This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Categories of agency

This content applies to England

Services provided by accommodation agency.

Such agencies are most commonly referred to as letting agencies and this is the term used on the pages in this section. Most letting agencies must belong to a government approved redress scheme - see Complaints against agencies: redress schemes for details. Some agencies may also belong to a self-regulatory body - see self-regulatory bodies for more on these.

Service provided

Some letting agents will simply provide a basic matching service for tenants and landlords. This kind of letting work is not subject to the requirement on the agency to join a government approved redress scheme.[1]

Other agents will provide property management services for landlords, such as drawing up tenancy agreements and rent collection. A client who uses a letting agency that manages the property is likely to have little or no contact with the actual landlord and instead deals with staff at the agency for queries relating to their tenancy including paying rent, requesting action to remedy disrepair and the return of their deposit.

Advice for clients

In most cases, agencies act on behalf of the landlord. Clients should therefore seek independent advice before signing agreements or acting on the agency's instructions. Some agencies may not necessarily be familiar with, or close observers of, landlord and tenant law.

Agencies have authority to act on behalf of a landlord but only to the extent agreed between the landlord and the agency. Matters that commonly form part of the agreement between landlord and agency include checking the credentials of a prospective tenant, negotiating the terms of a tenancy, preparing the paperwork involved and agreeing a lease, signing the contract with the tenants. This may include taking the tenant's deposit on behalf of the landlord (see the Deposit section for more information about the tenancy deposit protection scheme and related obligations of landlords and their agents). 

Agents may also be responsible for carrying out 'right to rent' immigration checks on prospective tenants and any other adult occupiers (when there is a written agreement between the landlord and the agent to that effect).[2] For more information see the page 'Right to rent' immigration checks.

The agent's role may end once the tenancy has been negotiated and entered into or, alternatively, the agent may be responsible for the ongoing management of the tenancy.

Estate agencies

Estate agents commonly act as an agent for the seller of a home, however many estate agents also act as letting agents. For information about issues that arise with buying or selling a home see the page on Problems with estate agents.

[1] s.83(8)(b) Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

[2] s.25 Immigration Act 2014.

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