Using a letting agent to find and rent a home

Find out about the fees, checks and complaints procedures involved in renting with a letting agent.

Register with a letting agent

Letting agents advertise homes for rent on property websites and in their office windows.

A letting agent may also collect rent and arrange for repairs of the property.

You usually have to register with a letting agency if you want to rent a property through them. You can register with as many agencies as you like.

The letting agent must not charge you for registering with them or charge for giving you information on properties. It is a criminal offence to do this.

Check the agent is professionally licensed

A letting agent will have agreed to a voluntary code of conduct and best-practice standards if it is a member of one of these organisations:

What to ask before you sign a contract

Most private tenants sign up to an assured shorthold tenancy.

Before you agree to take on a tenancy from a letting agency, make sure you know:

  • how much the rent is, when and how often it has to be paid
  • what length of tenancy agreement is on offer - 6 months, 12 months or longer
  • if there is a break clause in the agreement
  • what fees and charges you have to pay before you move in, on renewal and at the end of the tenancy
  • if your fees will be refunded if you or the landlord decides not to go ahead

Repairs before you move in

Ask the letting agent to confirm in writing that any repairs that are needed will be done before you sign up to the tenancy.

It may be difficult to get the work done after you have moved in.

It can be a good idea to agree an inventory with the agent at the start of your tenancy. This can help to resolve any disputes that might arise about:

  • repairs that need doing
  • the return of your deposit when you leave

Check if you have to contact the letting agent or the landlord to sort out repairs after you move in.

Fees and charges

You usually have to pay fees to the letting agent for your tenancy agreement to be prepared and for background checks to be carried out.

The letting agent must display a list of all fees you will have to pay in their office and on their website.

A letting agent will also usually take a tenancy deposit on the landlord’s behalf.

This must be protected with a tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of payment.

The agent could ask for a holding deposit to secure the property while it carries out its checks.

Checks a letting agent can make

Before you can start your tenancy, a letting agent will run checks to ensure you have the right to rent in the UK and are likely to be a good tenant.

Checks normally include:

  • immigration checks
  • a credit check
  • checks on your income
  • references from your employer or previous landlords

You might be asked for a guarantor if you fail to a credit check or are unable to give references. This is someone who agrees to pay the rent for you if you do not.

If you claim benefits

Check the agent has landlords who will give you a tenancy if you need to claim housing benefit or universal credit to help pay your rent.

Tell the agent if you will need to claim benefits, or else you could lose money you have paid in fees and charges.

Letting agent inspections during your tenancy

Letting agents might carry out inspections of your home during your tenancy to check the condition of the property.

Check your tenancy agreement to see how often inspections can happen.

The letting agent should give you at least 24 hours’ notice in writing and the visit must be at a reasonable time.

If you can’t make the time suggest an alternative. It is illegal for them to enter your home without your permission.

You should not be charged for inspections.

Find out who your landlord is

You have a legal right to know who your landlord is, even if you deal directly with a letting agent.

The letting agent must tell you the landlord's name and address within 21 days if you write to ask.

Complaints about letting agents

Letting agents must belong to an independent redress scheme. Redress schemes investigate complaints against their members.

You should complain directly to your letting agent first.

If your complaint is not resolved within 8 weeks, you can raise it with the agent’s redress scheme.

If your agent is not a member of a redress scheme, you can report this to your council, which may take action against the agent.

Use Shelter's letting agent dispute tool to complain to a letting agent redress scheme

Last updated 28 Apr 2017 | © Shelter

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