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The role of a rental agent explained

28 May 2013

It’s not surprising that many landlords choose to enlist the specialised services of a rental agent when letting a property. Not only can an efficient rental agent assist with the tenant screening process, but they can also help ensure that the landlord receives rent timeously and regularly.

In cases where the property in question is for full management of the property, the rental agent will act on the instruction of the landlord and become involved with inspections and maintenance issues.

However, a rental agent’s involvement with the tenant can vary greatly depending on their mandate with the landlord, and it’s important that tenants understand exactly what that mandate entails and what kind of information they should expect agents to disclose.

Michelle Dickens , Managing Director of TPN Credit Bureau, a specialist tenant credit bureau, explains that in most cases the rental agent is there to advertise a property on behalf of the landlord, to arrange property viewings with prospective tenants and assume the responsibility of the application process, which includes acquiring supporting documents from the tenant and conducting the appropriate tenant and credit checks.

However, as Dickens further points out, sometimes the agreement between the rental agent and landlord extends beyond this, such that the rental agent is the party who invoices the tenant and collects the rent. In cases where the property in question is for full management of the property, the rental agent will act on the instruction of the landlord and become involved with inspections and maintenance issues.

If a potential tenant is about to view a property that is managed by a rental agent, it’s important that they understand that the agent is obliged to find the most suitable tenant for the property and present the landlord with the application, lease and credit report. The prospective tenant should take care to ask the rental agent questions that relate to all aspects of the property which could potentially cause frustration such as faulty infrastructure, traffic, noise pollution and crime levels, to name a few.   

Once the lease is signed, it is important for tenants who are dealing with rental agents on matters concerning maintenance and repairs to note that the rental agent is essentially there to see to the landlord’s interests and acts on instruction from the landlord. As such, it is up to the tenant to read their lease agreement carefully and establish where exactly the landlord’s responsibility lies and where their own obligations lie, as these can vary greatly depending on the specific terms of the agreement. “A tenant who feels that the landlord is not meeting their contractual obligations should ultimately lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal,” advises Dickens. “A word of caution, tenants who withhold rent in an attempt to get the landlords attention only add breach of lease to their own record which will negatively impact their credit record. It also becomes more difficult for the rental agent to motivate the landlord to complete any required maintenance.”

Taking into account that rental agents play a vital role in determining who ends up letting the landlord’s property, it’s important for the landlord to select a professional in possession of a current Fidelity Fund Certificate.

Further due diligence should include what other professional bodies the rental agent belongs to such as credit bureaus, property management systems, training level and qualifications, adds Dickens.   

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