Rental Market Shake-up Brings Specialist Expertise To The Fore

SPECIALIST letting agencies are best placed to meet the needs of landlords and tenants in 2009 - amid a major shake-up to the way the property rental market is run and regulated.

As new landlords enter the market across North and West Yorkshire, demand for agencies focused wholly on letting has witnessed a significant rise. And this trend is likely to gather further pace with a raft of changes poised to come into force.

The far-reaching changes - which will have a huge impact on unregulated agents and their clients - come as estate agents are warned by their own Ombudsman to "think carefully" before trying their hand at lettings while house sales stagnate.

One of the biggest implications for some agencies operating in the rental sector revolves around the key issue of tenants' deposits.

From April, the favoured Tenancy Deposit Scheme will only provide deposit protection and dispute resolution to letting agents who are members of recognised professional bodies - such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

"The change has been prompted at the insistence of the scheme's insurers, concerned that unregulated agents are too much of a risk," said Will Linley, of Yorkshire's largest letting agents, Linley & Simpson, which has branches in York, Harrogate, Wetherby, Ilkley, Wakefield and three covering Leeds.

"Cover will be withdrawn from unregulated agents and tenants are being advised to ensure their landlords have made alternative arrangements to safeguard deposits as soon as possible.

"This decision highlights the importance placed on both accountability and financial security within private rentals."

"Lettings firms need to guarantee optimum levels of trust and support for both tenants and landlords."

This recent development is seen as a wake-up call to all firms who are not part of any regulatory body and cannot demonstrate to the consumer that they meet industry standards in the operation of their businesses.

It is also another step closer towards the introduction of mandatory licensing for all private residential landlords and their managing agents - a key recommendation of the recent Government-commissioned Rugg Report into the private rented sector.

Meanwhile, estate agents who are finding the pressure too great in the residential sales market are being warned to "think carefully" before they switch into lettings instead.

Bill McClintock, chairman of the company that operates the Ombudsman for Estate Agents scheme, said: "The lettings market is obviously growing at a fast pace because people who can't afford a mortgage still have to live somewhere.

"Unfortunately, it's not just a case of shutting up shop in sales at midday and opening as a lettings agent after lunch. There's a lot to think about and disputes regarding lettings are becoming a larger feature of our caseload."



A Landlord's Checklist: Questions to ask

There are many reasons to choose a specialist letting agency. Linley & Simpson has put together this checklist of questions that landlords should ask:

Does your agent:

  • Have the all-important membership of ARLA, NALS and OEA?
  • Pay rents to landlords on the same day that funds clear, though a dedicated accounts department?
  • Ensure non-resident landlords comply with tax legislation?
  • Ensure that Energy Performance Certificates are obtained prior to marketing?
  • Do inspections and provide written condition reports each time?
  • Ensure deposits are registered and safeguarded with an appropriate scheme within the legal timescales?
  • Provide inventories in-house and to a professional standard, with photos where appropriate?
  • Offer links to a network of offices across Yorkshire?
  • Advertise your property on no fewer than 7 prime websites?
  • Offer an extra marketing dimension for premium properties through its 'Select' service?
  • Check the references and credit record of tenants thoroughly?
  • Have a comprehensive training programme for all staff?
  • Have access to thousands of prospective tenants through an on-line mailing list?
  • Operate a 24-hour emergency repairs line and dedicated maintenance team?

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