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5 questions to ask your letting agent

A guide for landlords and tenants.

Do you protect deposits in a government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme?
This is now a legal requirement in Scotland, but some letting agents break the law by opting out.
Tenants: you could lose your deposit if the letting agent goes bust, and might have problems recovering money which is unfairly withheld.
Landlords: your tenant could sue you for 3 times the amount of their deposit.

Do you provide electrical safety testing and certificates?
This is not a legal requirement, but is done by honest reputable firms who care about tenant safety and managing business risk.
Tenants: you could be injured or killed by faulty wiring.
Landlords: you have an absolute duty of care to your tenant and may be held legally responsible for damage arising from breach of this duty.

Do you charge holding deposits, referencing fees, or non refundable cleaning fees?
The Scottish Government have recently clarified that all such charges are illegal, and have been since 1984. The only thing a law abiding agent will ask for is a deposit and the first months rent in advance.
Tenants: If you have paid illegal fees in the last six years, recover them.
Landlords: Don’t give letting agents who are 29 years behind the law a chance. What else are they getting wrong and how much will it cost you?

Do you have electronic key management system with audit trail?
Responsible, business savvy, risk managers will have such a system to ensure that keys to your property are not given out inappropriately, and will “chase up” if they are not returned on time. Others may ask you to trust to the honesty of their staff, which you have no way to verify. The landlord letting himself in when the tenant is out is a cliche for a reason. Some even use the toilet!
Tenants: your personal belongings may be at risk, unscrupulous landlords have stolen passports, snooped through financial records, underwear drawers, etc.
Landlords: can be held legally responsible for improper conduct of the agent, and consequent loss and damage arising if the agent is negligent and keys are lost.

Do you belong to any industry association such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors?

Anyone can set up a letting agency. Fewer have the ability and motivation to run a legal, ethical, professional operation. Agreeing to voluntary membership in a trade body signifies a commitment to higher standards.

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