In this article
• The importance of redress schemes
• The procedure for complaints about letting agents
• Common causes for complaint
• If your letting agent is not a member of a redress scheme
There are many outstanding letting agents with business values based on honesty, integrity and hard work. These agents are enthusiastic about finding you the right property to suit your needs, maintain current memberships with professional organisations, meet their legal obligations to landlords and provide professional and friendly services to their tenants. In the TTV directory they are easily identified as ‘approved’.
However, letting agent reviews and a TTV survey reveals that a third of tenants do not trust their letting agent. A lack of regulation in the private rented sector has led to many tenants being taken advantage of with extortionate fees, hidden charges and a lack of mediation with landlords.
From October 1st 2014 all letting agents must be a member of one of three independent government approved redress schemes.
• The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
• Ombudsman Services Property
• The Property Redress Scheme
These schemes provide free dispute resolution services; the decision made by an independent redress scheme is binding on all parties.
What the law means
Until recently, letting agents were able operate without membership to a government approved redress scheme, meaning that if a tenant filed a complaint against their letting agent and the two parties could not resolve the issue between them, there would be no further course of action to take. Due to the new legislation, if your letting agent is unable to resolve your complaint within 8 weeks then you will be able to take the complaint further using the dispute resolution service of the scheme.
Contact your landlord
You should make a compliant to your landlord about the letting agent for any of the following reasons:
• General poor service
• The amount of fees charged or their reasonableness
• Tenancy deposits
• Issues which are the landlord’s responsibility
Your landlord’s name and address should be included in your tenancy agreement. If not, make a written request to the letting agent since it is your legal right to know who your landlord is. If the landlord is a company, don’t be deterred, you should still be provided with a contact name and number.
If you are not happy with the response from your landlord, it is taking too long, or the matter is of a more serious nature, then you should follow the formal complaint route.
Complain to the letting agent – The first step in the formal process is to follow your letting agent’s complaints procedure. You will find the details on their website, if not, ask for them directly from the office. The letting agent should follow up your complaint by investigating in an appropriate manner, responding to you in writing within 8 weeks, and providing an outline of their view and what action they will take. If you are not happy with the result, the letting agent has refused to address your complaint or ignored it entirely, then you should complain to the redress scheme of which they are a member.
Complain to the redress scheme – Ask your letting agent which redress scheme they are a member of or get the details from their website. Letting agents often display window stickers of their relevant memberships. Be aware that you can only complain via the redress scheme after 8 weeks from making your complaint or after you have received the final letter from the letting agent regarding the dispute and you must keep within the time limit given.
Common causes for complaint
You can make a formal complaint for issues related to breaches of letting agent codes of conduct. Redress schemes deal with such disputes as:
• Inefficient or poor service
• Hidden tenant fees and lack of transparency
• Inaccurate property descriptions
• Disputes regarding refunds of holding deposits
• Inaccurate accounting
• Failing to pass rent to your landlord
If the letting agent is not a member of a redress scheme
If your letting agent is not a member of a redress scheme then they are breaking the law. Your local council can investigate and prosecute agencies, issuing a fixed penalty fine of up to £5000.
The importance of choosing a good letting agent
To prevent worst case scenarios, it’s very important to to choose your letting carefully and follow a vetting process that takes into account the following things.
Is the letting agent a part of an independent trade body. Check your letting agent’s registration is valid by using the following links:
Does the letting agent have an official website ? On the website, there must be a procedure for complaints and section with important information for tenants. Read through the website and find details about how they deal with tenant problems and complaints.
Look online for other tenants who have dealt with this letting agent before or currently and seek information about the quality of their service. There are many letting agent rating websites, which might feature reviews about your letting agent.
Finally, you should read our dedicated guide on Finding a good letting agent !
Where to go for help
Citizens Advice will be able to advise you how best to progress a complaint about your letting agent based on your specific circumstances.
The Shelter website also contains comprehensive information about complaint issues involving letting agents.
Under the Estate Agents Act 1979 (EAA) regulations both Trading Standards and the Office of Fair Trading are empowered to close down the business if they find sufficient reason to believe it is unfit to practice the work of an estate agency.
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Managing your home category.
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