All the paperwork involved in setting up a new tenancy makes me sick. Running credit checks on tenants, drawing up the contract and issuing the correct documentation for the deposit is all a bit of chore, so I am well impressed with a service from online letting agent OpenRent which does it all for you.
After you’ve found a tenant via your OpenRent advert — placed on all the top property websites, including homesandproperty.co.uk and Zoopla, for £29 — you simply tell the applicant to hit the Rent Now button on your OpenRent listing page and hey presto, the letting elves take care of all the rest.
OpenRent requests a non-refundable holding fee from tenants, from which it deducts £20 a head for referencing and credit checks. Given that letting agents charge tenants north of £50 for referencing, I think this fee is pretty reasonable. Landlords receive regular updates on the referencing process and once completed, they are sent a full report and told whether the tenant is a low, moderate or high risk.
If the landlord still wants to proceed, OpenRent will draw up a tenancy agreement and send it to everyone to sign. It will then take the first month’s rent and any deposit the landlord has requested, protecting the latter with the Deposit Protection Service. The rent is passed to the landlord a week or so after the tenant moves in. All this costs just £49 (or £20 if you sign up when you place your ad) and, at the risk of sounding like I’m on the OpenRent payroll, which sadly I am not, I think it is worth every penny.
I used the Rent Now service for the first time last month when I had a group of three new tenants, all of whom required their parents to act as guarantors. I couldn’t face chasing three sets of parents for the necessary credit checks and referencing, plus the thought of getting six different signatures on the tenancy agreement when the guarantors were living in cities 300 miles apart was doing my head in, so I handed it all over to OpenRent.
It carried out all the credit checks and prepared a tenancy agreement with a specific section for the guarantors and arranged for them all to sign the contract by email, using digital signatures. The whole process, from the time I posted the ad to the date the new tenants moved in, was just three weeks.
The service wouldn’t suit every landlord. It was hard to get through to anyone on the phone and there were times I wanted to speak to a human being — such as when I received an odd email telling me that a credit check on one of the guarantors had been cancelled, or when I was sent the wrong tenants’ details.
When I eventually found a phone number for OpenRent, I got the answering machine. The second time, I got through to someone who was terribly nice but sounded like he was scratching his head in bewilderment, though he almost managed to reassure me that the agency’s computer system occasionally fired off the wrong messages.
Also, I’d have liked to be able to edit the tenancy agreement to add some clauses and remove others, but OpenRent doesn’t allow landlords to tamper with its contracts.
There are other online letting agents, such as Upad, which offer a more bespoke service to landlords. These might suit you better if you want someone to hold your hand through the whole process.
However, as you would expect, they charge more. If you want to save money, I think Rent Now is a good option.
- Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock Find many more homes to rent at homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings