The BBC released an article regarding rogue letting agents who unfairly withhold holding deposits...
The BBC released an article regarding rogue letting agents who unfairly withhold holding deposits and administration fees despite the tenancy not going ahead.
The message which we feel this article is missing and the answer for tenants to protect themselves against these rogue letting agents, is to only deal with agents who are regulated. There is a lack of information and education available for tenants to demonstrate the risk of using a non regulated agent, and the benefit to using one which is.
When selecting a property, it is just as important for the tenant to choose the right agent as it is the right property. Letting agents handle thousands of pounds of client monies and it is vital that these agents are able to correctly account for these monies and clearly explain to tenants what the process is if for any reason their tenancy does not commence.
Before paying any money, tenants should ensure that the agent they are choosing to use has a transparent fee structure and that they fully understand the consequences if they are not to meet the agents referencing criteria or withdraw from the application at a later date.
The tenant should be asked to sign a holding deposit agreement which clearly explains whether any money will be withheld for a failed application, what it will be used for and in which circumstances they would and wouldn’t be entitled to a refund.
If an agent is not able to demonstrate any of the above and is not clear in the communication regarding fees, the tenant should choose not to use them.
Tenants should look for regulated lettings agents who are voluntary members of the following schemes, ARLA, SAFE agent and The Property Ombudsman. Agents who choose to become members of these organisations must follow a strict code of conduct, ensuring they that operate in a professional and ethical manner. Regulated agents must have their accounts audited to ensure that all client monies are accounted for and are not being used for the anything but the purpose for which they were intended.
These regulatory bodies offer landlords and tenants alike a system of redress should the client have a grievance which the agent has been unable to resolve and they will award the client compensation if they believe that it is due.
Tenants should apply the same process when selecting a letting agent as they do when spending a large amount of money on a new car or a holiday. You would not use a company that did not provide you with a warranty, guarantee and a detailed explanation of what would happen to your money if something went wrong.