do is run through the pro’s and con’s of each so you can make up your own mind!
One of my more creepy/weird friends, approached me earlier today, informing me that he’s finally ready to take the plunge and vacate from his parent’s basement, or “the battle lab” as he likes to call it, and move into a rental property with his long-term girlfriend.
It’s his funeral, I told him.
He 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.
Anyways, here’s my dirty 2 cents worth on the issue…
Using a Letting Agent
Advantages of Tenants using a Letting Agent
letting agents are regulated
Letting agents are legally required to be a member of a regulated redress scheme, which ultimately means they have to abide by a certain code of conduct, which in-turn increases consumer protection.
Agents that fail to register to a scheme or practice against the requirements of a scheme they are a member of, could face 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.
Of course, this isn’t always the case!
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 when required.
Letting agents will 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.
Disadvantages of Tenants using a Letting Agent
Letting agents can be annoying and are known to be dishonest
Let’s address the elephant in the room!
Dealing with letting agents in general can be irritating; and that’s a sad fact of reality.
Of course, you get 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.
Letting agents can be expensive!
Since the introduction of the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” on the 1st June 2019, letting agents and landlords have been banned from charging tenants with letting fees (e.g. referencing fees, inventory costs, admin costs etc). However, that only applies to tenants in England.
For everyone else (i.e. tenants in wales), using a letting agent can be much more expensive than using a landlord directly, because tenants are still subject to paying the fees that typically come with using a letting agent, like the already mentioned (referencing fees, admin costs etc).
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. 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.
Dealing with a Private Landlord Directly
Advantages of tenants using a private landlord directly
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 to understand the nature of discussions.
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 unappetising.
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 the landlord 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 dealing with 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 may not be as responsive
Landlords can often be difficult to get in touch with, especially when they’re trying to ignore their tenants like the plague.
There’s less supply
Most landlords use a letting agent, so the availability of rental properties being managed by landlords directly will be a lot less.
So as it goes, it’s easy to make a case for both corners (and I probably 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).
Important: regardless of which you decide to go for, the most important thing is to do your due diligence so you find a good letting agent or landlord – they’re worth their weight in gold and they’ll do you no wrong! To assist, here’s is a guide on how to find a good landlord, and a guide on how to find a good letting agent (the blog post was actually written for landlords, but there are plenty of tips in there which tenants can use to their advantage).
If anyone can think of other points I can add to the lists, please leave a comment below…
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 construed as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.