Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anyone know about letting flats?

This is a bit of a long shot but it suddenly occurred to me that some bloggy people might possibly be able to give us some advice. I wonder if anyone reading this has experience of letting a flat in Scotland?

Our beloved Daughter 2 is now, much to our sorrow, living in London. She lost her Edinburgh job (in architecture - the building trade is in great difficulties) and managed to get one in London, and is also about to marry her chap, who's trying to make it as an actor in London. As you can imagine, they're rather short of money. She has a salary; he doesn't. She needs to rent out her Edinburgh flat in order to pay its mortgage.

On her behalf, I've recently interviewed two letting agents. Each has a slightly different system of charges for the various parts of its services, but these come to much the same in the end, ie they charge for finding a tenant and then take really quite a lot of her money (15% of the rent, plus VAT) for acting as the point of contact for repairs etc. There shouldn't be that many repairs in the flat, which is newly decorated and only twentyish years old.

Alternatively, both agents would simply find a tenant and then leave it to us (one of them would provide the lease as well) but both charge quite steeply for this - presumably to discourage one from taking this option.

And I'm wondering whether we dare sidestep the agents and just do it ourselves.

However, being cautious people, we're uncertain about this - not so much the maintenance of repairs and so on, but the legal side of it: the lease, the credit checks, the salary checks and so on. And getting tenants out at the end of the lease, if necessary. On the other hand, now I'm retired, with more free time, it seems a bit daft to hand over all that money. She's paying far more for her (one-bedroom, rented) flat in London than she'll get for her two-bedroom flat here, even if she got all of the rental money.

Does anyone out there have experience of letting in Scotland? - do you use a letting agent, and if so who, and if not - well, what do you think? I would be really grateful for any advice.

I can't tell you how horrible it is to go down to her flat and see it empty - well, it's not empty; it has the furniture. But empty of her stuff.


  1. We rent out two properties in outer London, but the agent situation is basically the same. We have both of ours on a full contract with the agents - two different ones as the flat belonging to M-in-law is not in the same place as our house. It's galling to pay so much of the rent to them BUT and it's a really big but, if you get an unsatisfactory tenant, as we did in our house, they are worth it. One hopes such things won't happen but they do, sadly. Shop around and try cheek - I reduced ours by 3%. There's a third option where they vet and find tenants and collect the rent and deal with defaults, it's usually about 4% less and might be ideal as you and Mr Life are near enough to deal with repairs etc. In our experience the thing that goes wrong most is plumbing. Do get a good Landlord's insurance whatever you do. Our first (nightmare) tenant was burgled and we had to fork out for new locks and damage to the door and windows. She'll have to do a tax return to declare the income, but all the payments to the agents, insurance and quite a few other things can be set against the income before tax. There's a separate system for dealing with deposits but I don't know if Scotland is the same - they are held by a third party organisation for the duration of the lease and returned after deductions if necessary at the end of the lease. Some agents also cover the rent for void periods or guarantee a minimum income.

  2. Much the same here in Cambridge - DD's flat is being rented out while they are in the US and we opted for the full contract even though they take such a slice of the money. They also kept back a proportion for income tax until she got a certificate saying she wasn't liable for UK tax. We hadn't remembered about VAT-doh!- so the amount she gets just barely covers her mortgage. But it does seem to be worth it for the protection against bad tenants and for me on my own, the knowledge that repairs are dealt with without having to find a plumber in the middle of the night. You do need the landlord's insurance though, and a letter from the mortgage company giving her permission to let, which cost us £300 - for one standard letter! It's never going to be a money-spinner but it does mean the flat is there for them to come back to. Good luck! And where's that baby got to?

  3. Estate agents suck and take your money for doing very little but if anything goes wrong they do have it covered, whereas if you do it yourself you'll need landlord's insurance and so forth...

    I went through agents when I did it in London mostly because I just didn't want to have to trek across town every time the washing machine broke down (and they do, even new ones) or whatever.

    However, my brother lives nearer his rented property (as I presume you do) and he does a deal where the landlord vets tenants and draws up the contract and is a point of contact in dispute but day to day management is done by him.

    Try a few more letting agents as well as they are not all the same.

  4. Once again, an English answer, although I don't think it's greatly different up north agent-wise. I opted for the finding/vetting/lease servcie only as I live nearby and could deal with repairs. I also got a Homecare contract with British Gas which covered most repairs.

    If you chose to do it yourself, you would need to find a standard form of letting agreement off the internet and check references but anecdotally I'm told that private lettings tend to command lower rents so you might lose out overall.

    I would NOT be giving an agent a slice every month as all they do is call you to sort out the repair anyway!!

    Good luck and sorry she's moved to the bad old Smoke...!

    Lesley xx

  5. Don't want to start an argument here with Lesley, but neither of our agents have ever expected us to sort out repairs. They call to get authorisation then they just get on with it - that's what we pay them for, especially as we're many miles away. The British Gas contract is good, and the agents will just arrange appointments with the tenants if they know what's covered. There's a legal requirement in England for an annual Gas Safety Certificate, and you need to have the electrics checked and certified safe before you let. Insurance can be more difficult to get on flats (I know a good firm if you need one, just email)and if there's a management firm in charge of a freehold they have to be notified. There are plenty of good letting agents who aren't estate agents - we have one who is and one who isn't.

  6. I am a landlord in New York, but as far as I'm concerned it's no different here than in Scotland. If you use an agent, it will cost you money - AND you can't be sure the agent will use the same level of discretion when choosing a tenant of quality.

    My advice is to advertise on whatever local FREE websites/online newspapers are in your area, and interview the prospective tenants in person so that you can feel good about who is going to live in your flat. Do all pre-emptive questioning via email so you can weed out the ones that are obvious "no's" (people with dogs, or whatever your NO list includes...).

    Be sure to mention in your ad that you are renting it out as the owner, so they will not be charged agent fees. It starts things off on a good footing.


  7. I don't own any property to rent so can't help you there but suspect an agent might be useful..or not...sorry......and what are you doing with my cat on your header??

  8. AHEM! I know I was in Canada at the time, but really woman, I saw you not long before I left! I used to manage my firm's letting department in my last job. If you still need assistance, drop me an e-mail and I can talk you through the process. I can get you style docments etc as well if you decide you want to go DIY.

  9. I do not know lots, i do know you will need landlord insurance to commercially rent a flat, watch the terms and condition aswell you may fine your not covered for some things. That happen to be when are sewer pipe cracked.

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