All Agents Are Not Created Equal

All Agents Are Not Created Equal

Like any professional charging a fee, estate and letting agents can either add value or make your life a living hell. And for landlords too, a poor agent can cause a lack of trust and a feeling of animosity between them and their tenants.

The story that follows is inspired by my own recent experiences as a tenant in Islington. Full of optimism and excitement, my friends and I searched for a new flat. But we were confronted with the fast-paced reality of the London housing market. The rental market in London is fiercely competitive and if you follow the rhetoric of Peter Thiel, you will know that competition does not always mean results. In fact, with rentals, competition means chaos and confusion, with people often pressured to sign up to agreements they are not comfortable with. You may think this is just for tenants too. However, pressured landlords can be forced into agreements with unsuitable tenants that are just desperate to find anywhere to live.

A good agent can cut through all of this. They will effortlessly glide through the regulatory gauntlet and identify tenants that will pair nicely with a property. They offer assurance to both parties and can make an otherwise unpleasant experience bearable – and almost enjoyable.

A good agent will make make the process easy

However, you will find plenty of agents that will not add so much value. In our last experience, we were promised access to the property on a certain date. But we were pressured into a non-refundable holding deposit just to proceed. Once we gained entry to the property, we found it dirty and it had multiple defects. When we complained, we were threatened that our deposit would not be refunded and we would not receive a new lease.

This is not an isolated case either. I have heard several first-hand accounts of this type of pressure tactic. I say this as a red flag warning to fellow renters. And when we were in contract, the problems continued:

  • Unreliable inventories
  • Broken appliances – and getting replacements proved to be a nightmare
  • Long waits for defects to be resolved
  • Ants – with the accusation that this was somehow our faultA good agent will make the process easy
  • Dirt – everywhere!

Finally, despite hiring a professional cleaner to leave the place spotless at the end of the lease, to add insult to injury, we were then presented with a cleaning bill. I liken this to a bad garage always trying to charge you for a new clutch you don’t need.

This sort of experience not only leaves renters upset, but can also cause reputational damage for landlords. So, at Ark we have put together some top tips for both tenants and landlords.

Top Tips for Renters

  1. Know your rights. At the beginning of a tenancy, you should be presented with certain documents, including: a guide to renting; an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); and a gas safety certificate. On top of this, an agent or landlord must register your deposit with a recognised scheme within 30 days. Failing to do this leaves them liable to a fine three times the size of the deposit. If you’re missing any of these things, that should be a massive red flag.
  2. Never ever pay a “pre-deposit”. More and more, we hear of prospective tenants being asked for a pre-deposit or a holding deposit. Remember that these deposits are not protected. And because properties are rarely exclusive, giving money to one agent will not necessarily mean that the property is then off the market.
  3. Record, record, record. Take pictures, save emails, note phone calls and file meticulously. It’s hard to argue when you have hard evidence in black and white.

Top Tips for Landlords

  1. Make sure your agent is industry recognised. Being industry recognised means an agent has signed up to a code of conduct, which in turn provides better protection of your reputation.
  2. Make sure you are happy with the agent’s code of practice. As well as the code of conduct, check the agent’s code of practice and their ethical stance.
  3. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. The market is the market for a good reason. If someone is too cheap, it normally means corners are being cut.

Renting a property can seem like a bit of a minefield. However, it needn’t be such a painful experience. If you are going through an agent, do remember that properties come and go every day. A poor agent can make your life difficult for the next 365 days, so do your research and stay happy.

Have you ever experienced any of these problems? If so, pre-register with Ark and make rental mayhem a thing of the past. We connect landlords and tenants, giving you a central online place to network with others and where you can keep your property life all in one place.

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