‘Government should act to enforce regulation’

A lack of effective regulation means that some parts of the lettings sector can been likened to the property industry’s Wild West – and that’s putting consumers at risk, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 24th November 2012, 5:34 am

The organisation’s consumer letting survey has highlighted the potential for rogue lettings agents to cash in on the current rental boom.

Even though 92 per cent of tenants said they were satisfied with their lettings agent, over half of those surveyed in two target parliamentary constituencies said they did not receive an inventory when moving in, demonstrating the worryingly low standards expected by tenants.

This clear lack of awareness or apathy from tenants on what they should expect from their agent is compounded by a lack of effective regulation which can lead to potential consumer detriment, with renters sometimes being charged extortionate fees or given unfair terms. The results of the survey suggest renters have come to expect this level of service.

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It is currently possible for anyone to set up a lettings agency without appropriate qualifications, knowledge or understanding of the rental process. In addition, it is not compulsory for agents to conform to any code of conduct.

Despite this, four out of five renters believe lettings agents are required to abide by a government, ombudsman or regulatory body code of practice.

RICS East of England spokesperson David Hickling said: “A good lettings agent can be worth their weight in gold for both landlord and tenant. There are, however, too many unscrupulous agents taking advantage of the high demand for lettings and current gap in regulation.

“We would like to see the government taking direct action on this and introducing a single regulatory and redress system for both sales and lettings agents to make sure they are fully accountable.”