Since its establishment 30 years ago, letting specialist Leaders has been calling for formal regulation of letting agents to protect landlords and tenants from bad practice by incompetent or unscrupulous agents.
On 15th April the government took a small step in that direction by proposing an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill that will ensure all lettings agents belong to a government approved ombudsman-type scheme which will give landlords and tenants a way to deal with complaints.
However Leaders do not believe this goes far enough towards protecting landlords and tenants. Managing Director, Paul Weller, said: “Whilst we welcome the fact that, at last, landlords and tenants will be given a route of redress when they are let down by a letting agent, it is clear that this proposal does not tackle the problem of incompetent or unscrupulous letting agents being allowed to operate in the first place.”
Under current legislation anybody can set up as a letting agent, even if they have no experience, qualifications, knowledge of the law or client money protection. There are now 4.7 million households in the UK’s private rented sector and complaints about letting agents to The Property Ombudsman (TPO) have reportedly more than doubled over the last 5 years.
Problems experienced range from inaccurate advice, bad service, unfair fees, loss of rent and deposits and failing to comply with letting legislation. There is evidence of unscrupulous agents defrauding landlords and tenants of hundreds of thousands of pounds or rents and deposits.
“It’s all very well to say that landlords and tenants will now have a route of redress if they suffer at the hands of a bad letting agent, but it would obviously be far better to prevent people falling victim to bad practise in the first place by making it mandatory for letting agents to meet a minimum standard to practise,” said Mr Weller. “This would level the playing field so that good agents like ourselves who train our staff, comply with the law and provide a professional service, are not having to compete against ‘cowboy’ agents who do not do any of these things and as a result are able to offer unrealistically low fees to attract unwitting landlords and tenants.
“What is needed is legislation that ensures that – as a minimum requirement - all letting agents are qualified, have client money protection and operate to an agreed code of conduct for the whole industry.”
As its stands, only agents that are members of a professional body such as ARLA, RICS or NAEA have to comply with a code of conduct and membership of these self-regulating bodies is optional. 40% of letting agents are not currently members.
The government’s proposal is likely to become law by the autumn, in the meantime Leaders will continue to press for more effective regulation of the industry.
Leaders has been specialising in letting for 30 years and is a member of ARLA, SAFEagent and The Property Ombudsman. For advice you can trust on all aspects of renting or letting in your area please contact your local Leaders branch:
Rustington: 01903 786666
Follow Leaders on Twitter: @LeadersSussex
Member since: 10th July 2012
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