My wife and I have been running Key-Lets for over 27 years. We have met a few landlords in that time, more tenants, and experienced turmoil in Scotland’s rental market.
What was true for rented property a few years ago, is no longer the case today.
A quick dip into Google and you will find lots of pages explaining why you need a letting agent, why letting agents are really bad news, full management, tenant find, let only, blahdy blah.
What is not considered is how your property is managed in a rapidly changing legal and social framework, now and in the years to come.
So, take a considered look into the future of Scotland’s private rented sector before choosing how to manage your rental property. Recognise the Scottish Parliament’s direction of travel for landlords, tenants, and private investment income.
But before we look forward, look back to where we have come from.
THE RECENT PAST
In May 2011, the SNP won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. Housing became a key area of reform, especially the private rented sector.
Over the last decade legislation has passed to protect tenants’ deposits, changed housing benefit payments to landlords, created HMO’s, required electrical and legionella testing, required interlinked smoke detection, registered landlords, replaced fixed short-assured tenancies with private residential tenancies (PRT), replaced rental jurisdiction from the courts to tribunals, regulated and registered letting agents.
In the next few years expect greater energy efficiency in properties, removing discrimination against accepting benefit tenants and pet owning tenants.
HOW DO THESE CHANGES AFFECT YOU?
The usual argument for using a letting agent against self-management has been the value of your time and confidence in managing tenants.
These measures still exist. Paying between 10 and 15% monthly commission to a letting agent is a sizable cost. True, a letting agent’s costs are tax deductible.
However, with the right tenants, most DIY landlords can go years without major hassle or cost.
That has certainly been true in the past. The only concern going forward is the increasing burden of legislation and changing attitude of society towards landlords and tenant rights.
Free access to Tribunals is a game changer for tenants. The myriad of organisations and charities available to support tenants in actions against landlords far outweigh anything landlords have.
A quick check on the Tribunals decisions page will make you aware of the variety of cases brought against landlords by tenants. These include actions for poor maintenance, deposits not protected, appeals against rent levels, illegal property entry. There are also landlord cases against tenants for rent arrears, property access and evictions.
Property management today in Scotland is evidence and contract based.
This is the harsh reality of being a Scottish landlord today. You must have a management system that protects you with great record keeping, and you must keep evidence should the Tribunal ever demand you to prove what you did, when and how.
Please do not think cases in the Tribunal only involve landlords with low-end properties. That is not true. What is evident is the confidence tenants have in demanding standards of living and calling out landlords.
Landlords with a PRT can no longer terminate a problem tenancy by bringing it to a close, yet tenants can leave on 28-days’ notice at any time. A tenant can move in, demand new carpets/fridge/bed etc, and move out weeks later if the landlord won’t accede.
WHICH ROAD TO TAKE
My experience of pure self-managing landlords is either they’ve been lucky or expect some tenancies will result in rent arrears and damage. With fixed term tenancies landlords could repossess, write off the loss and start again. PRT’s do not give you that freedom.
Yet many DIY landlords use Facebook or Gumtree to find tenants, will use the Governments free model PRT contract and organise their own compliance and maintenance. Pricing rental levels below what agents charge is common too. To me such landlords dismiss wider tenant choice, comprehensive referencing and expanded PRT contracts for a quick move in.
All in all, I would argue the odds are against getting a solid trouble-free tenancy.
Pure DIY is one route, Tenant Find is another.
Tenant Find is where a landlord uses a letting agent to find a tenant, reference them, collate all the required compliance, carry out all the necessary paperwork, organise a digital inventory, take a deposit and first month rent, set up a tenant’s monthly payment on the landlord’s account, notify utilities and council tax, move the tenants in and then hand over to the landlord to manage.
Done properly, this option removes the pitfalls landlords fall prey too when starting a tenancy by themselves.
There is also the advantage of advertising on agent only websites (Rightmove, On the Market, Zoopla and Boomin) where tenants expect to be robustly referenced and credit checked.
Rentals rates are higher, all the legal boxes are ticked, and tenants know the landlord will manage the tenancy to a professional standard.
There is also the real safeguard of the Letting Agents Code of Practice to ensure the quality of your agents work. This code came into force in 2018 and regulates how letting agents work through the first-tier Tribunal. The Tribunal is Scotland’s redress system for landlords and covers all agents, including those who are not members of the Council of Letting Agents (CLA) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
The stress-free option is Full Management.
Full management frees you from the day-to-day management of your rental. This does not release you from your legal responsibilities as your agent is representing you. Finding the right agent, given everything said earlier, can be a challenge.
I have put together a blog explaining how we address Full Management and Tenant Find. I explain what we do, what we charge, and what we expect of you.
Clearly not all letting agents do what we do, however this is at least a real example to benchmark against.
Call Tim on 01292 289289 or Email: [email protected]
We have a number of helpful videos on our YouTube channel.
You can message me through Linked In.