Which? Legal

Let down by your letting agent?

Talk to our legal team about problems you're having with your letting agent, and get straightforward advice on what you can do to get them resolved.

1 Complain direct to letting agent

Complain to the letting agent directly in the first instance.

Check if the agency has an internal complaints procedure (larger ones will); otherwise write to the manager, and keep copies of letters.

2 Alternative Dispute Resolution 

A perk of dealing with letting agents is that they must be part of an approved redress scheme. This has been a legal requirement since 1 October 2014.

Letting agent redress schemes can help you solve a dispute between you and your letting agent.

Both landlords and tenants can complain to the schemes, which help to  mediate in disputes between landlords, letting agents and tenants over letting agent failings.

Once you've exhausted the letting agent’s internal complaints procedure, you can take your complaint to one of these schemes.

The letting agent must clearly state which scheme they are members of. The three government-backed schemes are:

  • The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
  • Ombudsman Services Property
  • The Property Redress Scheme

A local council can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £5,000 to a branch of a letting agency that fails to join one of the schemes.

3 Complain to a trade body

If you’re not happy with the way the letting agent has dealt with your complaint, try taking the matter up with a trade body or professional association, if your agent is a member of one.

The main trade bodies are:

  • ARLA (the Association of Renting and Letting Agents)
  • NAEA (the National Association of Estate Agents)
  • NALS (the National Approved Letting Scheme)
  • UKALA (the UK Association of Letting Agents)
  • TPO (The Property Ombudsman)

These organisations have codes of practice that agents must follow, and there will usually be an arbitration service to help resolve complaints.

4 Complain to trading standards

If your agent is not a member of a professional organisation, or if you're still unhappy, you still have some options to take your complaint further.

If you think your letting agent has breached the Consumer Rights Act, because they 

  • acted without due care and skill, 
  • took an unreasonable amount of time to do something,
  • charged an unreasonable amount of money, or 
  • failed to publicise fees fully

You can find and complain your local trading standards department, it can investigate and has the power to take enforcement action if there has been wrongdoing.

If you entered into a contract with your landlord before 1 October 2015 you have the same rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

5 Report letting agent to ASA

From 1 November 2013, all letting agents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must advertise all fees and charges upfront in their adverts, whether online or in print. 

This doesn't stop letting agents charging high fees, just that it must tell you about them upfront.

If you spot a letting agent that hasn't advertised all it's fees and charges up front, you can  report it to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

6 Use the small claims court

If you’ve lost money as a result of your letting agent’s poor service, you could take it to the small claims court. You should get help from a legal professional before doing this.

In small claims court, you'll only usually able to claim for amounts less than £10,000 (in England and Wales), and £3,000 (in Scotland and Northern Ireland). 

Proposals for a Court Reform Bill in Scotland were approved in October 2014. The reforms include raising the total amount you can claim to £5,000. 

We will let you know if and when these changes are implemented. 

In the meantime, visit the HM Courts & Tribunals Service online in England and Wales, the Northern Ireland Court Service or your local court to get a claim form and the other documents that explain the small claims process. 

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