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As we've entered a New Year and a new lockdown, letting agents should take pride in the essential role they provide, said The Letting Partnership.
It praised the industry for responding quickly to new legislation, which has been changing constantly throughout the pandemic, and for working so hard to allow many people to safely move home.
Due to the Government's belief in the importance of the property sector, house moves are still permitted in the latest lockdown and agencies can continue to work as long as they follow the national guidance on moving home safely.
Operating safely means protecting everyone, whether that is staff, landlords or potential tenants, and this provides many new challenges which agents have risen to.
The Letting Partnership, which delivers outsourced client accounting and Client Money Protection services, pointed out agents have a challenging job and should champion their hard work during a difficult year.
Gill Waller, Compliance and Development Manager at The Letting Partnership, said: “Letting agents should stand proud as we head into 2021. They play a vital role in helping people to find housing which is fundamental to leading a happy life, yet we think the level of service they provide can sometimes go under the radar.
“For a lot of landlords, the property they are renting out is their biggest asset, and often it has been a home that they have invested time and emotion in. When a landlord entrusts their property to a letting agent, they do so for the reassurance that all rules and regulations are being complied with and the knowledge that their investment is safe.”
Renting out a property always poses a risk, and for some landlords handing over the keys to a stranger can be the cause of immense stress and worry.
Not only do they have no right to enter the property once a tenancy has commenced, except in extreme circumstances, but they must ensure that they comply with an ever-growing list of regulations, or risk financial or even custodial penalties.
Advertising the property, carrying out covid-safe viewings and finding a suitable tenant is only the tip of the iceberg. Letting agents must carry out a variety of checks to ensure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ and provides a safe and healthy environment.
This includes possessing an understanding of safety regulations such as the Furnishings (Fire and Safety) Regulations, Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations, Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations for England.
When a tenancy is agreed, the agent must ensure they provide the tenant with statutory documentation such as a current EPC or Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable).Failure to serve all of the correct documents at the start of the tenancy could jeopardise their chances of taking back possession of the property at a later date.
Agents are also required to provide a detailed inventory, or schedule of condition, which records all of the contents, fixtures and fittings of the property and their state of repair. It is crucial this is carried out thoroughly as any future claim on the deposit for dilapidations will rely on it as evidence.
During the course of the tenancy the letting agent will monitor the condition of the property and will liaise with the tenant over any repairs. Letting agents have a duty of care to both landlords and tenants, often acting as mediators between the two parties and calming the waters where necessary.
All money received from the tenant must be handled correctly to protect the interests of both the tenant and the landlord, and an audit record kept.
If landlords live overseas then, as well as management of the property, there is also the Non-Resident Landlord tax to consider. Without an agent it would fall to the tenant to operate the scheme.
The agency as a whole must also comply with all of the relevant regulations, such as having Client Money Protection to protect landlords and tenants’, while making sure client accounting runs like clockwork. They remove all the stress for landlords of chasing rent, reconciling payments, paying contractors and tax. Agents are also on hand to guide landlords through the processes around the end of the tenancy.
Gill Waller added: “At the end of the tenancy there is a very strict process that must be followed to legally obtain possession of a property. The rules surrounding this process have been changing constantly over the last year as a result of the pandemic – sometimes on a weekly basis! Letting agents have had to keep up to date with these changes.
“The role of the letting agent has never been so important, while the work involved in letting and managing a residential property has never been so involved and yet so underrated. Letting agents should feel proud.”
For more information visit: https://www.thelettingpartnership.co.uk/