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Private Landlord or Agency? What’s the Best Way to Rent?

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

There are many ways to find a rental property. With endless web portals, property magazines and agencies to choose from when you’re looking for a rental you’ll likely find yourself at a crossroads. Private landlord or agency? What’s the best way for you to rent? Both are worthy options with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here we aim to shine a light on both options to help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

Where do private landlords and agencies advertise?

Both agents and private landlords advertise properties online. Though you won’t currently find private rental properties on the main portals of Rightmove, Zoopla or On The Market. These are currently for agencies only but this is likely to change in time.

Private landlords typically advertise in local newspapers or online on websites like Gumtree, OpenRent or Houseshop.com.

The advantages of private renting

So, why is renting from a private landlord such an attractive option for some? The first thought that comes to mind when considering renting through a private landlord is to save money. Here are a few more advantages:

  • Private landlords don’t charge agency fees
  • Some landlords run reference checks but they don’t all always run credit checks – if you have a poor credit score a private landlord might be willing to offer you a tenancy simply based on proof of regular income and a character reference
  • Tenants deal directly with the property owner when negotiating any specific terms of the tenancy. This removes the possibility of details becoming lost in communication when dealing with a third party

The disadvantages of private renting

There are some disadvantages that come with this way of renting. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Some landlords are unprofessional and have never rented a property before. In some instances they can have a very limited understanding of what’s required as well as no legal knowledge of their responsibilities. It’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. You can find this in the government’s guide on private renting
  • A private landlord isn’t regulated. Having said this, as they have responsibilities, make sure they have met these prior to letting a property. For example, gas and electrical safety checks should be provided, working smoke/carbon monoxide detectors should be installed and any soft furnishings must be fire resistant (check for labels).
  • Some private landlords can overlook rules surrounding your deposit. Ask for proof they have joined a tenancy deposit scheme. This means your deposit is protected throughout the term of your tenancy
  • Landlords can let you down. If your landlord is a ‘one man band’, establish who will manage the property throughout the tenancy, particularly if the landlord lives or travels abroad. They will need a representative you can get hold of in an emergency. For example, if the boiler breaks down you need a swift response

Always be mindful when viewing a privately rented property, you’re meeting a stranger at an unknown location. Make sure you check out the location and ideally take someone with you. At the very least, tell someone the address details as well as the date and time of your viewing.

So, does it make more sense to rent through an agency to avoid any of these issues?

The advantages of renting through a letting agent

Agents are far more regulated than private landlords. All letting agents should be a member of the ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents). Here are a few of the advantages of renting through an agent:

  • Agents will have a full working knowledge of the standard legal procedures surrounding renting a property
  • They’ll likely have all paperwork and systems in place for a smooth set up and management of the tenancy process
  • If they manage the property on behalf of the landlord, they will have a property management team in place to deal with any property related issues

The disadvantages of renting through a letting agent

Renting through a letting agent isn’t without its faults:

  • The agent will be putting any offer and wish list forward to the landlord which sometimes means information gets lost in translation
  • Renting through an agency will entail fees. These can be anything up to and possibly above £500 plus VAT – sometimes even exceeding the weekly rent in question
  • An agent managing a property can lead to delays in the resolution of issues. This is because the agent will first need to get in contact with the landlord and act as a ‘middle man’ to negotiate what the landlord will pay for and what is covered in property management costs

There are advantages and disadvantages in both rental options. When renting a property, don’t just choose the property you like, take into consideration who you will be dealing with moving forward.

Make sure the area is right! Some private landlords and agents have large portfolios which they’re always keen to show off.

Fully research an area before you sign along the dotted line. Phil Spencer's Property Report will tell you all you need to know. From rental estimates, to make sure you are not paying over the odds, to local crime stats to local amenities, make sure you get the lowdown on your prospective property and the local area.

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