What Is A Letting Agent Responsible For (A Landlord’s Perspective)?


Letting agent responsibilities

On the surface, questions don’t get any drier, and perhaps even simpler. But that’s the thing with blissful ignorance, it can make almost anything seem mundane.

If you boil it down to the core, this is the answer you’d probably expect:

A letting agent is responsible for managing properties for private landlords.

Depending on the level of service acquired, the agent’s responsibilities can include finding tenants, collecting rent, and fully managing the tenancy.

But the reality is, it’s not that simple (even though it should be); there’s a lot of misconceptions, and that’s precisely why I’m taking on this silly little question.

My assumption is, if you’re a landlord trying to enlighten yourself on this subject matter, you’re either looking for an agent and trying to decipher ‘how much bang you’ll get for your buck’ before splurging on the hired help, or you’re in disputes with one (and now you’re trying to find out if they’re responsible for whatever is you’re bickering about). If it’s the latter, you may also want to jump over to the blog post where I discuss how to make a complaint against your letting agent (but only after you’re done in here).

If you asked me what letting agents were responsible for 10 years ago (before I became a landlord), my answer would be completely different than today’s. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even think I was the answering the same question. It would be like comparing apples with dildos. (Yup, that’s the level you should expect.)

So why isn’t a straightforward question to answer? Well, just like most other industries that want to remain profitable in this day and age; letting agents are now offering digital/online solutions, so the game has been completely flipped on its head. To clarify, that’s a good thing for the consumer!

Page contents:

The Landlord = Client

Firstly, just to be clear, the landlord is the letting agent’s client, and not the tenant. Landlords pay the service fees, so that means Letting agents are contractually obliged to put the landlord’s best interests first.

What is a letting agent NOT responsible for?

I think it’s equally as important to discuss what a letting agent is NOT responsible for.

Actually, scrap that, it’s more important, because there’s too many common misconceptions floating around about what agents are responsible for, and that’s why agents aren’t short of disgruntled customers.

Who’s to blame? Are agents mis-selling, or are consumers just failing to do their homework and expecting too much? I suspect there’s a little bit of both going on.

Anyways, putting aside the finger-pointing, generally speaking agents aren’t responsible for the following (even if they say they are as part of their sales pitch)…

  • Landlord legal responsibilities – it is always the landlord’s responsibility to ensure their legal obligations are met.

    Every good agent will guide and advice accordingly to ensure their customer (the landlord) is legally compliant, but in the event of a shortcoming, the landlord will almost always be held responsible in the eyes of the law.

    While I don’t want to go nose-diving into what letting agents are notoriously known for, which is, to be snake-oil salesmen that massively overcharge and spectacularly under-deliver, that has been the unfortunate reality for a few bazillion people, and in order to give some perspective I need to be transparent by saying there’s often a massive difference what is promised/expected and what is delivered.

    So my point is, while many agents will initially say they’ll help ensure you’re ticking all the legal boxes, when it boils down it, you won’t be able to escape responsibility if you fall short. To be specific, the landlord is liable for everything done by the agent – so long as this comes within the ambit of his ‘ostentsible authority’. Here’s a nice blog over at the Landlord Law blog which explains it in more detail.

  • Rent arrears & problem tenants – yup, same as above!

    While an agent should do their utmost to find decent and respectful tenants that pay rent on time and keep the property clean and tidy, unfortunately if the tenant crosses over to the dark-side and goes rogue, it’s not the agents’ responsibility.

    Of course, every good agent will try their best to resolve the situation (assuming you’ve opted in for a fully managed service). But ultimately, the burden is on you.

On a sidenote, you wouldn’t be totally mindless for shuffling through my guide on how to choose a good letting agent if you’re currently in the market for one. Due diligence is most definitely required, and it will help avoid a buttload of misfortunes.

Different types of agents and services

Ok, so now we know what agents aren’t responsible for, let’s move onto the services they offer!

I think the golden rule to remember is that every letting agent is different, and each agent tailor their own products based on their own set of variables. For example, ‘Letting Agent A’ may offer a fully managed service that includes a property inventory, but ‘Letting Agent B’ also offers a fully managed service, but they don’t include an inventory.

There’s no set standard, so before signing the dotted line, ensure you know exactly what you’re paying for (and not necessarily assume you’ll get what you expect).

Online letting agent services

More and more landlords are ditching the traditional high-street agent for the shiny new and significantly cheaper online letting agents, and it’s actually due to the rise of online agents for why the responsibilities of a letting agent have become somewhat unrecognisable from some years ago.

I won’t bother regurgitating the details of what, where or how an online agent works, but I will quickly recite the basics: an online agent works similarly to a high-street agent, but the main difference (besides from the price-tag) is that an online agent doesn’t have a psychical presence on the high-street, so you can’t just walk into a local branch. They operate out of a central office and provide support through email and telephone.

If you’ve been living under a rock and unfamiliar with the whole concept, I strongly encourage you to, at the very least, flick through my guide to online letting agents. You genuinely may end up saving yourself a small fortune.

So, how is that relevant? Ok, I was just getting to that!

Depending on which type of agent you decide to work with (online or high-street), the responsibilities generally vary, even though the goal is the same (i.e. to help landlords manage their rentals to whichever level is required).

General responsibilities

Here are a list of the general responsibilities you should expect from all letting agents, regardless of type, or what service you’re opting for:

  • All letting agents are legally obligated to be a member of one of three government-approved letting agency redress schemes, and each scheme defines a code of conduct, which they must abide by! Basically, they must provide a good and fair service.

    Failing to do so can lead to penalties and other kinds of bad stuff.

  • Guidance on tenancy agreements.
  • Guidance on landlord legal responsibilities.
  • Provide general knowledge about tenancies.
  • Best practises

Letting services & responsibilities explained

Yes, each agent is different, and each agent tailor their own products, but there common products/services among letting agents, which include a lot of the same features, and they’re the ones’ I’m going to discuss below, so you get an idea of what responsibilities letting agents take on…

Tenant-find service

Overview: this service only includes finding tenants and creating a legally binding tenancy agreement.

However, it’s important to note that a ‘tenant-find service’ provided by a high-street agent is generally very different an online agent.

A High-street Agent’s ‘tenant-find’ service typically includes:

  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Photography and Floor Plans
  • Tenant viewings
  • Tenant Referencing & credit checks
  • Tenancy contracts
  • Inventory

An Online Agent’s ‘tenant-find’ service typically includes:

  • Advertising & Marketing (on Rightmove & Zoopla)
  • Photography and Floor Plans (this is usually charged as an optional extra, approx £100)
  • Lead generation (i.e. the online agent sends the landlord leads from prospective tenants, and then the landlord takes the viewings)
  • Tenant Referencing & credit checks
  • Tenancy contracts

You see the distinct difference, right? Good, good!

Please note, some online and high-street agents offer much more elaborate “tenant-find” services, which comes with a bunch more features! I just covered what I believe to be the core basics.

Yes, you’re definitely expected to do more of the ‘legwork’ with an online agent, but that’s reflected in the massive price difference. I mean, shhhiiiit, you can currently try an online agent for free, no strings attached, while the average high-street agent will charge the crap out of you with a pricetag of 8-10% of the annual rent. Ouch!

Once again, here’s my guide on online letting agents if you want to know more (which you really should at this point!).

Fully managed service

Overview: this service includes the full management of the tenancy, from finding tenants to the day-to-day management.

As with tenant-find services, while online agents do offer fully managed solutions, the service is generally different from a high-street agents, so I’ll quickly cover both:

A High-street Agent’s ‘fully-managed’ service typically includes:

  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Photography and Floor Plans
  • Tenant viewings
  • Tenant referencing & credit checks
  • Inventory
  • Tenancy contracts
  • Register tenancy deposit
  • Rent collection
  • Regular property inspections
  • Maintenance handling & co-ordination
  • Notice processing
  • Final inspection & deposit dispute handling

An Online Agent’s ‘fully-managed’ service typically includes:

  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Photography and Floor Plans
  • Lead generation (i.e. the agent will send the landlord leads of prospective tenants, and then the landlord takes the viewings)
  • Tenant referencing & credit checks
  • Tenancy contracts
  • Register tenancy deposit
  • Rent collection
  • Maintenance handling & co-ordination
  • Notice processing
  • Deposit dispute handling

The major difference you’ll notice is that most online agents don’t include any of the in-person services, like viewings and property inspections. But once again, that’s reflected in the price; you can currently get an fully-managed letting service from an online agent for £35 per month, while a high-street agent typically charges between 12-14% of the annual rent.

Letting agent Terms & Conditions

Remember, and I can’t emphasise this enough, always read the terms and conditions of your agreement with your letting agent before signing on the dotted line!

Everything your agent is responsible for should be written in your contract with your agent, and if it’s not, then it’s unlikely to be included in the service (despite what you may or may not have been told).

27 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
bev perry 30th November, 2018 @ 09:07

hello

If i use a letting agent for my houses , when tenants move out is it the letting agent responsibility to taking metre readings and notify utility companies of readings along with a forwarding address for the tenant

regards

bev

1
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 30th November, 2018 @ 10:29

Hi Bev,

From my experience, it's usually the landlord's/tenant's responsibility to do that. Some agents may offer to do it, though.

2
Guest Avatar
Molly Frost 10th January, 2019 @ 12:44

The tenants completely trashed our property and it is going to cost us more than £10,000 to put it back prior to the let. The letting agents only did one inspection approximately 12 months before the tenants left.

Any suggestions?

3
Guest Avatar
Joanne Gomm 14th January, 2019 @ 21:27

Hi. I've recently rented my property via an estate agent who offered full management of the tenancy. This has now come to an end and I will be moving back in. During the tenancy I was constantly chasing payments and statements. I have now found out that no bills have been paid and bailiffs are knocking on the door.Estate agent say they have no forwarding address and cannot do anything about it. I believe this tenancy has been poorly managed what can I do about the problems?

Joanne

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Guest Avatar
rachel stacey 1st February, 2019 @ 12:04

Hi. I just discovered that our former tenants used and are still using our property's address (I am the landlord) as the registered address for their company. They are now getting debt letters. The property was fully managed by a letting agent during the tenancy. What responsibility, if any, do the letting agents have in this matter, given that the tenant breached their contract during tenancy and now are committing fraud. Does anyone know?

5
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 1st February, 2019 @ 12:19

@Rachel
It's not really the agent's fault that your tenants are doing that, in my opinion. How could they even stop/prevent that?

I had a tenant do the same to me, and after they vacated, my new tenants received debt collection letters for a good few years. Once even a bailiff came to the door.

Every time a letter arrived, I just contacted the debt collection company and told them that the tenants they were looking for had vacated. Eventually the letters stopped.

Good thing is that debt is usually associated to a person/company, not to a residential property.

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Guest Avatar
Rachel 1st February, 2019 @ 12:36

@the landlord. Thanks. I thought that would be the case. Am just a bit peeved at the agent as I don't feel they have looked after our interests in other areas as well. They were friends of the parents of the tenant and I think things might have been "let go" much more readily. The property is on the market to sell now but it's empty. Can bailiffs enter without notification?

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Guest Avatar
Rachel 1st February, 2019 @ 12:52

@ the landlord

Just wondering, what did you do about the business being registered at your property. Were you able to get that changed?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 1st February, 2019 @ 13:07

@Rachel
Yeah, I completely sympathise with your situation!

From what I'm aware, bailiffs can't "force" entry.

I informed Companies House. Maybe this article on the GOV website will help you: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reporting-fraud-about-a-company-to-companies-house/reporting-fraud-to-companies-house--2

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Guest Avatar
Rachel 1st February, 2019 @ 15:59

Thanks, that's so helpful. I sent a coment via the companies house website but the fraud line seems as though it might be a more effective route. Thanks for your guidance and quick responses which are much appreciated.

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Guest Avatar
Clo 27th April, 2019 @ 12:33

Tenant has fallen down common stairs said light broken can he sue Agent or should he sue landlord

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Guest Avatar
James benson 12th June, 2019 @ 10:33

Hi, I paid my estate agent a finders fee to find me a tenant for my property , they didn’t tell me he run a k9 dog Business . Plus they put down the tenant was living with there family, so there is no guarantor or no history . Is this normal ? Why didn’t they have references from any landlords or anyone else as guarantors. Is it a legal requirement To have guarantors or what. I’m not that smart at all this . I said no pets in my property , they have 20 k9 dogs and are running a Business from my home. Not paying rent , I have nicked everything from the property as it was fully furnished . Absolutely destroyed everything . The estate agent failed to tell me so much information what I knew , was they require to tell me all the information on what I knew ? Please if can help as they still have not left the property

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Guest Avatar
James benson 12th June, 2019 @ 10:36

I mean they have nicked all my furniture as it was fully furnished property . I don’t know what to do . I’ve served him a section 8 . But they are causing so much damage Plus not paying rent.

13
Guest Avatar
alison 12th August, 2019 @ 11:08

HHelp, I rent a commercial property and water has been coming inform outside. The estate agents are more concerned about the damage it is doing to the floor and electrics which we are responsible for. But my argument is that the damage is caused from water coming from above and outside but they don't believe me because the property upstairs has been empty for a few months. Can any one give me some idea of responsibility please ? Im so upset with this agency she has no duty of care to us what so ever and we have had nothing but rudeness from her, Today she has asked to come round to see the demage for the landlord but we haven't caused it the building its self is obviously not weather proof. Help

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Guest Avatar
Terry 11th October, 2019 @ 07:20

Our agent has now married our Tennant so is agent and Tennant is this legal?

15
Guest Avatar
Tina 24th October, 2019 @ 07:09

I use letting agents to manage couple of my properties. Now I want to take management off them,as the charge is too much for me to cope with, so I have asked them to serve my tenants section 21 giving them 2 months notice, but I still want the tenants to remain in the property after 2months. The agent are charging me and the tenants fees to do this.
They are insisting on tenant to hand over keys to them after moving their stuff out of the property for inspection.
What can I do to retain the tenants and taking management off my letting agent, they have not manages anything for me.
Please help me.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 24th October, 2019 @ 07:37

Hi @Tina,
What does your contract with the agent say in regards to retaining the tenants at the end of the tenancy?

If the letting agent is in England, it's illegal for them to be charging tenancy renewal fees. Refer to the tenancy fees act.

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Guest Avatar
Rose Smith 25th October, 2019 @ 10:01

Hi,

I am looking for a professional and reliable maintenance company to renovate my 2 properties before tenants move in.
Unfortunately, It has been very hard for me to find a company that can do the job correctly.

Any advice, tips...?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 25th October, 2019 @ 10:03

Hi @Rose
Have you tried looking on websites like www.checkatrade.com? I find that's often a good place to look.

19
Guest Avatar
Merith Smith 25th October, 2019 @ 12:24

I have found a contractor on check a trade, I am currently in a court process against him, so careful, checkatrade does not guarantee the contractor as I though. I am using someone good now if you need.

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Guest Avatar
Rose 25th October, 2019 @ 12:39

Hi @The Landlord,

Unfortunately I have to agree with @Merith they are not reliable at all, I’m done with those websites I rather to pay more and have a better service than to waste my money with a bunch of amateurs.

21
Guest Avatar
Danny 29th October, 2019 @ 02:39

Hi, I d be very grateful if you could please provide your advice and opinion on this issue.

My letting agent agreed with the tenant to terminate their 12 month fixed term tenancy agreement 6 months early. Without my knowledge and neglected to add such terms as the tenants must remain in the property whilst another tenant was found - otherwise they would be liable for rent.
The agent and tenant did however agree that the costs to find the new tenant would be paid by the current tenant (this was prior to fee ban).

Later the tenant abandoned the property taking with her the keys and broke this agreement. So I was forced to take legal action via Small Claims Court. Despite many requests covering over a year the Agent refused to provide me with copies of correspondences with the tenant, information and details for me to supply to the Court to support my claim. The claim was dismissed by the Court.

So my question is are, or were the Agents in breach of their duty of care and contractual obligations to myself?

Thank you.

22
Guest Avatar
Mr B, landlord 8th November, 2019 @ 18:10

I would appreciate your advice on two issues regarding the same flat.

Tenant vacated flat before end of 6 month tenancy but paid rent to end. He gave final electric reading to utility company on vacating. Final inspection was done a couple of days after end of tenancy by letting agent and reading taken. The property was then put up for sale and was sold about 5 months later. A few weeks prior to the sale. I visited the flat and read the meters. I then asked the letting agent why I hadn’t received a copy of the the final inspection report. There was no explanation and it was emailed to me. I then realised from the readings in the final report that electric had been used while the property was empty, so I visited again and switched off the immersion heater which had been left on, presumably by the tenant. The resulting electricity bill is down to me. The agent said he had been advised by ARLA that he was not responsible for checking that no appliances had been left on as he was no longer managing it (although he was In charge of the sale of the flat).

On reading the inspection report I realised that there were several items of damage which the inspector said were the tenant’s responsibility as they were not on the inventory when the tenant moved in. Cleaning was needed and some making good and redecorating to restore the flat to the condition it was in when tenancy commenced, taking into account fair wear and tear. Monies should have been withheld from the deposit and quotes obtained from decorators and cleaners. In fact the deposit was returned to the tenant in full without asking for my agreement. When I queried this the agent said that when a property was put up for sale at the end of a tenancy he did not consider it necessary to send a copy of the final report to the landlord and no deductions were needed to be made from the deposit.

It also begs the question that if the flat had been clean and fresh it might have sold more quickly and possibly fetched a better price.

I am away from home a lot, which is why I use the letting agent. I could complain to ARLA but I am not sure how much of this the agent is legally liable for (if any).

23
Guest Avatar
David the agent 29th November, 2019 @ 12:04

"The tenants completely trashed our property and it is going to cost us more than £10,000 to put it back prior to the let. The letting agents only did one inspection approximately 12 months before the tenants left."

Any suggestions?

By 10k you mean 1-2k? if not I suggest you call the police as damage to the value you suggest would be criminal.

24
Guest Avatar
David the agent 29th November, 2019 @ 12:07

Clo 27th April, 2019 @ 12:33
Tenant has fallen down common stairs said light broken can he sue Agent or should he sue landlord

If there is a claim here it would always be against the Landlord. The landlord would then have to sue the agent if they felt the agent was responsible for the issue.

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Guest Avatar
David the agent 29th November, 2019 @ 12:15

Mr Benson, I assume the issue is resolved? If once the tenant has left and you have costs to bear over and above the deposit held, in the circumstances you describe you may have a case against the agent.
Legally they have to be a member of an ombudsman so if you aren't happy with the outcome of any complaint addressed to the agent, you can contact the ombudsman who can award costs if you can show a loss

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Guest Avatar
David the agent 29th November, 2019 @ 12:21

Danny, as before use the ombudsman if the agent doesn't handle your complaint satisfactorily.
As a general rule if you can prove a material loss, that you can show the agent is responsible for, then you should be entitled to claim for that loss against the agent.
To my mind an agent acting against the tenancy terms without your express permission has acted wrongly, and if you lost out as a result, they should compensate you.

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