Advertising a Property for Rent
When advertising a property, the Energy Performance indicator of the EPC must be displayed. In addition, any fees charged must be displayed, and these might include breach of agreement or variation costs.
An advert must not mislead a prospective reader. It must not omit any information that would lead to the prospective customer making a different decision (such as missing from the advert that the property is within 100 yards of an electric power plant).
According to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance for Lettings Professionals, adverts and property particulars must include all 'material information'. In general, the CMA considers that material information is likely to include:
- charges and costs associated with renting the property
- property characteristics such as the location, number and size of rooms, the type of energy supply and heating, sufficient information about Council Tax, for example, the amount payable or band
- the condition of the property, including any significant features that are likely to put a person off agreeing (such as defects, severe dampness or potentially unsafe gas or electrical wiring)
- when the property will be available
- the terms of the agreement, particularly restrictions on the use of the property (such as whether smoking or pets are permitted), or any other unusual or onerous terms
- any requirement to use a particular third party trader (such as an energy or communications supplier)
- restrictions on the type of occupier (such as properties that may have a planning restriction on the age of occupiers) or circumstances where a guarantor may be required (for example, if necessary for students or those earning below a certain income level).
In respect of fees in adverts, the CMA guidance provides:
- information about charges provided in advertising and other promotional material should be complete, accurate, clear, and not misleading
- rent and other charges should be presented inclusive of VAT (where applicable), including where the cost is a percentage of something else
- fees should be accurately described, and the advert should give clear information about the nature and extent of the service being provided.
Keep in mind that most fees are now banned except for some lettings. See later for information on fees.
You should include details of this in marketing materials, advertising, and property particulars. This should also include ongoing or future fees or charges likely to be incurred by the occupier, for example, changing a lock if a key is lost, known as permitted charges under the Act.
There is guidance on advertising a rental property, which is extensive and can be viewed in full here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consumer-protection-law-for-lettings-professionals.
The best place to advertise nowadays is on the internet. Most agents are already on the large sites, and several companies will even enable a private landlord to advertise on large sites, such as Rightmove or Zoopla. These companies become a letting agent and will pass details of any prospective occupier to the landlord so the landlord can conduct viewings themselves.
The most important thing about internet advertising is having good photographs. We would advise a landlord with a few properties to consider having professional photographs produced. A landlord or agent with multiple properties might consider a professional digital camera (with the quality of a Digital Single Lens Reflex) with a quality lens making photographing in tight rooms produce a wider image. Prospective occupiers are less likely to respond to an advert on the internet that does not contain good pictures.
Check out other adverts for wording suggestions. Some companies will say that you need lots of words when advertising on the internet, but this is not necessarily true. The most important factors for a good response are having good photographs and advertising the property at a fair and reasonable rent.
With wording, focus on selling points such as:
- energy efficiency, double glazing and LED lighting
- locality features such as schools and shops
- quality or modern features such as natural wood flooring
- has the property been recently refurbished, modernised or decorated (but do not use terms such as "recently decorated" if you decorated it several months ago).
Housing charity Shelter has won a second case against a letting agent discriminating, failing to consider tenants on housing benefits seeking to rent a buy-to-let home.
The easy way to become a successful landlord is to boost the appeal of a buy to let home by giving tenants what they want from a property.
Landlords and letting agents may still be allowed to turn away renters on benefits after a claim against an agent who allegedly breached equality laws.