Should I rent through a private landlord or use a letting agent?

Getting started with finding the perfect home to rent can feel overwhelming. Should you use a letting agent or go directly with a landlord? Here's a breakdown to help you help you weigh the pros and cons of each approach.

Convenience & communication

  • Letting agent: Letting agents typically have a physical offices and dedicated staff, making them easier to reach for repairs, questions and scheduling viewings. They have extensive experience dealing with rentals and can guide you through the process, acting as a neutral third party to mediate any disagreements with the landlord. They can shortlist properties based on your needs (and in some cases, even arrange and accompany you on block viewings within a suitable time slot) making your search smoother and easier. Even when you're dealing with a letting agent, the landlord still plays a vital role as they make the final decision on everything. They decide when to send a contractor out or agree to let you pay your rent a bit later. Agents don't hold the power to make those decisions.
  • Private landlord: For many renters, a positive is getting to deal directly with the person responsible for the property. Some feel that they can find that they get responses more quickly and direct communication can allow both parties to gauge tone and intent more effectively, fostering a more positive and productive dialogue. However, this depends entirely on the landlord. Some might be unresponsive or live far away, making communication difficult. Additionally, being a landlord often isn't their main job, so they might not be readily available. You'll also need to arrange viewings directly with them. Also, as we've said above, don't forget that if you rent through a letting agent, they don't own the property. The landlord is still there in the background and making the final decisions, so it's not as if you don't have any dealings with the landlord. You do, but it's typically indirect.

Choice & quality of marketing

  • Letting agent: Letting agents manage a very large of properties, giving you a wider selection to choose from. The quality of marketing is likely to be better with letting agents, who usually present their listings with professional marketing materials, including high-quality photographs, video tours and detailed descriptions.
  • Private landlord: If you’re determined to rent directly through a landlord, bear in mind that the selection of properties available directly from landlords tends to be smaller as most of them do instruct a letting agent. If you have specific requirements or looking for top quality, it's worth looking at properties both managed by an agent and those with a private landlord, to make sure you get exactly what you want. 

Protection & expertise

  • Letting agent: Letting agents must be regulated and belong to a government-approved redress scheme. This scheme acts as an independent body to settle disputes between tenants and agents and gives you added protection. Agents who fail to register or breach the scheme's rules risk penalties, so always double check a letting agent’s credentials before you decide to fine a property with them. (Top tip: students, look for an agency specialising in student housing! These properties, known as HMOs, have specific regulations that letting agents stay on top of, unlike some private landlords).
  • Private landlord: It might surprise you but many landlords aren't legal experts on landlord-tenant law. This can lead to unintentional mistakes (or, rarely, intentional!) where they neglect their legal responsibilities. Private landlords are less regulated than letting agents, so be extra cautious. Always meet them in person and enter into an Occupation Contract before paying any sort of deposit.  

Property maintenance

  • Letting agent: Most letting agents have established relationships with reliable and local contractors, leading to faster repair turnaround times compared with a private landlord who has to spend time finding the right person for the right job.
  • Private landlord: Unless they know somebody already, which isn't as common as you might think, a private landlord will need to source a contractor to come out, which takes time in itself. Whoever they choose may not be as qualified, reliable or capable as the likes of the contractors letting agents have on their books.

Local knowledge

  • Letting agent: Letting agents have strong expertise and knowledge of different local areas and can talk you through the pros and cons of various neighbourhoods that would suit you.
  • Private landlord: A private landlord might have knowledge of the specific property, but there’s a chance they won’t be an expert on the local area, so make sure you do a lot of your own research if you go down this route.

Extra support

  • Letting agent: With all of our tenants, we send out regular communications and video guides to promote looking after the property and being mindful of tenant responsibilities. Our aim is to help them keep their deposit and encourage them to understand the tasks around the home that are your a tenant's responsibility to deal with, not a landlord's. Not all letting agents do this to the extent we do, but as the biggest student housing provider in Wales we feel it’s our responsibility to look after our tenants (especially as for many of them, they're first-time renters) and make sure they don’t end up facing unwanted, avoidable charges.
  • Private landlord: It’s unlikely you’ll get any of this sort of extra support, so make sure you read your contract in full and do a lot of research online to make sure you don’t end the tenancy with unwanted charges or a deposit deduction.

The Verdict

Whether you choose a letting agent or a private landlord, research is key. Remember, online reviews can be skewed. People are more motivated to leave negative reviews when things go wrong than positive ones when things are smooth sailing. So, a large number of positive reviews and a high rating on platforms like Google are strong indicators of a good experience.

The best choice depends on your priorities. If you value convenience, protection, and a wider selection, a letting agent might be a good fit. However, if you are more comfortable with organise communication and repairs directly, a private landlord could be an option. 

If you’re looking for student accommodation in Cardiff, you’ve come to the right place! Learn more about CPS Homes and browse our student properties in the dedicated student section on our website.

12 June 2024

    The information contained within this article was correct at the date of publishing and is not guaranteed to remain correct in the present day.


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