Is the new online letting agent OpenRent making lettings easier?

Victoria Whitlock looks at possible pros and cons of new online letting agent OpenRent and its free listings offer
As a big fan of free stuff, I was pleased to see there's yet another online letting agent that has sprung up seemingly overnight — and this one is giving away free rental listings to landlords.

Everyone gets their first listing with openrent.co.uk for free and you can earn more free ads by recommending it to your friends. So if you're very popular and most of your friends also happen to have properties to let, you may never need pay for advertising again.

Even losers with no mates only have to pay £20 for every listing after their first freebie. For that small fee, Open-Rent promises to place your rental ad on most of the major property websites, including Zoopla and Rightmove.

At first glance, I find there's quite a lot to like about OpenRent's website, although I must point out that I haven't used it yet so I don't know if it lives up to its promises. One of the things I like is that tenants can make an offer for a property online. None of us like haggling over rent, and it's less awkward if you don't have to do it face to face.

As soon as you accept an offer, OpenRent will take a £200 holding deposit from the tenant, once again sparing landlord and tenant having to discuss something as vulgar as money. If you like, it will also carry out a reference and credit check on the tenant, for which it charges them £20 and deducts it from the holding deposit.

It will also take the first month's rent and a deposit from the tenant. If the landlord doesn't want to bother registering a deposit themselves, OpenRent will register it with the Government-backed Deposit Protection Scheme, which will hold the money until the end of the tenancy. It also provides a free tenancy agreement, which you can tailor to your own requirements.

If it works, it strikes me as a very easy one-stop lettings service for landlords who are happy to write their own rental ad, take a few photos and arrange viewings, but who don't want to bother with the fiddly paperwork that comes with property rentals.

I also like how it discourages landlords from charging tenants administration fees. All they have to pay is £20 for referencing, and everything else is included in the landlord's £20 listing fee.

Co-founder Adam Hyslop said that he and his colleagues asked 420 tenants about their main frustrations when renting, and the top two complaints were agents' fees and out-of-date listings.

To avoid out-of-date ads, OpenRent deletes them as soon as the landlord has accepted an offer. However, I notice that several of the ads on its website are up to three months old, which suggests one of two things: either it isn't having much luck letting properties or, more likely, they've been let by another agent. Either way, I'm not sure it can claim to be doing that much to end tenants' frustration at trawling through old listings.

I'm also disappointed that OpenRent doesn't list properties on Gumtree. It says that classifieds on that site are "a bit 1995". Well, I've found plenty of tenants via Gumtree, the most recent lot last year. Quite a few of its competitors advertise on Gumtree, so I don't think Adam and co should be so sniffy. However, I suspect its omission from OpenRent's portfolio has more to do with Gumtree's charges rather than its lack of fashion sense.

That said, if OpenRent is offering free listings, I'll probably give it a whirl next time I'm looking for tenants. After all, I've got nothing to lose.

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