Today brings welcome relief for many private renters and landlords, and a win for us at Which?. New laws have come into force requiring all letting agents to sign up to an ombudsman scheme.
Now anyone experiencing a problem with their letting agent in England and Wales, whether a tenant or landlord, can have their case investigated. This could then potentially lead to redress.
The law is already stronger in Scotland. Letting agents are required to adhere to a statutory code of practice. It’s also a criminal offence for letting agents to charge fees in Scotland.
High letting agent fees
We lobbied hard for these changes after our 2012 investigation identified a number of issues, including:
- High and unexpected fees: we found cases of tenants paying over £500 in administration fees, and finding out about these too late in the day. We estimated that tenants are paying in the region of £175m in agent fees each year.
- We found that many tenants were dissatisfied with their agent, with reports of aggressive sales tactics, poor customer service, missed appointments and misleading out-of-date ads.
- At the sharp end we found examples of both tenants and landlords losing sizeable amounts of money – at times thousands of pounds – through agents not passing on rent or unfairly handling deposits.
- On top of all this, 40% of agents weren’t signed up to a redress scheme. So anyone using one of these agents wouldn’t be able to seek redress without going through the courts.
Letting agent redress schemes
The legislation, within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, means that as of today all agents must be signed up to one of three schemes: The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property or the Property Redress Scheme. These schemes will also consider cases where information on fees wasn’t as clear as it should be.
This is your chance to take action and make a complaint when you experience a problem with your agent, but also to report them if you find they’re not signed up to one of the above redress schemes.
Have you ever had a problem with a letting agent, whether you’re a tenant or landlord? And how much have you had to pay in fees when you’ve started renting a new house?