Renting from a Managing Agent - Leeds

About 35% of the student off-street rental market in Leeds is let through managing agents.

There are a number of factors which contribute to the growing numbers of students using the services of managing agents. These include:

  • the allure of an attractive office with an air of professionalism
  • the ability to see lots of properties quickly
  • accompanied viewings and transport
  • a trend towards the physical clustering of agencies, which enables students to compare properties between agencies quickly and easily 

Although there are many professionally run managing agents offering a good level of customer service, disappointingly many of the complaints Unipol and the Students' Unions receive relate to managing agents.

The Unipol Code helps students to choose the best managing agents. 90% of all complaints that Unipol receive about student housing come from the 30% of unaccredited landlords. It really is best to rent from a Code landlord or agent.

There are now a number of managing agents in Leeds who have full Unipol Code status. This means all their student houses meet the standards of the Code. If you rent from an agent, it is strongly recommended you use one of these. Check agents' names in the  Code register before signing up with them.

Unipol has also established Supporter status for agents who are working towards full Code membership. You are advised to give preference to these agents over agents who have not joined any scheme. Further details can be found here.

The best managing agents are as good as the best landlords, but it is important to consider some specific issues when dealing with them.

Let Only Services

Many agencies offer a "let only service". This means the agent is responsible only for letting, and not for managing the property. If you are renting a property through a let only arrangement, the agent should make this very clear and should provide fulll information on who is responsible for actually delivering the services. They should also give you the landlord's full details so that you can check if the landlord is part of the Unipol Code.

If the agent promises any upgrading (for example a new sofa or redecoration) it is very important to get this promise in writing.

Many agents have very attractive offices, which is a sign of professionalism, but remember you are not renting the office and you need to focus on the property. It's poor logic that a good office will equal a good property or a good service.

Accompanied Viewings

Accompanied viewings are a good thing, but you should remember that this is likely to be a promotional tour and you should concentrate on looking at the property properly. You should also resist glossing over any problem areas (such as: what is that damp patch? who will have that small room?)

If possible, you should try and take the opportunity to talk to the current tenants about the property and their experiences of dealing with the landlord or agency. Good agencies and private landlords are always happy to give you the freedom to do this.

It can be difficult to be assertive and ask the obvious question, but don't let that put you off and don't be rushed through the property. Take your time, look carefully and make sure you are buying exactly what you want.

If you are not interested in taking the property, have the courage to say so. No one will be offended. This is a commercial setting and landlords and agents prefer house hunters to be straight in order not to waste their time and to let them get on and remarket the property to others who may be genuinely interested. Also, if you book a viewing and then change your mind, just ring up and cancel it as a matter of courtesy to the agent. Treat them how you would expect to be treated yourself.

Do not fall for hard selling techniques as part of the sales pitch. If you are feeling intimidated, resist the pressure to give way. You should never agree to anything under duress, so simply say firmly that you are not interested and move on.

Sign up Fees and Deposits

Some agencies charge sign up fees for setting up the contract. Make sure you are happy with paying any fees before you commit to taking the property. Many landlords who advertise with Unipol do not ask students to pay these additional fees or they keep them low.

Some agencies do not charge deposits but instead charge higher sign up fees. The main advantage of this is that this fee is often lower than paying a deposit and is therefore less money to find at the time of signing for your new property. The disadvantage is that you will not get this money back.

If you pay a deposit you will get this money returned as long as you return the property in a good condition. Agents and landlords that take a deposit are now obliged to place the money in a government approved scheme that safeguards your deposit.