In-depth study sheds light on what landlords think of agents and why they use them – or not

The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence has published an 88 page report on ‘Understanding Landlord Behaviour in the Private Rented Sector’.

Authored by Dr Jennifer Harris and Professor Alex Marsh of the University of Bristol the study looks at the landscape of landlord behaviour in relation to key decisions that affect tenants’ ability to make a home in the private rented sector (PRS) in the UK.

There is much in the report that will be of interest to lettings and management agents – not least because it highlights that many landlords are in great need to professional help and guidance in letting their properties.

Landlords in the report relied on letting agents to keep them abreast of regulatory changes and for some this was a key motivation for using letting agents in the first place.

The findings are based on a survey completed by 1,002 landlords and on 68 in-depth interviews with landlords, letting agents and experts in the field. The authors say that understanding the reasons why landlords behave as they do is fundamental to developing effective regulatory interventions.

Key findings include:

  • Some landlords have a proactive approach towards maintaining the physical condition of their properties and exhibit financial behaviours that are highly structured and professional. However, a significant proportion of participants did not adopt these practices and a reactive approach towards maintenance is common.
  • Landlords employ both formal and informal means of selecting tenants and assessing their desirability. Informal approaches are based on highly subjective factors such as personal interactions or tenant characteristics.
  • The landlord-tenant relationship is an important factor that frames landlord behaviour. It influences decisions on using a letting agent, selecting tenants and assessments of their own performance and property condition.
  • Most participants felt that regulatory changes lacked clarity and found it difficult to keep up with the changes. The findings suggest that information is mainly being accessed by landlords as a by-product of contacts made to organisations for other purposes.
  • The findings show that letting agents can play an important role in educating landlords and encouraging compliance. However, landlords’ experiences of letting agents can vary, with many reporting problems and issues with their services.
  • Upcoming or recent regulatory changes that relate to improvements in the physical condition of properties were generally positively received. The reforms that strengthen the position of tenants appear to be viewed less favourably whilst holding more weight in landlords’ overall assessment of the reforms.

It is particularly interesting to note that over 60% of survey respondents felt that changes to laws and regulations were not clearly communicated and 70% said that it was difficult to keep up with the changes.

Landlords in England and Northern Ireland and those with larger portfolios were more likely to feel that changes lacked clarity. The largest landlords found it the most difficult to keep up.

Around a third of the surveyed landlords considered online information to be inconsistent, unreliable and difficult to understand. This proportion was higher among the least experienced landlords and those with larger portfolios.

You can download the full report here.


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  1. Highstreetblues

    Some private landlords need regulating because they cut corners. Others micro manage their properties too much which makes tenants feel harassed. Using a licensed letting agent would resolve that. Agents aren’t perfect, we’re all human, but actual cost is minimal considering the service level expectation is so high.

  2. Another House

    The majority of lettings agents are good and provide a fantastic service, though this never really gets a mention. As with every profession not everyone is perfect. What irks me is that as letting agent we are heavily regulated, have to spend a lot of time and money on training and memberships etc yet any Tom, Dick or Harry can be a landlord without any know how or accountability. This often leads to issues and unhappy tenants. Personally I think every landlord that does not use a licensed / accredited agent to manage their property must undergo and pay for the same training that we do. If landlords had to do this then they would very quickly see the value in using a decent agent and that there is value in the fee. Tenants who rent directly from a landlord do not have the same protection as they would via an agent.

    1. A W

      This is essentially what ROPA would introduce.

    2. Woodentop

      That has been happening in Wales for a number of years where landlords are licenced and either get accredited training to look after their own property or use an accredited managing agent.

  3. Woodentop

    As estates agent (sales & lettings management) we have been involved with private landlords for decades, the majority of which are happy to DIY manage until the wheel comes off and nearly always it was because they had no idea how involved renting is and do they get burnt! Those that use a good managing agent rarely get burnt and of course always have someone to blame.


    Wales is a prime example of licensing. DIY landlords are better informed but not necessarily capable. Many have been scared out of the market, many more have left because the communication infers control handed over to tenants and the financial penalties for landlords, even for good landlords has horrified them of the risks.


    More importantly, there is no redress for bad behaviour by tenants who often walk away leaving massive debts to the landlord that cannot be recovered. You can regulate and fine a landlord ONLY. Far too one sided and obnoxious to enforce only one party to a legal agreement. There should be penalties for poor and horrendous tenants lifestyle …… oops such a thing doesn’t exist according to politician’s and TPO.

  4. Another House

    As an agent we are responsible and accountable for the properties we manage and do it in a proper manner. We can advise the landlords of all the steps and manage any situations to ensure the ‘car crash’ does not happen.This means that we do not have the car crashes you are referring to. Choosing the right tenant is only the beginning but I do agree its far to heavily weighted against the landlord. This gives even more of a reason to choose a decent letting agent. The issue is that many DIY landlords do not have a clue and fall foul of some minor infringement that ends up causing then major issues. If we screw up they can go to the Ombudsman etc to have recourse over us.


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