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WHY SHOULD YOU USE AN AGENT TO MANAGE YOUR PROPERTY?

Many landlords see the cost of using an agent to manage a property as prohibitive and often wonder what they do for the money, especially if they have bought a new or modern property that needs little in the way of maintenance. So what are the advantages of using an agent to manage your property and is it value for money? Like most major investments one makes in life, they need managing. Few people would invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in a pension or stocks and shares without some professional management, should it be any different just because you can drive past your investment on the street? Time and location can be a factor, for instance we have Landlords in the Shetlands, Australia, Europe, Canada and South Africa, and obviously it is very difficult to manage even a simple plumbing job from those distances. Many are also time poor, they may be running their own company or working long days in the city and not have time to deal with, legislation, tenant issues and maintenance. But what about those who do have a reasonable amount of time and live close to their chosen investment, is having a managing agent a good idea? Firstly it is good to know what a managing agent does, or, more prudently what you as the Landlord will have to do if you choose not use the services of a managing agent. A good managing agent will have processes and systems in place to make sure nothing gets overlooked. So let’s start with the basics, most Landlords think managing a property is “fixing things” and twenty five years ago when I started in the industry this was probably largely true, however, times have changed and legislation is a large part of what we deal with on behalf of our Landlord clients. So, yes we will arrange repairs on your behalf. We have a bank of reliable, efficient and cost effective trade’s people to call on in the event of maintenance issues. This could be as simple as a dripping tap, which is straightforward and not time sensitive. However, it could be a boiler breakdown or replacement, (these never happen on a sunny Wednesday in June), more likely it will be on Christmas Eve when you are enjoying time with your family. This is time sensitive and no tenant will accept not having heating and hot water over Christmas because you are going away with family and haven’t got the time to arrange a boiler replacement. Inspections, as managing agents we undertake regular inspections, if you choose to look after your own property you should do the same. These should be undertaken at least twice yearly. We provide full written reports to our Landlords at each visit, for several reasons, most importantly it catalogues the condition of the property both in terms of cleanliness and in terms of works that might need undertaking. This paper trail of reports could prove very useful in the future as evidence that repairs have been acted on in a timely fashion. More seriously if you are one of the small percentage of unlucky Landlords whose property becomes a cannabis factory and you haven’t been to check it in the two years it has been let you may find yourself open to criminal consequences. On to money. It is a well-known stereotype that us Brits don’t like discussing money, your managing agent will collect the rent from your tenant, process the payment, pay it into your nominated account and send you a statement to confirm what you have received, this will be very important when you come to do your tax return. What happens if your tenant is late with their rent payment, or even worse fails to pay at all? Few people enjoy having difficult conversations about money and this is no different for landlords. If your tenant is late with their rent you are going to be the one to have to chase this. This can be time consuming, frustrating and a good relationship can quickly sour if a tenant proves not to be a “good payer”. Most importantly if your tenant defaults on the rent and you wish to go to court to seek possession you are going to have to prove a paper trail of chasing the rent, especially if you have rent protection insurance, which will stipulate what action has to be taken and when. If you miss any one part of the action you need to take, your insurance may not pay out. This has to be balanced with not being seen to “harass” a tenant for rent, a line very easily crossed in the frustration of unpaid rent and unexpected mortgage payments you are having to meet. Every landlord hopes they are going to get a tenant who looks after the property, pays their rent on time and lives a peaceful existence. What if your tenant starts having loud parties, playing loud music at night or leaving rubbish in communal hall ways? You as the landlord will need to deal with this in a formal and professional manner and you will need to know the tenancy agreement inside out in order to know your rights as the landlord and more importantly the tenants’ rights and obligations under a tenancy agreement. Let’s now skip towards the end of a tenancy. A fixed period of let’s say 12 months. To the letter of the law your tenancy expires at month 12 and the tenant can just leave without giving you notice. So you are busy with work and family and forget the tenancy is coming to an end, you naturally expect the tenant will tell you if they are going to leave but they don’t. The first you notice is the rent isn’t paid, you contact the tenant and they tell you they have gone at the end of the tenancy. You now have a void period that could have been avoided and have to arrange the check-out procedure. If you are managing the property yourself you should diarise these dates in order to manage the end of tenancy process smoothly. You will also need to arrange a check out report by an inventory clerk in order to identify and dilapidations or damages that may be the tenant’s liability. If the check-out report identifies any areas or items that are the tenant’s responsibility prices will need to be obtained for the repairs/ replacements, a calculation done to the percentage a tenant can be charged. Once you have done this you will need to discuss with the tenant and arrange the deposit return or the amount you intend to retain. This must all be done within the strict time deadlines of the Deposit Protection Service. Finally a note of commercial caution, many potential tenants ask if a property is agent managed before they book a viewing. Relocation agents, company tenants and savvy private tenants like the reassurance of knowing that a property is professionally managed. This is usually because of a previous bad experience with a Landlord managed property. So you could be missing out on a number of good potential tenants as they avoid Landlord managed properties. Still think property management is fixing dripping taps? Ian Haines is a director of Winkworth in Newbury, he has 25 years’ experience of sales and lettings in the Newbury market. Assisted by Tamsin Lamb Winkworth letting manager they are well placed to offer advice and assistance whether you are letting your family home because of a job move or have a portfolio of investment properties. For both Landlords and tenants peace of mind, Winkworth in Newbury have client money protection insurance, are members of the National Approved Letting Scheme, ARLA Property Mark Associates and members of Ombudsmen Services (Property). Winkworth have almost a hundred offices across the country, with 60 in London and a corporate relocation department in our Mayfair head office. If you would like to discuss any aspect of letting or managing your property call Ian or Tamsin on 01635 552552 or pop in for a cup of coffee.

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