Letting agents have a number of roles to perform when it comes to tenancies. Some are solely their responsibility and others are performed on behalf of the landlord, who might be ultimately held to account legally. Here is a list of ten key responsibilities for letting agents, some of which you might not realise when you start out in the industry.
Be a Member of a Letting Agent Redress Scheme
Since October 2014, it has been a legal requirement that all letting agents must be a member of one of three redress schemes. This is to increase customer protection and ensure that there is an official body to complain to should tenants feel that they have not received the level of service they expect.
There are potential penalties for letting agents who are not a member of any of the three organisations or who do join but then do not meet the required standards to which they are held. The schemes are The Property Ombudsman, Property Redress Scheme and Ombudsman Services, the latter of which is no longer taking on new property firms and is phasing out its current members in the estate agent and letting agent sectors.
Must Not Charge Tenants Fees For Many Services
The Tenant Fees Act recently came into law and means more legal responsibilities for letting agents. Now by law, letting agents and landlords cannot charge tenants for anything other than holding deposits, security deposits, rent and charges for defaulting on the tenancy agreement. Whereas once they were allowed to pass on fees for credit checks and referencing, that is no longer possible.
The fines for not following the new law are hefty. In the first instance it is a £5,000 penalty with the chance of criminal proceedings against a further violation within five years.
Provide the Landlord’s Details
Although working with a lettings agent means that it is entirely possible for the tenant and landlord to go through the whole tenancy without ever meeting, tenants have a legal right to know who their landlord is. They should be provided with the landlord’s full name and address, which can either be for their home or their office.
Conform to GDPR Rules
From May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set a new standard for how to handle people’s data. You are responsible for any data leaks that take place from your records and you can only contact those on your mailing list who have actively opted in to receive communications from you. It is not enough for them to have simply failed to opt out and there are potentially huge fines for contravening GDPR rules. This is one of the big legal responsibilities of letting agents currently.
Deposits Must be in a Scheme
Anyone who takes security deposits from tenants needs to protect them by placing them into one of three tenancy deposit schemes. In England and Wales, they must be registered with the Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Letting agents and landlords need to act on this within 30 days of taking the deposit and it guarantees tenants receive the full amount as long as they have paid their rent and bills, did not damage the property and complied with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Provide Copies of Safety Certificates and EPC
It is a legal requirement to present copies of the gas and electrical certificates for the property to tenants before they move in. Similarly, everyone who moves in should have a copy of the energy performance certificate (EPC) too. This is ultimately the landlord’s duty by law, but letting agents usually take on this responsibility on behalf of their clients.
Provide a Route of Communication
The letting agent acts as a go-between when it comes to vital communication between tenant and landlord. This is particularly important when it comes to repairs. The letting agent needs to tell the landlord as soon as possible about any problems and then relay detail on the proposed solution to the renters.
This means letting them know what work needs doing, who will do the work and when they will do it. The speed of these messages going back and forth helps the landlord avoid a bigger bill due to a problem festering and getting worse, and the tenants have peace of mind that there is an action plan to solve the issue.
Collect Tax Owed by Non-Resident Landlords
There are responsibilities for letting agents who deal with non-resident landlords. If an agent deals with properties for overseas owners, the agent must deduct the tax owed on the property from the rent they take from tenants as part of HMRC’s Non-Resident Landlord Scheme.
Take a look at our blog about dealing with non-resident landlords for more information on the scheme.
Make a Legionella Assessment
The landlord is legally responsible for assessing whether their tenants are at risk of contracting Legionnaires’ Disease, but often they task the letting agent with that. In most settings there is a low risk and the assessment does not need to feature any in-depth testing.
If your property has a conventional water and heating system, where cold water comes from the mains and is not stored in tanks, then the property is generally considered low risk. You can find out more details from the Health and Safety Executive.
Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Monitors
Every rental property must have a smoke alarm on every floor and a carbon monoxide monitor in any room with a solid fuel source. As with Legionella assessments, this is the landlord’s legal responsibility, but is enforced by lettings agents who look after their properties.
Need Help With Responsibilities for Letting Agents?
If you need help fulfilling responsibilities for letting agents, talk to Executive Property Management Solutions. We take on your property management roles, such as maintenance, drafting tenancy agreements, conducting gas safety checks and more. Contact us through the form at the bottom of this page or call 0208 5757630 today.