I’m responding to a request asking me to provide a guide to letting in Swansea, with a view to assisting potential new customers interested in the Swansea housing market. It was a useful exercise as you forget how much is not obvious to people that are of not involved in the housing industry. Hope it helps. Matthew Wiggall, For Fresh Estate & Letting Agents.
Are you from the local area?
If you are, you will have a good understanding of the different areas and their positives and negatives. However, if you are completely new to the area one concern maybe identifying areas with more crime than others. Now a good letting agent can guide you on these areas, but you can also visit the website www.police.UK and look at the crime maps. It’s very informative and will highlight the problem areas for you to avoid.
Where to start your search?
In Swansea, the main rental stock will be shown on OnTheMarket.com and Zoopla. We have all heard of Rightmove of course, but many of the main agents in Swansea including Fresh, Dawsons, Clees and Astleys do not use them. Nearly all of the main agents use OnTheMarket.com and Zoopla, so it’s definitely a good idea to start your search using these two property portals only.
Should I rent an Agent Fully Managed property or Owner Managed property?
There is no wrong answer here, but you do have some considerations and steps you can take to make the best decision available. So, when you are looking through listings on the property portals and eventually physically viewing the properties you should ask if the property is managed by the landlord or managed by the agent. Now although there are many good private landlords out there, we also know there are others which are less efficient or responsive. Always ask the agent for feedback on the landlord if it is privately managed. If they are glowing and positive about the landlord this should offer you some comfort and confidence. If they are non-committal or avoid the question this could raise concerns. You could take it a step further and ask if you could email or speak to the last tenant. This is not requested too often and may not be possible, however, you can ask politely and if successful this could satisfy any fears you may have.
If the property is managed, you are more able to assess the quality of the managing agent. They would have to be Rent Smart Wales licensed, but this is a minimum requirement. An agent that has taken it a step further may be also be a member of UKALA or ARLA. Both of these professional bodies promote the highest standards of general practice and will provide you with further comfort. You should also see if they use an independent review site like FeeFo (this will be shown on their website). Only agents who are sure of their service will use this type of facility. You can further check over say the last 10 google reviews. Every agent will have the odd average or negative review from maybe a past tenant that had a difference of opinion over a bond return for example. However, you should look over up to 10 and get a balanced view. Clearly an agent with a high proportion of negative reviews to that of positive ones is a concern.
Rent Smart Wales
Every landlord should be registered with Rent Smart Wales. If the landlord is managing the property themselves, they should be fully licensed. If the agent is managing the property they must be fully licensed and will be listed as the managing agent. You can easily check these details on the national database and website of www.rentsmart.gov.wales/en/
EPC’s and Safety Certificates
EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate and will tell the incoming tenant how energy efficient the property is. The rating will also give you an idea of the utility cost for running the property. From the 1st April 2018 all rental properties must be a band E or above. Many efficient properties will normally be a C or a D. This report will be available to you from the outset as part of the marketing material. Beyond this the main compulsory certificate you will want to see is a current ‘Landlord Gas Safety Certificate’ assuming the property has gas. This you can ask about when you secure a property and it should be supplied prior to signing the tenancy agreement. If the property you are looking to rent is an older property and you perceive the electrics are also very old you could request to see any electrical certificate. This is not compulsory for the landlord, but many landlords may have taken this extra step, so just ask.
Agents Fees, Bonds and Rents
When you wish to secure a property, you will be asked to pay an agency fee. This will normally be in the region of £250 (Including Vat) and will remove the property from the open market, it will further cover your referencing costs and contribute to the preparation of the tenancy paperwork.
Most agents will use an independent referencing company. Some will carry out their own personal checks, but nearly all will carry out a credit check of some kind. Be honest at this point in terms of any negative credit history. This is not to be confused with a credit rating. The agent is looking for any debts or CCJ’s. If you have them and do not disclose them you could lose your admin fee. Honesty is always the best policy and if you do have an issue it is better to disclose it at an early stage. The landlord and agent will be far more understanding and may just ask for the additional security of a guarantor.
Bonds are normally set at between 1 month and up to 6 weeks of the equivalent rent. For both rent and bond payments it will need to be cleared funds before moving day. This is something to be clear on as you go through the process. Sometimes landlords and agents will want a months rent paid on signing the contract and the bond cleared before moving in.
You should check with the landlord or agent what will be done with the changing of the utilities. You should also ask who the utility providers are. Always record meter readings on the day of moving. This can be quite often recorded on the inventory report.
Moving in day
Arrange in advance an appointment to pick up the keys. Ask how many keys you will be provided with. Ask if a written inventory and condition report will be provided on the day. This could be in hard copy form or through a digital format with accompanying pictures. Either way this is an important document. Use this to confirm and make observations of the condition the property was presented to you in. As yourself the questions; Is the property clean? Have the carpets been cleaned? Are there any obvious damages you want noted? Is the garden in good order? Get all this noted down on the report. When you do this properly you will avoid disputes at the end of the tenancy. The rule of thumb for both landlord and tenant is that the property should be returned in the same clean state as provided with a consideration for general wear and tear.
Thank you for everything. The service, professionalism and effort has been above what would be expected. Thank you. Richard & Laura