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Letting Agent Fees – What’s a Fair Fee to Find a Tenant by Letting Focus

Since my last two blog posts, many people have asked me what is a fair fee to pay a letting agent for finding a tenant.
My answer is
1) It depends where in the country you are (London agents always charge higher fees as a % of the rent)
2) How good a negotiator you are.
3) How easy the agent thinks it will be to let your property
Read the Contract
Do you like reading contracts?
Well, sorry, but it’s time to get “down and dirty” with a letting agent’s contract.
Well, you have to in read it order to understand the limits of what they will do and won’t do for you.
Most will not evict a tenant who does not pay the rent, for example - at least not in their standard fee.
So why do contracts matter so much?
Well, if I had a fiver for every time a newbie landlord said to me “Wait a minute, the agent has just sent me another bill for a thousand pounds for a tenant who moved in 6 months ago” I would have about £500. The reason is, “renewal fees or repeat letting fees.”
As we have seen from the recent OFT case involving Foxtons, letting agents - especially those in London – just love renewal fees because if the tenant agrees to stay on after the end of 6 months; the agent gets to bag another fee for doing not very much.
If you have signed a contract agreeing to this, you are a bit stuck unless the existence of the renewal fee was hidden in the small print.
And if that was the case, then see my last post for more on what to do.

What’s Included and What isn’t Within the Letting Fee
Also, check out what’s included in the letting agent’s fees – for example, some agencies offer a free inventory as part of their service whilst most others charge extra for this.
If inventory is included, then great, but always request a copy of an old inventory to check quality and detail which varies greatly.
Also, ask if they make extra charges for checking references, doing check-ins on move-in day, signing tenancy agreements or notifying utility providers and the council tax people.
Ask if the agent uses an up to date credit referencing system to check out tenant’s ability to pay the rent and does it check for County Court Judgments too. What does it say about the referencing system they use on the internet?
Assess if the agent understands the importance of having proper references and an inventory done.
The former will reduce the chances of ending up with a tenant from hell – one who won’t pay rent and who could take months to evict - and the latter will ensure that if the property is returned in a mess or with things damaged beyond normal wear and tear, you’ll be entitled to keep some or all the deposit to pay for it.
If the agent does not understand this, go elsewhere, because this is basic stuff.

Letting Fees - What I Pay
For Tenant Find Only services - where the agent find and “reference checks” a tenant, sends the reference report to me for my OK, collects a holding deposit, does the move in, collects the balance of the tenancy deposit and first months rent and signs the tenancy agreements - I have never paid more than 4 weeks rent, even in London.
And no, I won’t pay the agent any other extension or renewal fees (as all my tenants will move onto a periodic tenancy at the end of the initial term.)
I have a phone and I know good plumbers, heating engineers and plumbers so I can easily manage all my properties myself too - so no need to pay a letting agent a management fee. I just pay them to find a tenant and that’s it.
Some landlords who used letting agents before may wonder about doing it themselves. We can help you with this. Just ask about my one to one property advice service and my property seminars or join my newsletter by emailing me at [email protected]
Plus at our Property Affiliate page we have set up links to lots of good long established merchants who can find tenants for you by putting your property online, checking tenant references, arranging the best buy to let mortgage, finding good landlords insurance and a lot of other landlord services too. Click on our Landlords Resources page for more information and great deals from our merchant partners.
We are having a couple of well earned weeks off. We will post again on 12th August!
I’m David Lawrenson of LettingFocus.com - the landlord experts. I’m the author of “Successful Property Letting” which for the last 3 years has been the UK’s top selling property book - buy Property Investment Book.
What’s unique about LettingFocus is that I offer independent unbiased advice on buying property as an investment because unlike most people in the buy to let and property “advice” business I am not linked to a property company, developer, agent or bridging loan financier.
I can tell you where to buy (which areas) and what type of property to buy and I can answer all your questions on letting property too because I have been a landlord and property investor for over 25 years.
Find out about all the GREAT DEALS we have arranged at our Property Affiliate page. More will be added over the next month.
Copyright of Blog: David Lawrenson 2009. This blog is updated roughly once a week.
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