It seems like everywhere you turn a new letting agency has opened up. Whilst this is a positive reflection of the growth in buy to let it does mean landlords need to be more cautious than ever before choosing an agent to let and manage their property.
A sign of a decent agent is one who looks after the tenant as well as you. So a good first step is to pose as a tenant and see how well you are taken care of.

Check what fees tenants are charged as this may affect the agents ability to let your property quickly. Many agents now charge tenants of anything up to £300 each to carry out basic referencing, this has led to a backlash with tenants boycotting certain agencies potentially increasing void periods. Some agencies also charge tenants to renew the tenancy for a further term leading to shorter tenancies and increased re letting costs for landlords.

Agents aren’t regulated, but the better ones typically belong to the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and Safe Agent Scheme and the Obudsman Services.

Check the quality of the tenancy agreement used by the agent, if you aren’t sure have a solicitor check it over, does the agent serve a section 21 at the start of the tenancy? Do they provide an independently produced inventory?
Finally, understand the actual service you will be getting. All agents will say they do periodic visits and inventories throughout the tenancy, but do they? How will you know?
Signs of a good letting agent:-

1. They will help you prepare your property for letting
As professionals, they will know the standards your property needs to meet and will help you put things right. Often an agent will be able to help you make those small changes that make all the difference.

2. They will help you meet your legal obligations
A properly trained letting agent will know all the legal requirements and will be able to advise you. Often they can take the burden of getting, say the gas certificate or the energy performance certificate (EPC) saving you the bother.
The authorities are getting stricter about these things, plus new rules are coming into force (for EPCs and tenancy deposits) so if you are not an experienced landlord you will need professional help.

3. They can let your property quicker than you can
Well, in most cases they can. They will have access to online advertising sites such as Rightmove, Zoopla and will probably have their own website too.

4. They can often get you a better rent
The best letting agents are used by relocation agents and companies willing to pay higher prices for the right property. Usually these companies will only use professional agents for sourcing property for their clients.

5. They will get a proper inventory done and deal with the deposit for you
A really good inventory is absolutely essential nowadays and landlords who are taken to adjudication by their tenants will have little chance of winning without one.
A good letting agency will use specially trained independent consultants to do this work and will usually be able to do a much better job than you can.
There is also the advantage that if the matter ever does go to arbitration, the fact that the inventory was drafted up by an independent third party will often mean that it is given greater weight by an adjudicator than one that was drafted up by you, the landlord.
Your agent will also deal with protecting the deposit properly, making sure that all the proper information is given to the tenant within the time limits.

6. They will deal with checking and referencing your tenant
A good agent will carefully screen and reference all prospective tenants as a matter of course.
This does not always mean that there are no problems later, but it certainly reduces the chances of this happening.

7. They will deal with any problems that arise during the tenancy
There is a lot of work involved in renting property and it is not all just finding the tenant.
Often problems arise at the property – for example minor repairs that need doing. Tenants also sometimes lock themselves out and need helping.
A good agent will also carry out regular inspections to make sure that the tenant is looking after the property properly and that all is well there.

Finally of course there is the fact that most landlords really don’t want to be bothered with the tedious business of dealing with tenants, and agents take the burden of this away from them. A really good agent can be a blessing to a landlord.