Understanding your contractual obligations when switching Edinburgh letting agent

If you’re an Edinburgh landlord who’s unhappy with their letting agent, switching to one who’ll provide the service you’re looking for is easier than you might think.

But while there are lots of common myths such as not being able to change letting agents when you have tenants in situ or needing new contracts and safety certificates, there are a few crucial things to consider before you jump ship.

What’s in the contract?

When you first sign up with a letting agent, the contract will be for a fixed term. This is typically six or 12 months and is designed to prevent landlords walking away shortly after the letting agent has done lots of work on their behalf such as drawing up an inventory and carrying out safety inspections.

The terms of the contract should be clearly outlined and can only been broken without penalty in exceptional circumstances, such as the letting agent breaching the terms or both parties agreeing to surrender the contract. If a landlord switches before the end of the fixed term, they’ll still be liable for the costs to the end of the original term and could also incur a penalty depending on what’s written in the contract.

Early termination of your letting contract

If you want to terminate the contract early for any reason, you’re best to speak to your letting agent first. If you’ve decided to sell your property, you may be able to negotiate an early exit fee but that’s unlikely if you’re looking to switch to a different letting agent.

Don’t be tempted to tell your letting agent you’re selling up and then advertise your property with someone else – Edinburgh might be a big city, but the lettings market is a close community and you’ll soon be found out.

Check the terms of your letting contract

The best place to start if you want to switch agent is by examining your existing contract. Carefully read all the terms and clauses to make sure you won’t be incurring any fees or penalties. The contract will tell you how much notice you need to give, which must usually be in writing. A month is the usual notice period, but the length of time can differ from agent to agent so be sure to check.

Then look at the end date of your contract and see if there is a break clause. Some longer contracts may have a break, similar to those offered for longer tenancies. A 12-month contract may have a break at six months, but this is unusual. If there’s no break, you’ll have to wait until the end of the contract to leave without penalty, although you can give notice before as long as the date you want to leave is also the last day of the contract.

If Your Agent Has Breached The Contract 

If you feel your letting agent has breached the terms of your contract by not delivering the promised service, you can challenge them. All letting agents must be on the Scottish Letting Agent Register and must follow its Code of Practice. Agents must have set procedures for the different elements of their work, and you are entitled to ask to see them.

If you are not happy with work they have carried out, you can make an official complaint in writing. If you are unable to resolve the issue with the agent, you can take your complaint further by reporting it to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). There is no fee, and the process is informal and flexible.

You don’t need a lawyer to represent you, but you can take someone along for support, and the tribunal can issue a Letting Agent Enforcement Order if it finds in your favour. The letting agent must comply with the order or face prosecution.

If you’d like more advice and information about switching letting agent, schedule a no-obligation call with one of our expert property managers.

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