One of the country’s foremost letting agents has repeated his call for the Government to regulate the industry.
Paul Weller, managing director of Leaders, said it would be the best Christmas present that ministers could give tenants.
Weller warned that with good quality rented properties in the most popular areas in short supply, many tenants are not selective when it comes to the letting agents they deal with.
A recent survey by Leaders showed that almost two-thirds of tenants are unaware that letting agents are not regulated.
Weller said: “Most tenants are understandably more concerned with the features of their next home – such as its size, location and whether they can afford the rent – than with the credentials of the letting agent they will be renting through.
“As a result, their ‘dream’ home – or even just the one that ticks the most boxes at the time – could turn into a nightmare if it leads them to a bad letting agent.”
Leaders’ survey of more than 5,500 tenants found that 63% are unaware that letting agents are not regulated by the Government and less than half (42%) consider membership of a professional body to be very important when choosing their letting agent.
Weller said: “Unaware that they are not protected by the law, most tenants choose their letting agent by the properties they have to offer and do not vet them to make sure they are qualified or trustworthy. As a result, too many people end up in the hands of incompetent and unscrupulous agents.
“This can mean being ripped off by unfair fees, their deposit being lost or stolen, their rights as a tenant ignored, putting up with a poor service and a badly maintained property throughout their tenancy, and worst of all, their physical safety jeopardised if the property does not comply with gas, fire and electrical safety regulations.”
Weller said: “The best Christmas present the government can give the 3.8 million tenants, and rising, in the private rented sector is to regulate letting agents.
“This would mean that in order to legally practise, letting agents would have to follow a statutory code of conduct, have qualifications in letting and property management and have Client Money Protection and Professional Indemnity insurance in place.
“The fact that anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent, with no experience, understanding of the market or knowledge of the law, and can do what they like with their clients’ money, is totally unacceptable.
“We believe that people looking for a home to rent – whether in time for Christmas or at any time in the future – should only have to worry about finding the right property and not have to concern themselves with vetting letting agents, which should be fully regulated by the government.
“Given that 40% of letting agents are not members of a professional body, it is clear that self-regulation is not enough.
“How many more people must be let down before the Government will regulate an industry that has been crying out for such measures for decades?”