Let down by your letting agent?
Talk to Which? Legal about problems you're having with your letting agent, and get affordable advice on what you can do to get them resolved.
1 Complain to the letting agent directly
First, find out whether the letting agency has an internal complaints procedure that you can use to complain (larger ones do).
If it doesn’t, write to the agency's manager, making it clear why you are complaining and what resolution you are looking for.
Remember to keep copies of any written correspondence, including letters and emails, for your records.
2 Try Alternative Dispute Resolution
One good thing about dealing with letting agents is that they have to be part of an approved redress scheme. This has been a legal requirement since 1 October 2014.
Redress schemes can help you resolve a dispute between you and your letting agent.
Both landlords and tenants can complain to these schemes, which help to mediate disputes between landlords, letting agents and tenants over letting agent failings.
If you've exhausted the letting agency’s internal complaints procedure and are not satisfied with its response, you can take your complaint to one of these schemes.
All letting agencies must clearly state which scheme they are members of. The government-backed schemes are:
- The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
- The Property Redress Scheme
Ombudsman Services Property
The Ombudsman Services Property was discontinued in August 2018.
If your agent was a member of this scheme, it must join an alternative scheme.
Local councils can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £5,000 to a branch of a letting agency that has not joined a redress scheme.
3 Complain to a trade body
Find out whether your agent is a member of a trade body or professional association.
The main trade bodies for letting agents are:
- ARLA (Association of Renting and Letting Agents)
- NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents)
- NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme)
- UKALA (UK Association of Letting Agents)
- TPO (The Property Ombudsman)
These organisations have codes of practice that agents must follow and usually have an arbitration service to help resolve complaints.
So, if you’re not happy with the way a letting agent has dealt with your complaint, you can try taking the matter up with its trade body.
These organisations can only take up your complaint if you have not started a court action.
4 Complain to trading standards
If your agent is not a member of a professional organisation, or if you're still unhappy, there are still some ways to further your complaint.
If you think your letting agent has breached the Consumer Rights Act, which came into force on 1 October 2015, find and complain to your local trading standards department.
A letting agent may have breached the Consumer Rights Act if it:
- acted without due care and skill
- took an unreasonable amount of time to do something
- charged an unreasonable amount of money
- failed to publicise fees fully.
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 the 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, but does mean that they must tell you about them upfront.
If you spot a letting agent that hasn't done this, you can report it to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Read the ASA’s policy on rental fee adverts for more information.
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 be able to claim for amounts less than £10,000 (in England and Wales), £5,000 in Scotland and £3,000 Northern Ireland.
You will also have to pay a fee depending on the amount you’re claiming for.
Read our small claims court guide for more information, which includes a small claims court fee calculator.