Landlords – how to save around £5500 letting your property
There has been a lot of discussion recently about how letting agents regularly rip off tenants – and they do. The government is belatedly introducing legislation to restrict their fees to tenants. But they also rip off landlords and whilst it’s difficult for tenants to avoid them, it’s much easier for landlords, as long as their property is local.
Given letting agents outrageous fees to landlords, it’s incredible they have the nerve to invent all the other charges they make to tenants – that’s why most tenants and landlords alike dislike them.
Letting Agents’ charges to landlords
Agents love to talk in terms of percentages because it enables them to disguise the iniquitous levels of charging they engage in. So let’s take a property that the rent is £1500 per calendar month. I have taken as an example the quoted fees of a well know high street agent, which do include landlord rent guarantee insurance.*
I am assuming the case of tenants who remain in the property for a total of two years…
These agents charge 7.5% plus VAT for Sole Letting Rights – this means that WHOEVER lets the property this agent gets their cash.
The real costs of using a letting agent
- Letting fee for let only will be £1500 x 12 x 7.5% = £1350.00 plus VAT for the FIRST year, paid in advance.
- Let’s say you are stupid enough to use their ‘Full Management Service’. This involves collecting the rent – it just goes into their account before eventually going into yours. They deal with everyday calls from the tenants and make 6 monthly inspections etc. Add an EXTRA 6% plus VAT. So that’s £1500 x 12 x 6% = £1080.00 per annum extra plus VAT.
- Providing you with an Inventory – between £140 – £200. So, let’s say £170 on average.
- If the same tenants simply decide to stay on in the premises which involves the agent in doing VIRTUALLY NOTHING they will charge the landlord another 7.5% plus VAT – Yes ANOTHER fee, amounting to £1350.00 plus VAT
Let’s add up all the bold figures because they are indeed bold. That’s £1350.00 x 2 + £1080 x 2 + £170.00 = £5030 plus VAT where applicable.
So, you let a flat or house for £1500 pcm and end up paying the letting agent £5030.00 plus VAT, which is £6036.00!
Even if you only elect for the let only service, over two years it would cost you £2700.00 plus VAT which is a massive £3240.00. And all this is paid up front at the beginning of each year.
Letting agents fleecing the tenants as well
So the letting agents get all this money from the landlord then they proceed to rip off the tenants for even more money!
They have various ingenious made up charges, such as ‘Administration Fees’, ‘Checking In Fees’, ‘Checking Out Fees’.
Then there’s the scandalous ‘Holding Fees’ to retain a property while referencing is carried out. It is reasonable to withhold them in the event that the tenants change their minds. But they also withhold these fees in the event that the references come back as unsatisfactory. These fees can be as much as £700 – £800. They probably hope they’ll come back as unsatisfactory.
Some letting agents charge tenants for ‘drawing up the Assured Shorthold Tenancy’ document’. This takes about 15 minutes to revise a template on their system.
And then there is referencing. Charging for this is justified, but for tenants in full-time employment with proof of previous address etc it COSTS around £10.00 per tenants. Many agents charge around £60 – £70 per tenant.
If you’re a landlord and you can, just let it yourself
As a landlord you can list your property on the main portals like Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation etc, using companies that will charge you around £60.00. You then ensure that you THOROUGHLY reference any prospective tenants rather than saying to yourself ‘Oh they seem such a nice couple’.
Don’t forget Landlord Rent Guarantee Insurance
Then you buy Landlord Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance* – we do it for about £105.00 per property per year. This insurance pays your rent in the event that the tenants stop paying for any reason and the legal team then go to work to evict the tenants as soon as possible. Strict tenant referencing is a requirement of this insurance. Let’s assume you charge the tenants for referencing, which is reasonable then your total outlay over two years will be about £170.00.
So it’s your choice. Pay a letting agent £3240.00 or £6036.00 including VAT or spend £170.00 letting it yourself. Some agents will charge even more than the amounts quoted above and some will negotiate for less but as the Americans say, I think it’s a no-brainer.
I was prompted to write this after receiving something in my email inbox about how traditional estate agencies are suffering in the current Brexit market.
Estate Agencies on the High Street
Once upon a time, if you were looking to sell, buy or rent a property you would either check out the ads in the local paper and/or wander down the local high street and have a chat with people in the local estate agencies. People do still do this, but a huge and increasing number now simply go online, usually heading straight for the main portals like Rightmove, Primelocation and Zoopla, or maybe the agents’ own websites.
Nowadays, there are agents set up to exploit this new world, such as Purplebricks.com who just charge vendors a fairly low fixed fee to market their property. Of course this does save vendors a huge amount but only if the property actually sells, because of course, traditional agents’ fees are dependent on the sale actually completing.
Agents’ high commission
But it is true that with astronomical property prices (in some parts of the UK) the traditional agent’s 1.25% fee actually can translate into a huge amount of cash. It’s not uncommon in London and the South East for quite ordinary properties to sell for £700,000 or more. At only 1.25 % this means that vendors are having to give the agent £8750.00 PLUS 20% VAT. And for agents who are charging 1.5% it amounts to a staggering £10.500 plus VAT!
The High Street Estate Agency – who still needs it?
However, estate agents will rightly point to the huge expense of maintaining a high street presence and having to spend money on expensive newspaper advertising. But are either of these really necessary anymore? How many people actually bother to visit a high street agent with all the problems of city centre parking etc? And do purchasers really pay much attention to the local paper even? Not only are printed ads often out of date but sadly, local papers, like so much other printed media are in serious decline.
Perhaps the future lies in much more ‘stripped-down’ a la carte estate agencies, where they do not maintain high street offices but work out of ordinary offices not in city centres. Furthermore they would not advertise unless the client wishes to pay for it and rely almost entirely on web interaction. This would mean that fees could be much less and still allow the agents to make decent profits.
Landlords and letting property
As for lettings agencies, I think much the same applies. In fact, as a landlord unless you live far away from your rental investment, it really does not make sense to use an agent at all. You can now use companies who will let you access the main property portals for a very small fee. However, if you do not use a letting agent , obtaining Landlord Rental Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance together with thorough referencing is even more important – but still much cheaper than using an agent.
I am sure that, except for selling, renting and buying the most prestigious and up-market properties, the future is in this much more ‘stripped-down’ letting or sales agency.
As buy-to-let has increased massively across the UK, partly due to the lamentable return on other kinds of investments, so too have the horror stories of nightmare tenants. First they suddenly stop paying the rent and when the hapless landlord finally evicts them, he or she is faced with possibly several thousands of pounds repair bills.
As a landlord, even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid these vile people you probably know of others who have fallen prey to nightmare tenants. Just take a look at ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’ on Channel 5 and you’ll see dreadful cases of how a small minority of tenants can make life an absolute hell for small-time landlords.
Admittedly there are also rogue landlords out there who equally make life hell for their tenants but that’s not what this article is about. This article is in fact about the importance of taking out Landlord Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance – rogue landlords don’t need this insurance as they use other rather more direct methods!
In fact, the problem IS rogue landlords because I believe that it’s because of them that the law is absolutely on the side of tenants when it comes to eviction.
Firstly you need to have approved grounds for evicting the tenants, usually non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour in your property. Then, if they won’t go voluntarily, you need to serve a Section 21 Notice.
And a Section 21 will only be regarded as valid by a court so long as the landlord has properly protected the security deposit and complied with various other procedures that now cover the commencement of any tenancy.
A Section 21 cannot be served during the first four months of tenancy. Once a Section 21 is served the tenants must be given two months notice to quit. If they fail to leave then you need to seek a Possession Order – this can easily add another month and then if the tenants ignore the Order you’ll have to spend more money and time getting bailiffs to physically evict the tenants. And in this case you should always upgrade the Order to the High Court so as to make use of proper bailiffs.
It could easily cost you around £6000.00
So, all in all it could take at least four months to evict bad tenants and often longer! In all that time you will be losing rent and ranking up legal costs. On an average property this could easily amount to well over £6000.00! And then you will probably have extra refurbishment and cleaning costs to deal with the mess that’s left.
We are agents for Landlord Rent Guarantee & Legal Expenses Insurance, but even if we weren’t, I’d still say that at only £99.95 per property for 12 months’ cover it’s incredible value.
To maintain this low cost, tenant referencing is a condition of this insurance and it’s important to follow the correct procedures relating to taking and protecting the security deposit. If you need more information about this insurance and/or referencing just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
However, even if the tenants seem nice, strict referencing should ALWAYS be carried out whether you are taking out rent guarantee insurance or not.
What does it cover?
The premium covers your rent up to a maximum of £3000.00 pcm, with a maximum payout of £25000.00 per claim and covers up to five named tenants in the same property. After the first month your rent will be paid per month and our legal team will get to work to evict the tenants as soon as possible and, if appropriate and possible, recover costs to cover damage not covered by the security deposit. You also have the option to have your rent paid without the one month ‘grace’ period – this costs a little more at £129.95 for 12 months.
So, can you really afford NOT to have this insurance?
Block Insurance is essentially the overall buildings cover for blocks of flats. It covers risks to the basic structure. Essentially it is bought by the managing agents, the freeholder or whoever has overall responsibility for the block’s structure. And often leaseholders are paying over the odds for it and sometimes they can do something about it.
Can YOU choose who provides your block insurance?
Virtually all flats, whether in purpose-built blocks or conversions, are held in leasehold. The leaseholder has the property for the term of the lease (99 – 999 years) after which it reverts to the freeholder. In between these two parties there is usually a managing agent. Usually it is the managing agent who selects the block insurance for the property.
Sadly, if you have no control over the management of your block it is often the case that the freeholder/managing agent actually know they are paying too much for the block insurance. I’ll leave it up to your imagination why this might be.
Take back control (to coin a phrase!)
However, if you DO have ultimate control over the managing agents then this article may be of interest to you. It’s worth checking that you and the other leaseholders are not paying more than you need to for the block buildings insurance. Certainly if you have a share of the freehold then you should speak to the directors of your residents’ company and check that you and all the other residents are not ‘paying over the odds’ for your insurance.
We offer very competitive rates on block insurances and all the policies are underwritten by major insurers.
Why not get a quote today. Either email email@example.com or call 0800 783 1626, quoting ‘Landlords and Letting’.
It’s great once you’ve found what appear to be good tenants and you can finally breath a sigh of relief that at last you’ll be getting rent in to cover your own expenses. And if you let the property yourself you will be saving a lot of money by not employing a letting agent.
The problem for landlords letting property themselves, though, is that they can sometimes be a bit too trusting. That young couple who turned up at the flat seemed so nice and they both appeared to be friendly and have good jobs…don’t they? The thing is that rogue tenants are more likely to go for property that’s being let direct by the landlord rather than going via letting agencies. This is because agents are VERY strict and always rigidly reference tenants and they tend not to be as easy going as the landlords themselves.
And of course, that nice couple may actually be nice but they might lose their jobs…or split up.
So, if you’re letting your valuable property yourself it really is advisable to get some form of rent protection insurance. Not only will this insurance kick in and pay your rent if the tenants default but it will also arrange and cover the cost of expert legal help to evict the tenants. The other aspect is that practically all Landlord Rent Guarantee policies require that the tenants are scrupulously referenced and their identity firmly verified. This aspect alone tends to scare of dodgy tenants.
It usually costs only around £100 a year for up to several tenants and given that you’re likely to be saving many £100s by not using a letting agent, it really does make good sense to take it out!
LandlordsandLetting offers Landlord Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance from as little as £53.00 for six months’ cover or £99.00 for 12 months.