As the discussion about tenant agency fees rumbles on, a leading Edinburgh Agent points out that tenants can in fact benefit by paying for a lettings service, however they need to be aware of how to find value for their money.

Rettie & Co. strongly believe that a letting management service should be as advantageous for the tenant as it is for the landlord. "We currently manage approximately 800 properties in Central Scotland", says Diarmid Mackenzie Smith Director of Letting at Agents Rettie & Co. "The demand for rental property has increased and with it the supply from ‘cannot or will not’ sell landlords. It is more important than ever to use an agency that is both reputable and professional".

Mackenzie Smith went on to say that "the tenant has the ultimate choice, if they do not like the agency, the property or the fees then they are quite at liberty to decline the let and in my mind are encouraged to do so. Rental fees tend to vary and tenants should be clear about what they will receive for their money. Market forces will quickly dictate that agencies who are over charging or under delivering will suffer a distinct lack of business".

A great number of the services offered by Rettie & Co. are not and cannot be offered by individual landlords, especially if they reside overseas. Mackenzie Smith continues "a lot of tenants, particularly the increasing number of corporate tenants, will not rent a property unless there is a managing agent as they are aware of the distinct advantages".

Rettie & Co. offer the following service to tenants:
  • Help with arranging viewings of properties – sometimes after hours or weekends
  • Suggestions of other alternative properties if necessary
  • Assistance being driven to and from viewing appointments
  • Access to printed lists of available properties from the agent’s office
  • Information about an area, shops schools, buses etc
  • Discussing/negotiating the let with owner and tenant and arranging specific requirements. Remember the Agent should have an interest in the let proceeding so will want to negotiate an agreement to suit the tenant as well as the landlord.
  • Help to organise referencing. Helping the tenant prove to the landlord they are suitable for the property, which can be difficult with the Data Protection Act.
  • Receiving an accurate inventory and schedule of condition and content of the property at the beginning of the lease.

During the lease the tenant should make sure the agency:
  • Keeps the deposit in a secure separate account (currently no requirement to do so)
  • Provides an efficient service for property repairs and maintenance and preferably a point of contact.
  • Provides access to a member of staff 24/7 for emergencies.