Letting agents act on behalf of a landlord to find suitable tenants, collect rent, deal with maintenance problems and contract issues, and offer help and advice to prospective tenants. These letting agents can vary from large organisations with hundreds of properties on their books to small letting businesses with only a few properties to let.
Generally letting agents make their money by taking around ten per cent of what the tenant pays in rent, charging the tenant fees for drawing up rental contracts, charging tenants a finding fee, or all three.
When you first contact a letting agent it is important to ask them what letting fees you will be charged, so you know what you are paying for from the outset. Also worth noting is that it is illegal for a letting agent to charge you for providing information about the properties to let they have, although they are perfectly entitled to charge you a fee for drawing up a new contract at the end of your first six-month tenancy agreement.
Despite the charges, which may look a little steep, you will probably pay a fair market price by renting through a letting agent because these organisations are controlled where as private landlords are not.
Seeking the help of a letting agent when you are house hunting has many advantages, the main one being the choice of properties to let that will be made available for you to view. Generally, letting agents will have more properties for rent than a single landlord, and letting agents will also be able to find you a property to meet your specific requirements.
Another advantage of renting through a letting agent is that letting agencies often have their own maintenance team or at least a local plumber or builder, who can deal with problems quickly and effectively.
If you do choose to rent through a UK letting agent ask whether the letting agency is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, which will be able to deal with any serious disputes on your behalf.