Being urged to inflict pain upon a letting agent isn’t an unfamiliar feeling to me. My hate has been real, and its been fueled by God awful customer service and snake-oil antics. Sound familiar? Not surprising! It’s unfortunately a common occurrence.
Dealing with rogue letting agents can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Landlord, and when they fail to do their job properly, it’s not always clear who we can complain to, or even if we have a right to complain.
A notorious problem over the years for consumers is that we have more rights when purchasing a tin of baked beans than when buying/renting a house. For a very long time there has been no legislation or governing body keeping control of rogue agents. Remarkable!! It’s only recently that laws have been put into place to help with consumer protection in the property industry.
Since October 2008, all estate agents have been required to register with an approved redness scheme. Since 1st October 2014, all letting agents have been legally required to be a member of one of three government-approved letting agency redress schemes- so make sure yours is!
Agents that are members of a scheme are required to abide by a certain code of conduct, which ultimately increases consumer protection. Agents that fail to register to a scheme or practice against the requirements of a scheme they are a member of, could face penalties.
Government-approved letting agency redress schemes (required)
ALL letting agents must be a member of at least one of the following schemes…
Provides a free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes between sales and letting agents who have joined the TPO and consumers who are actual or potential buyers or sellers or landlords or tenants of residential property in the UK. The TPO is one of the schemes approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
The main purposes of the Property Redress Scheme is to allow Agents to comply with their legal requirement to be a member of a government authorised consumer redress scheme and to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers against their Members.
They are Ombudsman Services, an ombudsman service that provides dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property and copyright licensing industries.
Other letting agency redress schemes (optional)
Here are some other redness schemes that letting agents may be a member of, although not legally required by law…
A NALS registered agent will have to follow strict guidelines, have Client money protection insurance, Professional indemnity insurance and mandatory membership with the Ombudsman for Lettings. NALS is a government approved scheme.
A professional membership and regulatory body for letting agents and letting agencies in the UK. Any letting agency that is a member will have staff that will be trained to the ARLA codes of practice and one or all the staff will have taken a written exam to qualify to use the ARLA logo. The agent will follow their codes of practise; have Client money protection & Professional indemnity insurance.
Most agents will clearly display which approved scheme they are members of, whether it be on their website and/or shop window. It’s also worth noting that some letting agents have been known to display certain scheme badges while not actually being members (naughty!). This could be constituted as false advisement, but if you have doubts, you can contact the schemes directly to get clarification of valid membership.
What if your agent isn’t registered with a government-approved redness scheme?
Letting agents are legally required to be a member of at least one of three schemes! Failing to comply could lead to prosecution.
If you are using a letting agent that isn’t a member, you can contact your local council, who can then investigate and prosecute the agency. A local council can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £5000 per branch.
Advantages of using a Letting Agent Registered to a scheme
In summary, there are mainly 2 primary reasons why you should use a registered agent:
- 1) Agents are required to abide by a certain code of conduct, meaning better service is achieved (in theory, anyways).
- 2) If a letting agent provides a poor service, you can complain to a scheme, who will then investigate the case in-house. There is NO charge for a tenant or landlord who makes a complaint.