In the last ten years the number of people living in private rented accommodation has risen from around 2 million to nearly 4 with the percentage of home owners falling from 71% of the UK population to 65%. This is attributed to the rise in elderly homeowners who account for over a third of the population whilst the younger generation are struggling to get on the property ladder at all. One newspaper has even labelled them, Generation Rent.
The rental market has expanded with the demand for more rental properties and this has lead to an increase in firms that market properties and actually manage the rental of a landlords property for them.
If you are looking to rent a property, you should consider going via one of the many property management companies rather than a private landlord for many reasons. Dealing with a property management company should not mean that you have any less rights than dealing with a private landlord but it is often easier to deal with a third party if you have an complaints about the property as private home owners can be personally attached to the property and sometimes this can lead to heightened emotions. With regards your health and safety in the property, you are still covered by the renting laws that require that the property is checked on an annual basis and that it makes safety standards. However it is worth noting that private landlords are unregulated and that they do not have to be part of any trade association or professional trade body, which does not mean that they are not to be trusted but it means that you need to be more careful when signing a contract with them.
Property managers are always on hand to deal with any problems or emergencies that might arise out of office hours whereas if you are dealing with a private landlord it might be more difficult to get hold of them. One of the initial problems with dealing with a private landlord is that you have to meet a total stranger at the property and so it would be advisable to take someone with you to the property, they might also spot something that you overlook.
One of the main problems with having a private landlord opposed to a property manager is that you have to really be careful when reading and signing a contract from a private landlord because they might have missed out some points that you might not notice or even add unfair terms that you might not read. For example if your landlord does not state how much notice he needs to give you on the tenancy agreement you might find that he turns up on a Friday and asks you to move out over the weekend. With a larger property management company you should feel more secure that your rights as well as the landlords are being addressed. If you are in any doubt about your private landlord then it is best to make a detailed record of all correspondence with them.