With more and more people turning to the private rented sector for their housing needs, Leaders – the UK’s largest independent letting specialist – is reminding landlords and tenants to take care when choosing a letting agent because this sector, despite its growth, remains unregulated.
Says Leaders’ Hampshire director, Matt Derry: “As the private rented sector grows, more people are using letting agents, unaware that there is no proper regulation governing them, and in particular over how they handle client money. We have seen countless letting agents disappear with their clients’ rent and deposits over the years, either by going bust or through blatant theft.
“Shockingly, there has been a recent case locally of a letting agent going into liquidation owing thousands of pounds in rent to its landlords, but the owners have simply moved on and set up a new letting agency under a different name. Under the current system, there is no legislation in place to prevent this happening. Unfortunately cases like this occur on a frequent basis and highlight the fundamental lack of controls on letting agents, which we want the public to be aware of so that they can take steps to protect themselves.”
Matt’s advice to landlords and tenants is simple. You are only protected if you use an agent that is a member of a professional body such as ARLA, NAEA or RICS. These organisations are self-regulating and ensure that clients’ money is held in separate, ring-fenced accounts and properly protected.
“But it’s not only about money,” says Matt: “Letting and managing rented property requires in-depth knowledge of the many rules and regulations governing residential lettings.
“Letting agents should have the resources, knowledge and training to look after every single tenancy correctly and efficiently. If not, major problems can arise for landlords, who are ultimately liable for the actions – or inactions – of their agent. For tenants it can literally be a matter of life and death if legislation regarding the safety of the property and its contents is not complied with, for example gas, electrical and fire safety regulations.
“When you consider the many potential risks to the public, it is shocking that any person or organisation can become a letting agent, with no training, qualifications or financial probity. Until there is proper regulation in place, unprofessional, unqualified and unethical agents will continue operate to the detriment of unwitting landlords and tenants. This is particularly worrying at a time when more and more people are turning to the private rented sector for their housing needs.”
Leaders advise landlord and tenants to make sure their chosen agent is a member of a professional body such as ARLA or RICS, that they have Client Money Protections, qualified staff, many years experience and ideally specialise purely in lettings.
For advice you can trust on all aspects of letting and renting please contact your local Leaders branch or visit www.leaders.co.uk
Eastleigh: 02380 900808
Southampton, London Road: 02380 633446
Southampton, Ocean Village: 02380 632288
Sarisbury Green: 01489 573999
Winchester: 01962 867415