More Regulation Needed as Complaints about Rogue Lettings Agents Soar
Complaints about lettings agents have more than doubled over the past five years according to figures released by a property watchdog.
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) received 8,334 complaints in 2012, up from 3,739 in 2008 - a 123 per cent increase. In comparison, complaints against estate agents have fallen from 6,067 in 2008 to 4,261.
Complaints about lettings agents now represent TPO's largest workload, around 53 per cent of all enquiries. Alan Stewart director and head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons said: "These figures are very disappointing and it saddens me that landlords and tenants are being ripped off by unscrupulous lettings agents.
"The huge rise in complaints reported to TPO is yet more proof that the lettings industry should be regulated. What is more concerning is that unless some form of regulation is introduced soon, the situation could become worse as the ongoing economic conditions force more people into private renting."
Caxtons is urging students looking for last-minute rental accommodation to use a regulated lettings agency to avoid being exploited or living in a neglected property.
With thousands of students looking to return, or start, university in the next few weeks, the rush is now on to find accommodation before term begins. According to the government's Higher Education Statistics Agency, around half a million students in the UK rented privately last year, which equates to 29 per cent of all students.
However due to time and financial constraints, and lack of local area knowledge, many students can fall victim to unscrupulous private landlords who charge too much for poor accommodation.
A significant proportion of students will also register with unregulated lettings agencies, which means they won't be fully protected throughout the letting process and tenancy.
Caxtons' student lettings manager, commented: "Currently there is no compulsory regulation of lettings agencies, which means anybody can set up as an agent without any relevant qualifications, training or accreditations.
"In towns and cities with high student populations we regularly see a large number of unlicensed agents who view students as an easy target.
Life is tough, very tough. Most of us have had some first hand experience of the economic squeeze during the past four years
– and belt tightening has become an art form as well as a way of life. But what if you run out of cunning plans to keep the wolf from the front door? What if you can no longer meet your monthly financial commitments? What if you can't pay the mortgage?
Alan Stewart BSc FRICS MCIArb, Director & head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons says think carefully before selling up. It may be better to consider letting your home – undoubtedly a very valuable asset – while you rent a smaller property for considerably less. This way you will retain your home and ease the pressure on what is probably a desperate situation.
If you think that becoming a 'reluctant landlord' is for you to allow time for the property market to recover and economic-hard times to abate, then there are a number of issues to explore.
If you have a mortgage, it is sometimes possible to let your property without the complication of changing your mortgage and becoming a Buy-to-Let landlord. As long as you obtain permission from your lender by way of a 'Consent to Let', then you will not breach your mortgage agreement. What is more, you will usually remain on your existing mortgage arrangement and pay your current interest rate. Every lender is different though and some may impose additional charges so be sure you understand exactly what you are signing up to.