Landlord Helpline: What to do when your letting agent fails you

Even if you use a lettings agent, you are liable for any issues

You cannot assume that your liability is removed if you’re working with a managing or letting agent, ultimately, you are liable for their behaviour and actions. 

We have had many landlords join Mashroom, believing they were compliant because they were paying agents to keep on top of things. Unfortunately, this is not always the case…

The importance of documentation

Some landlords have moved to Mashroom from a managing agent and wanted to upload their documentation – everything from inventories to legal requirements like Gas Safety Certificates – but they’ve found their agents couldn’t provide them or they didn’t exist.

Without your legal documentation – Gas Safety, EICR, EPC – if there is a fire because of faulty gas or electrics and you can’t produce the documentation to confirm everything was checked and safe, you are liable. 

Even if you are using a letting agent – you should always have copies of your documentation. Give your agent a call and get copies of your documentation today, including current certificates and all historic documents too. You always want to keep all previous documents, so you can prove you have no void periods in your certification. 

If the deposit hasn’t been protected by the 30 day deadline, get it done today! Technically, you are in breach, but put it right as soon as possible. Even if you have a tenant that has been with you for many years, before you were legally required to protect the deposit, we recommend that best practice is to protect it now

Make sure that your tenant has a copy of all of the following before they move in:

  • Gas Safety Certificate
  • EICR
  • EPC
  • Fully signed tenancy agreement
  • How to Rent Guide

Deal with deposits the right way

It came out recently that PurpleBricks had registered tenants’ deposits on behalf of their landlords – but committed a small administrative error by not giving the prescribed information to the tenants as proof of this registration. There was also a more recent case of a landlord facing a fine because the letting agent had missed the deadline for protecting the deposit.

These small admin errors can come back to bite you later, especially in eviction cases, when minor errors can drag out court proceedings, sometimes finding in favour of the tenant.

When it comes to deposits, make sure that you:

  • Register. You have to register the deposit within 30 days of receipt, either with the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme
  • Sign. Sign the deposit certificate, which has to go to the tenant. They can sign this too, though they don’t have to
  • Send. Make sure that you send the proof of registration to the tenant to prove that it has been registered. Do this as soon as you receive it!

Make sure you have evidence of compliance

As well as all the required documentation, use technology to your advantage:

  • Store your documents. Upload all your documents to our free Document Storage Tool. This way they’ll all be safe in one location, so easy to find. Plus, our tool alerts you when you are near expiry!
  • Use video to your advantage. When testing your carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms – film yourself doing this, so you can prove they were working. Make sure to save those videos. If there has been a void period between tenants, you should also film yourself flushing through taps and showers, to show due diligence regarding legionnaires
  • Have back up from professionals. When you get your annual Gas Safety check, ask the engineer to check the alarms and make a note of this

Right to Rent

Make sure you understand your responsibilities regarding Right to Rent checks. Standard tenant referencing does not cover this – this is something you have to do separately.

You will need to see the tenant and their documentation in person, so that you can check that the person in the ID is the person you’re renting to. This must be done before the tenant moves in.

Once again, if you leave this to your agent and they rent to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent in the UK – you will be the one liable. 

Should you go self-managed?

As you are liable anyway and need to be checking in to make sure that your agent is fulfilling their responsibilities, wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper!) to go self-managed?

The short answer is yes! It can be daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. With Mashroom, we offer so much for free and we guide you through to make sure that you are compliant

If you decide to go self-managed, your agent may try to charge you a leaving fee or give you a long notice period – so check your contract! If a notice period or leaving fee wasn’t mentioned there, they cannot insist upon it.

If you’re about to sign with a new agent who does charge leaving fees and ties you into a long notice period – ask yourself why that is. If it’s a great service, why is it so hard to leave? Mashroom is not only free, but we’re so sure of our service, we don’t tie you into any long-term contracts, you can simply leave if you’re not happy (but we’re sure you will be happy!)!

On top of all that, we can also help with your accounting, with our free Expense Tracker tool, which tracks your spending and stores your receipts, making it easy to send everything to your accountants. We can recommend great accountants too! 

Who should you complain to?

If you do feel let down by your agent, then you should leave them. But if you need to make a complaint because they are in breach of contract in some way, how do you handle this?

  • Make a formal complaint. There should be a complaints procedure in your contract, so the first step is to follow that. Make sure you have your complaint in writing
  • Report to the ombudsman. If you don’t get any resolution from your first complaint, you can go to the ombudsman. You can’t go to them first, as they will ask you to follow your agent’s complaint procedure. You need an unsatisfactory resolution from the agent before you can go to the ombudsman
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