Landlords decide to let their properties over long distances for all kinds of reasons. Some find that, by casting their nets more widely, they gain access to a broader range of properties. Others drift into long distance letting after an unforeseen event, such as inheriting a property or receiving a transfer at work.
Letting a local property directly is a feasible option for many landlords, but as the distance increases it becomes more practical to work with a letting agent. A good agent can remove much of the hassle involved in a direct let, but only if you spare some time and effort for research at the outset.
Ask yourself these three questions before proceeding.
1. Have I picked the right letting agent?
If the distance rules out any word of mouth research, you can filter your search for a suitable letting agent by considering only members of the National Approved Letting Scheme. The three professional bodies that support this scheme are the Association of Residential Letting Agents ( ARLA ), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors ( RICS ) and the National Association of Estate Agents ( NAEA ). Your chosen letting agent should also have professional indemnity insurance as well as client money protection.
The ARLA database is a good place to start your search. Nevertheless, it’s important to use this information only as a starting point. You need to consider the kind of agent that is suitable for your specific property. Do they specialise in high-end or inexpensive properties? How many comparable rental properties do they manage in the area? If you can’t find this information yourself, call the agent and ask.
2. How will my tenants be vetted?
For most long distance landlords, meeting and vetting tenants personally is impractical, so having a letting agency do this for you is likely to be essential. This is their core business, but the way the process is managed differs widely between agencies so make sure you’re comfortable with it. For example, some perform a full credit check while others stop at requesting references. The cost for vetting tenants is typically borne by the agency or tenant, but landlords should double-check this first.
3. What am I paying for?
Hoping for a ‘hassle-free’ option, many long distance landlords pay their agents a premium for a ‘full’ property management service. While this could turn out to be the best option, it is important to realise that, no matter what the service is called, you will still need to check item-by-item to be sure about what it does and doesn’t include. Your assumptions might not coincide with those of the agency, particularly when you’re based in different parts of the country.
For example, does the agency’s basic fee include inventory checks, tenancy renewals and checking compliance with standards such as gas safety? Do they provide a rent guarantee or legal expenses cover? Even if you intend to pay for what you hope will be a comprehensive property management service, you’ll have to ensure you’re clear on what that actually entails.
Only when you are confident that you have the right answers to these questions is it time to move forward.
Don’t forget that landlord insurance is a must for everyone letting a property – whether close by or on the other side of the country. Visit our landlord insurance pages to learn more about our service and obtain the right landlord insurance policy for you.