Cullen Property Blog

What Do HMO Letting Agents In Edinburgh Do?

As a student city, with four universities and a college, Edinburgh has over 100,000 students living in it during term time, around 25% of the total population of the city.

In terms of accommodation, some of those students live in their family home, some in specific student accommodation and the rest in shared flats and houses across the city. HMO stands for House in Multiple Occupation. An HMO is a property rented out to three or more unrelated tenants who share common amenities like kitchens and bathrooms. HMOs are a popular housing option, particularly for students seeking affordable accommodation in central locations, close to their campus and city amenities. HMOs provide a cost-effective solution, allowing them to share rent and living expenses. Additionally, HMOs can offer a social living environment, fostering a sense of community among tenants.

With nearly 6,000 HMO licences in place, the City of Edinburgh accounts for an estimated 43% of all Scotland’s HMO properties.

What is an HMO Letting Agent?

An HMO letting agent is a property management company that has specialist knowledge regarding HMOs. They represent landlords who own HMO properties and also deal with tenants seeking shared accommodation. HMO letting agents need to have a deep understanding of the local HMO market, regulations, and best practices, which enables them to help landlords with compliance and look after the rental process on their behalf.

Because HMO licence requirements are more onerous than standard landlord regulations and because the nature of multiple student tenancies is more complex than letting to a family or couple, it is highly likely that landlords will seek out the help of a letting agent for some or all of their property letting journey.

The Role Of An HMO Letting Agent In Edinburgh

 

1. Landlord Services

Compliance Advice

An HMO specialist letting agent will be up to date on the myriad of licensing requirements, regulations and laws relating to a shared property. They will be able to audit your property and explain to you what needs to be changed in order to obtain or retain an HMO licence and will help you obtain all the necessary documents such as gas and electrical certifications and fire safety checks.

An agent will also be able to prepare your application, submit it to Edinburgh City Council and liaise with the council throughout the licence approval process, which can be frustratingly long and complicated if you don’t follow all the procedures to the letter.

Property Preparation and Maintenance

HMO agents understand the specific requirements for HMO properties in Edinburgh. They can advise on any necessary upgrades or refurbishments to ensure your property complies with regulations, as well as ensuring that it is appealing to prospective tenants. Modifications might involve installing fire alarms, ensuring adequate waste disposal facilities, upgrading bathrooms or rearranging furniture in a bedroom.

HMO Property marketing

Marketing To Students

Edinburgh HMO letting agents have a strong understanding of the local rental market, particularly the sizable student population. By marketing your property on all the relevant local and national platforms and using their existing network they will be able to attract new tenants quickly to reduce void periods and ensure a steady rental income.

The current rental market in Edinburgh is experiencing high demand and a shortage of properties, and so it is often a case of the current tenants choosing to find new flatmates rather than move out and risk being unable to find somewhere new. In that situation, the letting agent will look after all the tenancy agreement changes which are required.

Tenant Selection

HMO letting agents conduct thorough tenant screening, including credit checks, reference verification and setting up guarantors in the case of students. The aim is to minimise the risk of rent arrears and find responsible tenants who will respect the property and the neighbours.

Rent Collection

Letting agents streamline rent collection, taking the burden off landlords. They deal with deposits, keeping them in a secure account according to Scottish law, and aim to make sure that all rent is received promptly, chasing payment if it is not, and is paid to the landlord on time each month.

Tenancy Agreements

Letting agents can create legally compliant tenancy agreements that protect both you and your tenants and meet the unique requirements of HMO tenants, who tend to rent as individuals rather than as one family group. Letting agents will make sure they stay up to date on relevant landlord-tenant legislation and ensure all legal requirements are met.

Property Management

Many HMO letting agents offer ongoing property management services which include conducting regular inspections to check that the property is being kept in good condition, handling repairs and maintenance requests promptly, and dealing with any issues that may arise between tenants.

2. Tenant Services

Finding Suitable HMO Accommodation

HMO letting agents have a comprehensive portfolio of HMO properties in Edinburgh. They can help tenants find suitable accommodation that meets their needs and budget, whether they require a single room in a shared property or a property for a number of people who already know each other. They may also have a waiting list that tenants can sign up to so that they are alerted when new rental properties become available in Edinburgh.

Understanding Tenants’ Rights

A letting agent will be able to provide tenants with clear information about HMO regulations and their rights and responsibilities as tenants in a shared occupancy property. This can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth living experience.

Application Process and References

Letting agents can guide tenants through the application process, so that they know which documents are necessary and when to provide them. They will normally also look after references and guarantees, and set up an electronic process to get the required signatures efficiently.

Deposit Protection and Fees

HMO letting agents can ensure tenants understand Scottish ‘Tenancy Deposit Schemes’ and their rights regarding deposits. They will also be able to set up the TDS account for the landlord and carry out the administration involved too.

3. HMO Safety Compliance

Edinburgh HMO letting agents will advise landlords on their requirements relating to the safety of tenants in shared properties. They must be knowledgeable about all HMO licensing regulations, particularly those related to fire safety and minimum room sizing etc. They may undertake the following checks for the landlord.

Fire Alarms

Ensuring the property has a functioning fire alarm system with interconnected hard-wired smoke or heat detectors in all occupied areas, as well as carbon monoxide detectors where required.

HMO Fire Safety

Escape Routes and Emergency Lighting

Verifying clear escape routes are free from obstructions and adequately lit with emergency lighting.

Gas and Electrical Safety Certificates

Obtaining and maintaining up-to-date gas and electrical safety certificates for the property on behalf of the landlord.

Fire Safety Training

Advising landlords on providing fire safety information and training to tenants.

4. Dealing With Conflicts

HMO letting agents may occasionally need to use their interpersonal skills to help smooth the dynamics of a shared living environment.

Tenant Selection

Carefully vetting tenants to ensure compatibility and briefing them on the expectations of responsible behaviour.

Mediation

Acting as a mediator to address any disputes or issues that may arise between tenants where possible.

Clear Communication

Maintaining clear communication channels with all tenants, ensuring everyone is informed and expectations are managed effectively.

Neighbours

The letting agent is likely to be the first port of call if neighbours have any complaints or issues with the behaviour of the tenants. Student flats in particular can draw complaints about noise or rowdy parties.

5. Dealing With Edinburgh City Council

HMO letting agents act as a liaison between landlords, tenants, and local authorities. They should be familiar with all HMO licensing requirements and keep up to date with any changes so that they can ensure that the licence will be renewed when it is time for relicensing. Agents should also work with landlords to check that their property meets all relevant building regulations and safety standards.

Why Choose A Letting Agent With HMO Expertise

If you want to let your property as an HMO we would highly recommend using an agency that already understands how HMO licensing works and what is required. The process is complex and time-consuming and a letting agent can significantly reduce the stress, frustration and workload involved.

They will also be in a good position to find tenants quickly and minimise void periods as they are likely to have a waiting list of students looking for property.

If you take advantage of their property management services, they will be the first point of contact for your tenants and can deal quickly with any repairs that are required as well as keeping on top of the maintenance and certifications needed to maintain your HMO status.