Dealing with rogue letting agents can be one of the most frustrating and infuriating aspects of being a Landlord (or tenant), 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.
For a very long time there was very little legislation or governing body keeping control of rogue agents, so it meant consumers had very little protection. Unbelievably, it’s only relatively recently that laws have been put into place to help with genuine consumer protection in the property industry.
Since 1st October 2014, all letting agents and managing agents have been legally required to be a member of one of three government-approved letting agency redress schemes, which enables consumers to pursue an independent complaint and prosecution procedure!
Essentially, now that letting agents are legally required to be a member of a redress scheme, it means the following:
- Agents are required to abide by a certain code of conduct, meaning better service is achieved (in theory, anyways).
- If a letting agent provides poor or inadequate service, you can lodge a complaint with the relevant redress scheme, and they will then investigate the matter. There are no fees associated to anyone that lodges a complaint, whether it be landlord or tenant. It’s absolutely free.
- Agents that fail to register to a scheme or are found to have breached code of conduct, 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).||Visit Website|
|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.||Visit Website|
They are Ombudsman Services, an ombudsman service that provides dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property and copyright licensing industries.|
Update: on 6th February 2018, Ombudsman Service withdrew from handling complaints in the property sector. They will continue to provide a service for existing members, but they will eventually get phased out.
Client Money Protection schemes (required in England & Wales)
Letting agents and property management agents in the private rented sector are also required to join a ‘client money protection scheme‘ if they hold clients’ money.
For example, if you’re a landlord and you use a letting agent to collect rent from your tenant, your agent must be a member of one of the schemes, because they ensure landlords and tenants are compensated if the agent cannot repay the money, for example if they go into administration.
All letting and management agents must join any of the following government approved schemes:
- Client Money Protect
- Money Shield
- Safeagent (previously NALS)
- UKALA Client Money Protection
Other letting agency redress schemes (optional)
Below are other redness schemes that letting agents may be a member of, but they are not government approved and agents are not legally required to be a member of any of them:
|NALS registered agents are required 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.||Visit Website|
|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.||Visit Website|
Which Scheme is my Letting Agent a member of?
Most agents will clearly display which approved scheme they are members of, whether it be on their website and/or shop window. Alternatively, you can ask the agent directly.
It’s also worth noting that some letting agents have been known to display badges while not actually being active members. Don’t suppose this ill-practise surprises anyone? This could constitute as false advertising, but if you have doubts about the legitimacy of any agent’s memberships, you can contact the schemes directly to get clarification of valid membership.
What if your letting agent isn’t registered with a government-approved redress scheme?
Letting agents are legally required to be a member of at least one of three approved 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 any agents that are failing to comply with their legal obligations. A local council can issue a fixed penalty fine of up to £5,000 per branch.
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.