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How can letting agents improve their reputation?

How can agents improve their position in society? A report has been published following a roundtable discussion between prominent agency figures looking at how the industry can do exactly that. 

Making the compliance burden easier to manage, focusing on those agents who fail to comply, creating a robust complaints procedure, and shouting about the industry’s many successes are all key to improving the reputation of letting agents, the report suggests.

Significant pieces of research suggest that tenants are happy with their accommodation and the ‘renter-landlord’ clash depicted in some parts of the media and amongst anti-landlord activist groups may not be borne out by reality. 


So where does this damaging public perception of letting agents come from and why does it persist?

A PR gap seems to be dogging the industry, according to the panel of experts. Agents are locked in a public relations battle against activist groups and public opinion – and, so far, it’s one they’re not winning.

“As a journalist, I receive two or three press releases a month from Generation Rent, and one or two a month from Shelter,” says Graham Norwood, editor of Letting Agent Today, who moderated the roundtable which was organised by PropTech supplier PayProp. 

One way to overcome ‘negative’ press is to shout the positives.

Kate Gregory, sales director at Agent Rainmaker, believes this imbalance in media coverage isn’t surprising, but that “if we want the perception of our industry to change, we need to go out and present a different one.”

Another view that needs to be countered is that of agents seeing tenants as a cost, not as clients, according to Emma Cooke, policy manager at the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team.

“Often we go in and say to agents: ‘We’ve had a complaint and we’d like to get your side of the story. Can we discuss it with you?’ And they reply ‘Well, we thought the tenant was just being annoying. They kept coming back and writing letters, they were really getting on our nerves.’ In other words, they were just being consumers,” Cooke explains.

Neil Cobbold, chief sales officer of PayProp, argues that agents need to take complaints seriously, as even a minority not doing so is a big reputational risk for the industry. 

“We don’t realise just how much one tenant’s bad experience can spread. Every time a tenant comes with a complaint, agents have an opportunity to shine – and to have a ripple effect on how our industry is perceived. A lot of that is about the complaints procedure. I’ve had complaints with companies where I didn’t necessarily get the result I wanted, but I still felt that it was dealt with properly. I was listened to by that professional.”

Kristjan Byfield, co-founder of base property specialists and The Depositary, says agents have a duty and responsibility when it comes to compliance and improving the industry’s reputation.

“I’ve spoken to agents over the years who have another agent in their patch who is an absolute shark. They know they’re breaching HMO regulations. They know they’ve not got proper Client Money Protection. But do they tell anyone?” he said.

“Additionally, we have to be really strict with our tenants on behalf of our landlords – but we equally have a duty to be strict with our landlords on behalf of our tenants. So, if you’re presented with a landlord who doesn’t bother with licensing fees, or when the landlord’s property is looking shabby, you put your foot down. The control we have as agents is to choose not to work with that landlord – even when it hurts from a business perspective.”


Landlord Action’s Paul Shamplina, who highlights the work of the minority of rogue landlords and letting agents in his show Evicted! Nightmare Tenants, says redress has helped to improve the reputation and regulation of agents.

“By law, letting agents and property managers in England and Wales must join an approved redress scheme (agents in Scotland and Northern Ireland are not required to do so). Redress schemes handle unresolved tenant complaints and may order agents to pay compensation,” he explained. 

Sally Lawson, founder of Agent Rainmaker and a former ARLA president, believes lightening the regulatory burden is crucial.

“The industry model we have dates back to the 1990s and before. Thirty years later we have around a hundred times as much compliance work to do. But there just aren’t enough hours in the day or pounds in the bank.”

“We need to reduce the workload on agents. That’s where PropTech comes in. There’s a lot of room for agencies to make more use of it,” she concludes. 

To read more about what your agency can do to improve the reputation of the industry, download and read the report in full.

  • Roger  Mellie

    We've been in the gutter for decades, along with solicitors, used car salesmen, and the taxman. But really, who cares? I was disappointed when everyone collectively decided to clap for carers. Where were the crowds clapping for the 'love the letting agents' campaign.

  • icon

    My knowledge of covid is that no proper risk assessment was done, and that it turned into a big skiveathon for the NHS and lots of people in government and local authorities. My belief is that the cure is worse than the disease.My sister died of covid
    yet she was immobile from dementia which she had had for 5 years hence. Its being used now to force landlords to give tenants the property.

    Kristjan Byfield

    I think someone needs a holiday- and to take a break from the Qanon social media channels. Blimey Edwin!

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Our industry has evolved leaps and bounds in the last decade. This has been partly driven by regulation but mainly down to owners/directors just being passionate about delivery an incredible service/experience rather than a 'whats the least we can get away with doing' attitude.


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