20th February 2012 at 9:04AM
I'd strongly recommend going through a letting agent! For one, a lot of non-letting agent rentals don't have proper contracts in place, meaning you have virtually no rights to the property.
Also unless it's a rental to friends/family you tend to find that anyone trying to avoid using a letting agent to let their property are doing so for a reason! Whether that be to save money (good luck getting any repairs done, should they be needed) or because they are trying to hide some income from HMCR, etc.
The money a letting agent charges is for credit/back ground checks and the cost of writing up the contract.
Whether or not you get good value is debatable (some agents charge more, some less), but you would be foolish to rent a property with out a contract and without a secure deposit scheme.