Renting Privately Or Through An Estate Agent

You’re looking for somewhere new to live. A place that has it all - space, great transport links, value for money, but there are a few questions that begin to surface before you even think about choosing your next abode. One of the biggest is working out who to rent through.

In the vast majority of cases, you have two options. You can either rent through a private landlord or go through an estate agent, but what is the difference between the two, if any? We have the answers to all the questions arising from this potentially tricky topic.

What does a private landlord have in common with an estate agent

While there are many differences in the way that agents and landlords arrange rent, they do share some common ground. Where maintenance is concerned, the buck stops with the landlord who, as property owner, has to ensure everything is in full working order.

Whoever you choose to rent through, you will have to show them the same kinds of paperwork to prove that you are you and that you can pay to live in their property. Passports, utility bills, bank statements and references are all usually needed as proof.

Going direct to the landlord

If renting directly from a landlord, there isn’t quite as much toing and froing. In some cases, you may find it easier to go to them directly about any issues such as payment and maintenance, as they’re your main point of contact. For those of us who want to save time, this is a big advantage.

However, if your landlord is unavailable, living in a privately-rented home will mean that you have no other point of contact. By renting through an estate agent, you’ll have the agency themselves to get in touch with by phone, email or in person, giving you peace of mind in emergency situations.

Letting agent legislation

Should you rent a property through a letting agent, they are subject to a series of laws that ensure the home you’re living in is safe and secure. These laws cover everything from gas and electricity to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).

While private landlords are also subject to a lot of the safety requirements, they’re not bound by as many laws as estate agents. To this end, if viewing a property run by a private landlord, check that the property has fire alarms, an energy certificate and is in full working order.

Estate agent associations

A good sign that an estate agent is run properly is that it’s part of a recognised estate agency association. These are groups which help to certify that an individual estate agent is doing everything by the book when making properties available for rent and managing them.

The biggest one is the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). There are other bodies that agencies sign up to as welll, including the National Approved Lettings Scheme, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and National Association of Estate Agents. Look for all of these names on the agent’s website to see if they’re legitimate or not.

Having a property manager

Most rented properties run by estate agents will have a property manager. They are responsible for communication between you and the estate agent/landlord. They hold responsibility for a number of tasks, including:

  • Routine property inspections
  • Safety checks
  • Ensuring rent payments are made on time
  • Maintenance - getting someone to come in and fix anything that’s broken
  • Admin

While privately-rented properties need all of that doing, these responsibilities fall on the landlord’s shoulders. While they should be able to sort all of that for you, there’s every chance that they might not be in regular contact with you for one of many reasons, such as business, family issues or concerns over another property they may own.

Which is best?

While there’s no simple answer, it depends on how much you value your time and what price you put on your safety in your new rented home. If you prefer the former, then renting privately is the best option. For those of you want everything in place for when you move in, renting through an estate agent will be far more preferable.

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