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'Regulate letting agents - now' insists agency chief

The chief executive of Leaders letting and estate agency is demanding that the new Conservative government brings in the formal regulation of letting agency. 

“More people and families than ever before now use the private rental sector and the services of letting agents. Yet the vast majority are unaware that letting agents are not regulated by the government and that anyone can set up a letting agency, with no experience, knowledge of lettings law or client money protection in place” says Paul Weller.

“Letting agents can hold hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent which they are supposed to protect. But without regulation, there is no way to enforce this and there have been countless cases of letting firms losing their clients’ money, using it for their own ends, or completely disappearing with it, leaving landlords and tenants badly out of pocket” he continues. 

Weller says too many people have suffered at the hands of rogue agents, as well as incompetent and unscrupulous agents who fail to provide a decent standard of service.

“This needs to be tackled urgently,” Weller argues, “and the only way to do so is to make it mandatory for agents to abide by an agreed code of conduct, be professionally qualified with a sound knowledge of the laws governing lettings and to have client money protection and professional indemnity insurance in place.”

Weller says the Tories have put forward what he calls “promising” housing policies including the Help To Buy ISA and a pledge to build 200,000 new homes. But ther is more the government can do, he says.

“There is now a golden opportunity to make a positive difference to those renting and letting. Proper regulation is essential to stop rogue agents taking advantage of the thriving rental market. Good agents have been crying out for this for years and, as the numbers of those renting and letting continues to rise, the need for it grows ever stronger.”

  • Richard White

    Usually the people demanding formal regulation have no experience of working in a heavily regulated environment. Someone has to pay for the regulation and guess what; it'll be the punters. What will these punters get for the higher costs? Almost nothing, in reality. The agents will be filling out forms that mean nothing and scratching around for events to assign to 'CPD' which mean nothing and following new, lengthy processes that take up a huge amount of time and achieve nothing. The punters will be getting a ton of new documents that they won't read. And when all is said and done, the end result is that the good agents carry on doing the job well (but tied up in paperwork) and the sharks carry on sharking because they didn't ever follow protocol in the first place. As ever, it's a case of be careful what you wish for.

  • Fake Agent

    So how do you propose clamping down on the rogue landlords, if not via extra regulation?

    I don't know if you saw the Panorama programme the other day. Isolated incidents and edited in a certain way to blow the issue out of proportion, yes, but still shocking.

    If you're saying more regulation will still mean good agents doing their jobs well and the sharks still sharking, how can we go about changing this?

  • Richard White

    I'm not saying I have all the answers, Mr Agent, I'm simply pointing out the realities of the matter.

    Rogue Landlords have always existed and will always exist. Unless you have some magical elixir that will rectify the worst aspects of human nature, you have to accept this fact. Attempting to change innate human nature by filling in forms is as pointless as trying to stop a tsunami by using harsh language.

    I'm not saying for a minute that rogue landlords are not a problem, because they are (as are rogue tenants; let's not forget them) what I am saying is that arbitrary form filling in will not solve the problem.

  • icon

    Quite ironic really....

    http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/11474960.Facing_jail__estate_agent_who_stole___400k_from_employer/

  • Fake Agent

    @Richard White - all very true, as depressing as that is. It's impossible to eradicate rogue landlords completely, but measures can certainly be taken to restrict the amount that are operating. Tougher sentences, for one. Relieving rogue landlords of their properties depending on the severity of the offence (not sure about the legality of this). And educating tenants on how to spot and report rogue landlords.

    Fully agree that there are as many troublesome tenants as there are dodgy landlords. Tenants get a bit of an easy ride when it comes to the press. In many cases, of course, they are treated badly, but there are also cases where the tenant is very much the guilty party.

    Form filling and extra red tape almost certainly won't work, but I can't see what the alternative is. I guess increasing the housing supply would bring prices down, get more buyers on the market, relieve the pressure on the PRS and reduce the number of desperate, vulnerable tenants who are easy prey for unscrupulous landlords. I don't have much faith in the government sticking to their housebuilding pledge, though.

    No easy answers, sadly.

  • Richard White

    @ Fake Agent - I think you hit the nail on the head within your post. Hitting these people (both Landlords and Tenants) where it hurts is the one thing that will work. This should be as part of a judicial process, however, and is unlikely to be borne from regulation. The problem then, naturally, will be to find a Judge who isn't a woolly thinking Liberal who nods and fines the perp a nominal hundred quid.

    The Financial Services industry is obviously highly regulated and that did nothing to stop rogue bankers and traders nearly bringing down the world from their sofas. Again, what does seem to be working in combatting the problem is whacking them with enormous fines. As draconian as this sounds, it does seem to be the only thing that works.

  • icon

    Regulating letting agents is the needs of the day. I have seen a new letting agents, Moorland Property Services, established recently in Leeds who claim that they are the most professional letting agents. Then after few months, we heard that they get a fine of £20,000. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/20-000-court-fine-for-flytipping-leeds-property-firm-1-7218058. Regulations are must to distinguish good from bad and bad from worst.

  • icon

    The regulations are already there. It's the regulators that do 2/3rds of sodall that are the problem

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