Tips for letting agents working with non-resident landlords

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A high proportion of landlords in Jersey live abroad. These property owners who rent out their property in Jersey while living overseas are considered to be ‘non-resident landlords’. It can be quite challenging for agents to work with internationally-based landlords, and similarly, it can be difficult for these landlords to manage their properties while living in another country.

As many non-resident landlords are unable to carry out a lot of their duties themselves, they put a great deal of trust in letting agents to carry out their responsibilities and manage their property and tenants in their absence. Letting agents working with non-resident landlords need to be particularly reliable and communicative with international clients.

We have created a list of useful tips for letting agents who work with overseas clients.

Focus on providing peace of mind

One of the most important things a letting agent working for a non-resident landlord can do is to provide a sense of security and peace of mind that their property and tenants are being well cared for. Landlords who live a significant distance from their buy to let property are relying on their agent to reassure them that their property is in a good state of repair, and that all is well with their tenant. Overseas landlords depend on their letting agent to forge a good relationship with their tenant and to maintain this throughout the tenancy. There are a number of ways in which letting agents can do this, but mostly it comes down to carrying out their responsibilities in a professional and timely manner and being communicative and efficient. It is of course vital to maintain regular contact with the landlord to build and maintain an amicable relationship. Some landlords may prefer to be in touch more frequently than others, but regular communication will not only make it easier for them to trust you but should also enable you to gain a better understanding of their needs and respond to any issues promptly.

Secure a suitable tenancy

For letting agents who are managing a property on behalf of a non-resident landlord, it could be beneficial to aim to secure longer tenancies. As it is more difficult for landlords based overseas to stay on top of any tenancy issues, setting up a longer tenancy agreement, such as a two or three year contract, may help your clients to feel more relaxed, in the knowledge that their property will be occupied for a longer period of time. This will also reduce any worries over void periods in the property. While some overseas landlords do prefer shorter term contracts it is a good idea to check their preferences at the outset in order to fully understand the circumstances of your landlord client so that you can work out the most favourable option for their property.

Secure reliable tenants

Having reliable tenants occupying their property provides a sense of security for any landlord, but for those based overseas this is particularly important. Unreliable tenants are troublesome for landlords, therefore it is imperative to carry out comprehensive tenant referencing checks to help identify the most reliable tenants for your landlord.

We recommend reviewing all important information regarding the tenant, such as:

  • Documents proving they have the ‘right to rent’
  • Credit checks
  • Bank statements/payslips
  • Renting history
  • Reference from previous landlords
  • Their benefit claims
  • Their guarantor

Find out more about the ‘top 10 key tenant checks’.

By carrying out these checks, you should be able to identify both potentially problematic tenants and suitable ones. Selecting the right tenant will benefit all parties involved, and help to give your clients some assurance that their property will be in good hands. Importantly it is not just about attracting the right tenants but retaining them too, as this helps avoid expensive void periods when the property is vacant and eliminates the cost to the landlord of finding a new tenant.

Offer a ‘full management service’

A ‘full management’ service covers all aspects of the letting process, from marketing the property and checking references to the day-to-day managing and maintenance of the property, including repairs and returning the tenant’s deposit once they’ve made sure the inventory is all there.  A full management service is likely to be more popular amongst non-resident landlords, who may find it difficult to stay on top of their duties from overseas. Delegating full responsibility to a letting agent once again provides the landlord with greater peace of mind, knowing that their property is being well managed and monitored in their absence.

It is important to discuss the non-resident landlord’s specific requirements and expectations at the outset so that you can offer them the best level of service to meet their needs.

Maintain a good relationship with tenants

Letting agents who work with overseas landlords are likely to manage the majority of the responsibilities involved in letting out their property, so it is unlikely that the landlord will correspond directly with their tenants. As the main point of contact the letting agent is responsible for managing the relationship with the tenant.

As the landlord’s representative, it is vital that you do all you can to ensure a smooth relationship with the tenant.  This involves handling all tenant-related matters in a professional manner by dealing with issues promptly and maintaining a regular flow of communication. It can also help to pay visits to the property every so often to check that your tenants are content and that there are no issues with your client’s property. Make sure that you provide the tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice before visiting the property and that you do so at a reasonable time of day, not too late at night or early in the morning.  Tenants who feel supported are more likely to notify you promptly of any issues in the property, helping you to rectify problems before they escalate, which otherwise could result in additional costs for the landlord.

Even with the knowledge that their property is in good hands, it may give your landlord client more peace of mind if they occasionally have the opportunity to inspect the property in person. If you know that they will be visiting Jersey, offer to make arrangements to meet with them and the tenant to see the property.

Support your client with legal and financial matters

This includes:

Non-resident landlords will be particularly appreciative of a letting agent who provides them with full support in managing the legal aspects of renting out their property. Ensure that you are up to date on any legislative changes, that all legal documentation is processed legitimately, rent and deposit payments are handled correctly, and that all tax obligations are adhered to.

  • Preparing a tenancy agreement
  • Providing documentation of inventory services
  • Providing an accurate valuation of the property
  • Placing the  tenant’s deposit in mydeposits Jersey
  • Supporting your client with safety compliance procedures, such as gas and electrical safety certificates, EPC certificate, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms

Paying income tax as per Taxable Jersey income regulations – for letting agents managing properties in Jersey for non-resident landlords, it is a legal obligation to deduct and pay 20 per cent of the net rental income

Have access to reliable contractors

For landlords who are based overseas, carrying out routine maintenance and repairs can be a challenge. This is where a well-connected letting agent can be invaluable to a non-resident landlord. In order to maintain the quality and standard of your client’s property, it is essential to have good relationships with local and reliable tradesmen. In the event that there is a fault or damage to the property, you will need to hire a skilled contractor to assess the situation and rectify the issue. Using an unreliable contractor can lead to more problems, for example they could take longer to carry out services, only offer a temporary solution, or inadvertently cause further damage to the property. This could ultimately result in greater expense for your client.

By cultivating an extensive network of reliable and qualified contractors, you will be prepared for any unexpected issues, even in the event of an emergency. This will save both you and your landlord time and money, as well as providing your client with peace of mind.

By going the extra mile to build trust with your client, taking the time to understand their specific needs and expectations, you can develop a long-lasting landlord and agent relationship of mutual benefit to you both. For more guidance on attracting and retaining landlords, read our blog from mydeposits’ sister company the Property Redress Scheme, ‘How can letting agents attract new landlords and retain existing landlords?

If you follow these key tips you can rest assured that you are providing the best service for your non-resident landlord clients and their tenants.

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