A proportion of the new band of reluctant landlords are heading for trouble by using their traditional Estate Agent to rent out their property rather than appointing a specialist lettings agent, The Observer reported this weekend.

The fall in house sales has resulted in many High Street Estate Agents turning their hand to Lettings in a desperate attempt to keep their doors open. This has resulted in a major rise in complaints to the industry ombudsman, who has seen disputes rise at a rate of over 200%.

Many Estate Agents are not trained in property lettings and do not have the systems in place to cope with the extra workload involved in the day-to-day paperwork and legalties of managing property, yet this hasn't stopped hundreds of agents across the country from adding Letting Agents to their business cards.

An easy comparison to make is in the assumption that your builder can also take care of your plumbing or your electrics - they're all part of a house after all aren't they....  You'll find that some are trained and can easily take care of it. Some have done it before and will give it their best shot. Whereas some have no idea but can see a few quid in it. Do you really want to take that chance?

Any new landlord should do their homework and check out who they are appointing. As with most businesses, you can pay Letting Agents a variety of prices, starting as low as 6% and going as high as 15% - you'll probably find that you are best off somewhere around the middle.

Find out who it is who will be doing the work - your High Street Estate Agent might have just one person looking after lettings - you should ask what happens if they are ill or on holiday. The same goes for back bedroom operators. You might get excellent initial service when you're one of only a handful of customers, but what happens if they get flu, need a holiday, or have to rent an office and employ others?

Always ask for testimonials and see at least 3 agents. Ask the pertinent questions. What are your occupancy rates? Who will be managing my property? Who will be my point of contact? Is my tenant's deposit money protected? Are your staff qualified, and by whom? Are you regulated? Don't just go with the cheapest or easiest solution without doing your homework first, and as Bodie & Doyle used to say, if you want the job doing properly, leave it to the professionals.

Read the full Observer article here

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