New rules on Letting Agents don't go far enough warns Dunstable Letting Agent

Daniel Bourke of Belvoir Lettings in Dunstable warns that the new rules designed to protect millions of tenants and landlords from rogue agents do not go far enough.

To give their customers access to independent redress in the event of a complaint the Government plans, as part of the Enterprise Bill, to make it mandatory for all agents to become members of an ombudsman scheme.

But Daniel Bourke director of the specialist Letting Agent Belvoir in Dunstable warns that it falls short of the long-awaited compulsory regulation that would have brought the sector in line with its estate agency counterparts.

Daniel says: “While it is a step in the right direction it is also a missed opportunity. At the moment anyone can set up a business as a letting agent and tighter policing is needed.

This bridges the gap – but fails to close it in the way many accredited agents like us had hoped. It’s been a long-standing anomaly that letting agents, who routinely handle large sums of money, are not regulated in the same way as their estate agent counterparts who do not handle money at all.

Behaviour such as providing unacceptable services and engaging in unlawful practices tarnishes the sector and this plan does not go far enough to correct this.

Regulators do not have the power to close down rogue operators in the letting sector for these kinds of breaches whereas they can with Estate Agents”.

He adds: “Many reputable agents such as Belvoir have voluntarily joined industry accreditation schemes, giving clients peace of mind that their money is safeguarded. But as many as 40 per cent of agents have not.

Nobody books a holiday with a travel agent who is not properly accredited and registered – but, as ever-increasing numbers of tenants are finding to their cost, this isn’t always the case in the rental market where the stakes are far higher”.

The private rental sector was growing rapidly made the need for regulation even more pressing. There are now 3.84m households privately renting in England, compared with 1.9m in 2001 – and the figure is increasing.

Research has shown that tenants and landlords who have fallen foul of rogue operators have mainly been left out of pocket by agents not passing on rent, unfairly handling deposits or failing to protect deposits.

Belvoir Dunstable are a member of PropertymarkThe Property Ombudsman and Safe Agent. This means that they have agreed to meet defined standards of customer service, are part of a Client Money Protection Scheme and have a customer complaints procedure offering independent redress.

For more information about any of the above or if you have concerns about your existing arrangements please contact Daniel or Zara at Belvoir Dunstable.