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Letting agents can vary from organisations with hundreds of properties on their books to those with only a few. At Blaauwberg Online we focus on the bigger end of this spectrum with the occasional "professional landlord" with a substantial portfolio being included as well. This is what we mean by letting agents in the discussions below.

Letting Agents make their money from some or all of the following:
  • Taking in the region of 10% of what you pay in rent; 
  • Charging you fees for drawing up contracts; and
  • Charging you a finding fee.

If you rent through a private landlord then you will avoid paying any of these fees. The landlord will probably charge a higher rent meaning that the difference between a property managed by a letting agent and a similar one managed by a private landlord will be minimal if any. The contract fee and the finding fee will be highly variable from agent to agent and city to city and in some cases will not be applicable at all depending on how easy it is to get flats let.  Make it a priority to ask the letting agent what fees are applicable. Whilst on this subject, there are a couple of tricks to look out for:

  • If agents try to charge you for providing information about the properties they have to let then do not use them. This is illegal. Please tell us immediately if any of the letting agents on Blaauwberg Online who try to do this.
  • If you have a short hold assured tenancy agreement (a six month contract in simple terms), some agents have been known to charge a fee for drawing up a new contract at the end of your first six months. Unfortunately this perfectly legal. However, they will be duty bound to tell you, if you ask them if such a fee is applicable.

    The chances are that with a letting agent you will be paying a fair market rate. Whilst many landlords may let properties for a little less, the chances of being charged a rip off rent by an agent are small.  Uncontrolled landlords may try to take advantage.

Quality of Properties
All rental homes must now comply with some basic minimum standards. Even in the student accommodation world long drops and a sheep trough in the garden are no longer considered to be acceptable forms of sanitation. A very small minority of private landlords are known to occasionally try to get away with fobbing you of with a flea pit. With a letting agent the chances of this happening to you are probably less.

However that is not to say that going with a letting agent will guarantee you a palace. Some agents will maintain properties to a minimum standard whilst some private landlords may be letting out what has been their own home and may have plumbed in a Jacuzzi or Spa.

Dealing with Problems
What happens when your geyser breaks down? Do you:

A. Have a 24 hour number to call and someone will come out instantly;

B. Have an emergency number that may or may not be answered and someone will appear if they feel like it within a week or so;

C. Have your landlords number, you call him, he feels sorry for you, so he brings round a bottle of wine to butter you up whilst he tinkers with the geyser, or

D. Try your landlords number, he is away for three weeks, so you get the yellow pages out and get your boiler fixed. You pay R2 500 and the landlord refuses to pay you back.

If you have gone with a letting agent you will get either A or B. Whilst the service may vary greatly from agent to agent the chances are that you are relying on more than one person. Frequently a letting agent will have their own maintenance team but as a minimum they will know the local tradesman and will ensure that some action is taken (even if it is just to avoid bad press or a court appearance). Private landlords, as C and D demonstrate, can be brilliant but can be worse than even the laziest of agents.

Strict but fair is a good description of the bulk of agent's contracts. They need to deliver to the landlord and will have had experience of the stereo-typed "Young Ones" student tenants. They will therefore be unlikely to have missed too many tricks. The advantage of this approach is that you will tend to be treated objectively. If the landlord has made the mistake of giving you his best three piece suite which has started to fray slightly during your tenancy, the chances are that you will avoid an emotional request for compensation. At the other extreme landlords may provide a very loose agreement, which may mean that it is more difficult for her to claim that you have breached your contract but can equally mean that you are more open to changes of heart and such like (fortunately the housing act does give you a fairly good level of protection in such an event).

In general it is probably fair to say that the best landlord will produce a better value for money option than the best agent. However in general the worst landlord could make your life far more miserable than the worst agent. Finding the right landlord could be very difficult unless you get lucky. We aim to ensure that the agents that Blaauwberg Online can put you in touch with are honourable and professional. However we are reliant on your feedback so pass on your comments (both good and bad).  

Whilst the following list is not exhaustive, it gives an indication of what services you can expect from a letting agent:

  1. Advertising - Agents should have an access to a large number of potential tenants.  They will prepare the particulars and place ads on websites such as this, newspapers and their own websites.
  2. Viewings - An agent will arrange viewings and accompany the potential tenants when they view the property.
  3. Inventory - A full list of condition and contents will be drawn up and the agent will get the tenant to sign up their agreement at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
  4. Dispute & Emergency Management - Whilst you will be responsible for costs if the geyser blows up, the agent will arrange for repairs to be made on your behalf.
  5. Leases - An agent will organise a legally current lease agreement to be signed by landlord and tenant.
  6. Tenant Vetting - Credit checks and references will be taken up.

Please note: we have compiled this information in good faith, but we accept no liability for any errors, or for any use that is made of it, or for any problems or damage that may arise as a result of using or acting upon this information.



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