PINPOINT THE PROBLEM
Before rushing in and moving on, take some time to consider why you wish to switch letting agents.
At the very least, you deserve a polite and professional approach that keeps you informed, so when it's a clear-cut case of poor service, inadequate communication or an unpleasant attitude, switching to a new agent could restart your entire experience.
But it's also worth exploring whether anything about your buy-to-let is making it a challenge to manage. Long void periods, low income and difficulties with tenants can signal an issue with a property as well as an agent.
A well-maintained rental home will give you more income, higher occupancy rates and the best tenants around, so a good first step is to look at whether your property is a compelling option, or needs some attention.
Is there a misunderstanding between you and your agent around the standards you wish to maintain? Do they feel restricted around keeping your property in good repair? Or are they falling short in following your instructions to provide a high-quality home?
Answering these questions will help you move forward with clarity and certainty.
CHOOSE YOUR NEW AGENT
To save repeating your previous experience, use your disappointments with your current letting agent to ask how a new company would handle similar situations.
Try these five pointers on how to make your choice easier:
- Use an agent close to your buy-to-let for more responsiveness around viewings, maintenance, emergencies and repairs.
- Speak to the person who'll be managing your property to see if you're happy with them looking after your investment.
- Try a secret shopping exercise to see how each agent deals with tenants and enquiries: do they talk enthusiastically and knowledgeably about the home you enquired about, or is the experience less than inspiring?
- Get specific service standards and commitments around communication, routine inspections and transfer of rent.
- Look to the future: an agent's profile, marketing and referencing procedures will give you valuable clues around the quality of tenants they attract.
Now you're all set to start your new partnership.
SERVE YOUR OLD AGENT NOTICE
You don't need to wait for a tenancy to end to switch managing agents, but you must check your agreement for notice periods or outstanding obligations.
Make sure to serve notice to your agent in writing (by letter or email) and to get written confirmation from them over termination dates and any fees due to avoid disputes later on.
If you pay your current agent's tenant-finding fee in monthly instalments, the remainder will most likely become due to end your contract.
Consumer protections cover most private landlords against unfair termination clauses, so don't lose heart if the penalty for switching agents appears too much trouble at first. Ask us for advice and how to proceed if you're unsure of your approach.
When it's clear that your agent hasn't met their contractual obligations – examples include failing to carry out routine inspections, delaying rent payments and not dealing with reported problems – you have the right to cancel your agreement, regardless of its terms.
PUT YOUR TENANTS AT EASE
As soon as you've given notice to your current agent and instructed a new one, it's time to inform your tenants. Depending on their experience of living at your property, they may see the change as a blessed relief, or a cause for concern.
You should provide written confirmation of the agent you're switching to, along with the date when the change will take effect and, of course, the new bank details for paying the rent. Your new agent can handle all of this if you prefer not to have any direct contact.
Either way, it's important that your tenants know the change of management is purely between you and your letting agent, and that their tenancy is secure. Uncertainty can lead people to look for a new home, but it's easily avoided.
Now is also the perfect opportunity to find out if anything needs repairing or replacing at your property. Perhaps your tenants reported an issue that's still outstanding, and you can reassure them of your commitment to giving them a home to enjoy.
DOCUMENTS, DEPOSIT & KEYS
Your new agent will usually collect the keys from your old one, unless they are a long way from each other when your keys may need to be sent by registered post. If that's the case, make sure the address of your property doesn't find its way into the envelope.
All paperwork (in digital or physical form) also needs to be transferred, including:
- tenancy agreement
- tenant ID & referencing checks
- energy performance and safety certificates
For any of these sent through the post, have them sent separately from your keys.
Finally, where your existing agent holds your tenant's security deposit, this needs to be transferred to your new managing agent.
There's no need to continue with your current letting agent if you're disappointed with the service you're receiving. You can legally switch the management of your buy-to-let whenever you wish, regardless of whether your property is vacant or occupied, and your new agent can handle most of the transfer work for you.