Changing estate agents: lettings

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Introduction to changing estate agents: lettings

There are three main reasons why landlords think about changing estate agents, or want to end an agreement. They want to manage the property themselves, have found a better rate elsewhere, or they’re not happy with the service.

Whichever category you fall into, it’s important to consider your legal position and relationship with the letting agent before breaking it off.

But if you go ahead with changing estate agents, or opt for DIY management, there are a few things you should think about first.

This guide covers:

How to cancel a letting agent contract

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Before all else, check your contract for a termination clause. This will give you clear steps on how to legally end your agreement.

Give official notice, keeping the termination clause in mind. The notice required will be mentioned in your contract.

Many online estate agents take a no tie-in approach, which makes it easier to change, but if notice is required it’s usually one or two months.

If there’s no concrete time frame, it’s still in your interest to let them know and serve notice in writing.

The cost of changing estate agents

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If your agent found your current tenants, or they’ve done a good job and not breached their contract, they may require compensation to end it. Be prepared to negotiate the costs. Consult your new letting agent beforehand for guidance, or seek legal advice to see if the finder’s fees or renewal costs can be enforced.

If you leave because you’re not happy with your letting agent’s service — they’ve not delivered on what was promised — you could argue that they’ve breached the contract through a failure to fulfil the terms.

To get the exit fees waived, you must prove they’ve breached the contract. Evidence should be given to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), or seek legal advice from Citizen’s Advice before going to court.

Top Tip
The OFT tends to take a dim view of open-ended clauses. If the contract doesn’t offer a clear early termination option, then seek further advice to help bring the contract to a close.

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End a letting contract, but keep the tenant

Want to lose the agent but keep the tenant? Many high-street agents include a clause that amounts to:

“So long as one of the original tenants introduced by the agent to the landlord is still in the property, then fees will be payable moving forward, including any renewals.”

You, or your new letting agent, may need to negotiate this fee and determine if they’re willing to hand over the tenancy file.

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A good tenant is priceless

If you’ve got a great tenant you want to keep, it’s worth considering the following: will your tenant be happy dealing directly with you, or a new management agency? Is there a route that has lower fees for both of you, so all parties are happy?

Shop around to decide which agent you’d like to change to. Online agents often charge a fraction of the price for property management and tenancy fees.

Your tenants may move out if they oppose any changes,  so you need to prepare to relist your property to dodge void periods.

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Changing estate agents: the finishing touches…

Finally, complete any paperwork to transfer the letting and managing responsibilities to your new agent. Make sure you tie up loose ends as well:

  1. Get a letter from your agent confirming that the agreement is ending and all exit fees that have been/are to be paid
  2. Ask the agent to hand over the inventory, the keys and anything else they were holding for the tenancy
  3. Make sure you know the names and contact details of all your tenants
  4. Make sure the deposit is transferred and protected under your name or with your new agent
  5. It’s also best to get a new tenancy agreement.

Changing estate agents requires some careful background work before making your move. Remember, your new agent will be able to help you through the process.

You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re wondering if you can change estate agents, call our Lettings Team on 033 3005 0555 and we’ll happily help.

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