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How can I find a letting agent who won’t let tenants run riot in my home?

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I have to let out my flat because I’m moving abroad for work for a couple of years. The last time I did this, the flat got pretty bashed up by tenants – not just a bit of wear and tear.

The letting agency was meant to manage everything for me while I was away and couldn’t do it myself, but didn’t appear to have taken much interest in cleaning it up and properly re-marketing it until I intervened and came back to resolve the situation.

I’m about to have a new set of agencies around to have a look. 

Are there any giveaway questions I should ask, or telltale signs I should look out for when I am interviewing the agents, to work out if they will find better tenants and do more to look after my flat? It’s my home, and I’ll be moving in again when I get back.

This reader is looking for a professional letting agent who will find good tenants for their home

This reader is looking for a professional letting agent who will find good tenants for their home

Helen Crane of This is Money replies: Handing over the keys to your home to someone else can be hard – especially if they are just keeping it warm for a short while while you are working away. 

A good managing agent should take away some of that stress, ensuring your property is well taken care of while dealing with any issues that come up, from a lost set of keys to a broken boiler to finding new tenants if it becomes empty.

For your peace of mind, you will also want to be kept in the loop with regular inspections and updates. 

This is especially important for you, as you will be out of the country for long periods of time – and it sounds as if your previous agent let you down in this area.

You’ll also be paying them a pretty penny for the privilege, so you need to know they are going to do a good job.

According to insurer Simply Business, landlords can pay anywhere between about 12 per cent and 20 per cent of the monthly rent collected to their managing agent, depending on the level of service they require.

There will also be one-off fees for things like finding new tenants and referencing.

I asked four property experts the questions they would ask a prospective managing agent to sort the wheat from the chaff, and they came up with the following advice. 

Get recommendations and check out online reviews

When you are searching for agents to interview for the job, a glowing recommendation can help you decide which firms should be at the top of the pile. 

If you know any other landlords, or perhaps colleagues who have also worked abroad, ask them if they used letting or management agents and whether they were happy with them. 

However, you will first want to check that they have similar properties to yours on their books. If they’re used to managing student houses or working for large portfolio landlords, for example, they might not have the right set-up for your flat. 

You should be able to get a feel for this by looking at their website, or giving them a call to ask.  

Renting out your home can be hard, but property managers can take away some of the stress

Renting out your home can be hard, but property managers can take away some of the stress 

‘Firstly, pinpoint three local agents that service your area and that have similar properties to your home,’ says Lara Bradley, head of lettings at property developer and manager Strawberry Star. 

‘Most of our business is from referrals, so try and partner with an agent who has been recommended to you. Then, do your research on all of them.’

Online reviews are also a useful tool. Look at independent sites such as Trustpilot and Google reviews, but bear in mind that reviews can still be faked, and some companies will give their customers incentives to post a good one. 

‘The first step to finding a good managing agent is checking reviews,’ says Jack Reid, founder and director of estate agent Orlando Reid. 

‘The agent should have a good number of high-quality reviews specifically mentioning management. 

‘Although it may be laborious going through hundreds of reviews, it should save the heartache of choosing an agent who doesn’t look after your property well.’

However good their service is, most agents will get negative reviews from time to time. How quickly and professionally they respond to these is a good indication of their competence. 

‘With online reviews, look out for when the agent takes the time to respond to any negative feedback and tries to resolve these issues’, Bradley says. ‘Look out for more recent reviews too; ones during the pandemic.’ 

Make sure they have the right qualifications

Another easy way to rule out agents is by discarding those who don’t have professional qualifications, although do bear in mind that these are voluntary and not required by law. Some agents with many years of experience may not have these qualifications.

‘Make sure the property manager is ARLA qualified so they are fully up to date with all legal requirements – their job is to protect you,’ says David Mumby, head of prime central London lettings at the estate agent Knight Frank.  

ARLA Propertymark is a professional body for letting agents, and has more than 17,500 member firms. 

While the property industry is not regulated, ARLA members voluntarily agree to provide company information to the organisation every year to demonstrate transparency. 

This includes details of their standard tenancy agreement, money laundering checks and data protection policies, for example. 

It is also worth doing some background research on the company and their staff’s level of experience – perhaps by looking at reviews on Glassdoor or Linkedin. 

Says Bradley: ‘You want to understand the size of the team and their collective experience – if everyone has been in the office a good number of years, it’s an indicator that the office is happy and customers are happy, as good people tend to stay.’

Check out the company's credentials online to find out whether their staff are happy - if they are, they will stick around longer and work harder for their customers

Check out the company’s credentials online to find out whether their staff are happy – if they are, they will stick around longer and work harder for their customers

Check their workload

You will also want to find out how many homes each member of staff is responsible for, as you don’t want your flat getting forgotten by an over-worked agent. 

Mumby says it should be no more than 100 per agent, while Bradley puts her estimate at 150 to 200.   

‘Find out how many properties they manage in their portfolio and how many staff,’ she says. ‘If they have 300 properties and only one property manager on the ground, this should be a red flag.’

Ask about their inspection policy 

In addition, you should find out how many times the agent would plan to visit your home for an inspection if you appointed them. 

‘How many times will the property manager visit the property, and will it be the actual property manager, or is this outsourced?’ Mumby says. ‘I would look for at least two visits per year, and more as required – should a neighbour call and say there was a party for instance.  

You might need to pay extra for more regular inspections, but it could be worth it for the peace of mind that your home is being treated well.  

Reid suggests asking for quarterly inspections, to encourage the tenants to keep the flat in good nick. 

‘There is normally a cost related to this, however, the fact that the tenant knows mid-term inspections will take place throughout the tenancy will encourage them to maintain the property in good condition,’ he says. 

The agent should provide you with reports after each inspection to keep you abreast of any issues with, or damage to, the property. 

Ask your prospective agents whether these will include pictures, if that is important to you. 

Since the pandemic began, some agents have been taking videos to send to landlords who aren’t able to visit the properties themselves. 

‘We’ve started doing video reports over lockdown, and that’s been very well received by our landlords – adding an additional layer of transparency and confidence,’ says Bradley.  

Grill them on current regulations

The pandemic has led to various changes in the rules surrounding rented properties, particularly when it comes to evictions and the notice period landlords need to give before evicting a tenant. 

Chris Morris, head of lettings at estate agent Cluttons, says this provides you with a good opportunity to check an agent is up to speed on the regulations.  

‘The agent should be able to confirm the amount of notice required to end the tenancy,’ he says. 

‘This has changed numerous times recently owing to coronavirus, so it’s an opportunity for the agent to demonstrate that they have a good command of current legislation.’

Currently, tenants should get two weeks’ notice of an eviction date and four months’ notice before court proceedings can start.  

Inventories and returning the deposit can be a source of drama between landlords and tenants, so if you are appointing a letting agent ask them how they manage the process

Inventories and returning the deposit can be a source of drama between landlords and tenants, so if you are appointing a letting agent ask them how they manage the process 

Ask how they carry out references and inventories

The vast majority of disputes between landlords and tenants occur because of disagreements about the condition of the property and how much of a deposit should be paid back – as you unfortunately found out when you let your home previously. 

This is why finding out how an agent carries out inventories is crucial. 

‘The process must be robust and incredibly thorough,’ says Bradley. ‘For this to happen, we use an external agency, as in case of any dispute they can act as an independent neutral party. 

‘Often, having an external inventory and check-out agency can remove the need for multiple back and forths, as it elicits much more trust in the process from both the tenant and landlord.’

Hopefully your next tenancy will run smoothly. But in case it doesn’t, you may also wish to ask what the agent’s track record is in deposit disputes that end up going to court. 

‘If the agent says they’ve had five claims on the deposit and they’ve won three, that’s considered pretty good in the industry, relative to the number of properties on their books,’ says Bradley. 

‘Claims often rest on how thorough the initial inventory is – it’s pretty standard that a one-bed property can have a check-in report 40 pages long.’ 

Tell them finding a good tenant is your priority 

From your message, it seems that finding a respectful tenant is perhaps more important to you than securing the highest possible rent. 

Managing agents are often instructed to do the latter, so be clear about what you want to get out of this letting arrangement and ask them how they will find you the kind of tenant you are looking for.   

‘The landlord should look for a managing agent that places a lot of focus on securing a highly appropriate tenant, and has the capability to do this,’ says Morris. 

‘Some agents think that landlords are only motivated by achieving the highest possible rent. The landlord should ask for examples of similar properties let by the agent and what type of tenants they attracted.’  

Asking about the referencing process will be crucial to this. Some may handle it in-house, while others will outsource it to an external company. 

To make sure your rental income is secure, a credit check should always be included according to Bradley.  

‘An Experian credit check should always be carried out. The tenants have to earn 2.5 times the rent to pass the affordability check – this is the bare minimum.’

Trust your instincts and first impressions

After spending some time interviewing agents, you should start to get a feel for their service and responsiveness. 

‘How quick have they been to respond and what have their service levels been so far? If you are having to chase them at this stage or they are unprofessional, steer well clear,’ says Mumby. 

Trusting your gut instinct might also come into play here.  

‘If the landlord develops a good rapport with one of the agents and genuinely feels they are the best person to look after their home and best protect their interests, they are likely to be right more often than not,’ says Morris. 

Meet the tenant before you leave

Once you have appointed your agent and they have found a tenant for you, try to arrange to meet them if your moving schedule allows. 

Ultimately it is the tenant who you are entrusting with your home day-to-day, and putting a face to their name will get your relationship off to a good start.   

You could also use this as an opportunity to show them how things work in the property; where they can find the stopcock and gas and electric meters; and to explain any quirks.  

‘To give our landlords more confidence that they have chosen the right tenant, I always advise that they meet their tenant in person before the contract starts,’ says Bradley. 

‘By meeting each other, you become real humans and, therefore, they are much more likely to show respect for the property. 

‘Being able to explain that it is your family home, as opposed to a faceless landlord just taking their money, often marks the start of a special relationship where more empathy usually follows on both sides.’ 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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