Whether you’re already letting out a property or thinking of getting involved in buy to let, using a lettings agent is one of the most popular ways of having experts handle all the formalities.
Though unlike law firms, anyone can set up an estate or lettings agency. While there are regulations these agencies have to follow, they don’t have to be qualified to set up shop.
When you’re handing over the management of a property in which you have a significant amount of money tied up, you'll want to make sure your investment is in the best possible hands.
One way to make sure that you get the best possible treatment as a landlord is to do business with an ARLA registered lettings agency.
ARLA stands for the Association of Residential Lettings Agents and they require all members to meet a certain number of criteria.
To gain ARLA membership, a lettings agent should be an experienced and trained professional. They need to be able to understand and comply with a complicated legal system and be able to deal with changes in that system – which can be frequent.
To make sure members stay professional and compliant, the ARLA qualification requires letting agents attend regular training to keep their skills and experience up to date.
Having professional indemnity insurance to cover them (and by extension, you) for any problems that arise out of a letting agreement is also compulsory.
ARLA estate agents are backed up by the NFoPP Client Money Protection scheme which protects any financial transactions that go through the agent.
Members’ accounts also have to be inspected annually by an independent accountant and those accounts are then submitted to ARLA.
The ARLA website has a comprehensive search function to help you find registered agents nationwide.
You'll also see the ARLA logo in the window of any registered member’s office.
Using an ARLA registered letting agent is great from a landlord’s perspective. They’re professional and they can guarantee your property and income will be safe or you’ll be compensated if something happens.
Another reason to use an ARLA member to let your property is that it offers additional protection for tenants. It makes sense that they will probably prefer to use an ARLA qualified agent and so as a landlord you'll get a larger number of tenants browsing your property.
While there is a general set of regulations that cover landlords across the UK, some regions have special cases that can be difficult to understand unless you have the support of an expert.
The Immigration Act and Right to Rent is legislation that makes sure people coming to the UK have the necessary rights and paperwork to live and work here.
Part of those rights require landlords to check that anyone they rent a property to has all the necessary visas to stay for the length of that agreement, and that they have the means to pay.
ARLA’s website contains a great deal of information on the Immigration Act and ARLA member agents will also be briefed on what UK landlords and foreign tenants need to do to comply.
The London Rental Standard (LRS) is an initiative from the Mayor of London’s office to make sure that agents within the city promote good standards of professional behaviour and that the landlords they represent offer good quality housing to tenants.
It isn’t a compulsory scheme but, clearly, using an agent that is both ARLA and LRS accredited gives future tenants the impression that their landlord is committed to giving them a good service.
ARLA also supports Rent Smart Wales and Scotland Agent Regulation – both schemes are similar to the ARLA accreditation, which mean lettings agents in those regions stick to certain standards and protect the finances of both landlords and tenants.