MPs have approved rules designed to protect consumers from rogue letting agents. Following calls from Which? for tighter regulation, all letting agents will now be forced to sign up to redress schemes.
Since 2007, Which? has campaigned for an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which would require all letting agents to sign up to a redress scheme. This would afford greater protection to tenants and landlords, giving them an avenue to complain.
Visit our Consumer Rights pages for more information on complaining about your letting agent.
Better protection for tenants and landlords
The government has now bowed to pressure and amended the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, forcing all letting agents to sign up to a redress scheme. Currently, letting and managing agents only sign up to these complaints schemes voluntarily.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘With renting now the only housing option for millions, we’re pleased the Government will now give tenants and landlords access to a complaints scheme.’
As a result of the amendments, tenants and landlords who fall victim to bad practices, unfair charges or poor service, should always have access to an ombudsman. If the ombudsman finds fault with the agent, it can order that agent to provide financial redress.
Redress schemes no longer voluntary
There are a number of redress schemes for letting agents in the UK, the largest of them being The Property Ombudsman (TPO). The ombudsman services are able to rule on various complaints, but only if the agent in question is signed up to its scheme.
Richard Lloyd said: ‘Our research revealed an alarming lack of consumer protection in this market so it’s vital the Government puts these plans into action as soon as possible.’
Research from Which? found that 62% of tenants and nearly half of landlords didn’t know whether their letting agent was a member of a professional body. Figures from the TPO highlight the problem of voluntary complaints schemes as, in 2012, it received 8,334 complaints regarding lettings, but 2,121 were about agents unregistered with the service.
Letting agents – how to complain
If you feel your letting agent hasn’t done its job properly, or you’re not happy with the way it has dealt with your complaint, there are steps you can take for effective redress.
You can take the matter up with a trade body or professional association, if your agent is a member. You can also escalate your complaint to the small claims court. See our step-by-step guide if you are thinking of taking a company to the small claims court.