Choosing a letting agent and property can be a complicated affair, especially for students. For many, this will be their first interaction with letting agents and landlords. Unfortunately, complications with the legal side of renting or the property itself are common. Here are some tips on how to choose the best estate agent for you, and how to avoid and resolve issues.
Before you decide on a property, make sure the agent is registered with a redress scheme. This is a legal requirement and all legitimate agencies can be found at www.tpos.co.uk/find-a- member or www.theprs.co.uk/consumer/members/.
Noted below are some of the requirements of letting agencies. If an agency breeches these requirements, you have the right to make a formal complaint.
- Deposits must be put in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
- Estate agents should give appropriate notice to current tenants concerning viewings. Unless you have agreed other arrangements, expect a 24-hour notice period.
- It is the responsibility of the estate agent to respond promptly to maintenance issues.
- Agencies must give tenants up to 7 working days to read and comment on inventories.
Moving in and avoiding future issues:
- Document the property when you first move in, and when you move out. Your agent will provide you with an inventory when you arrive. Make sure you fill this in thoroughly, but also take photos of any issues or damage. Documenting issues straight away will help estate agents to resolve them more quickly. It also means that you have evidence that any damage was pre-existing to you living there. This could mean you avoid nasty charges at the end of the year.
- Keep a record of contact you have with the agency. Whether this is in person, by phone or email, make sure you note down the content and frequency of contact. Again, this is vital information that could help you if the agency continues to be an issue.
- Inform your landlord of any issues. Contact them directly, as often they have more power and can sort problems immediately. It may even be the case that the letting agent is withholding your complaints from the landlord and they are unaware of ongoing problems.
How to complain if problems persist:
- Take your complaint to your agent, who will have an internal procedure. Make sure your complaint is in writing, and explains clearly why you are unhappy with their service. They must respond within 15 days.
- Take your complaint to the relevant redress scheme. The scheme can sanction the agency appropriately, but you will need to provide hard evidence. This is why documenting the property is important when you move in.
Remember, the Student Union’s Advice Service can provide further detail about your rights as a tenant. They can also help you make decisions about how to proceed with complaints and issues. Happy house hunting!