Gone are the days when letting agents experienced a lull at this time of year. December is now a busy month in the rental market, with thousands of people looking to secure and move into their new rented home in time for Christmas.
But with good quality rented properties in the most popular areas in short supply, how many of those looking to find their ideal home in time for Christmas will be selective when it comes to the letting agents they deal with? Particularly given that almost two thirds of tenants are unaware that letting agents are not regulated.
“Most tenants are understandably more concerned with the features of their next home – such as its size, location and whether they can afford the rent – than with the credentials of the letting agent they will be renting through,” says Leaders’ Managing Director, Paul Weller. “As a result, their ‘dream’ home – or even just the one that ticks the most boxes at the time – could turn into a nightmare if it leads them to a bad letting agent.”
Leaders’ recent survey of more than 5,500 tenants found that, for 70%, the choice of available properties is very important in choosing a letting agent. 63% are unaware that letting agents are not regulated by the government and less than half (42%) consider membership of a professional body to be very important when choosing their letting agent.
“Unaware that they are not protected by the law,” continues Weller, “most tenants choose their letting agent by the properties they have to offer and do not vet them to make sure they are qualified or trustworthy. As a result, too many people end up in the hands of incompetent and unscrupulous agents.
“This can mean being ripped off by unfair fees, their deposit being lost or stolen, their rights as a tenant ignored, putting up with a poor service and a badly maintained property throughout their tenancy, and worst of all, their physical safety jeopardised if the property does not comply with gas, fire and electrical safety regulations.”
These are just a few of the nightmare scenarios that tenants can find themselves facing if they land up with a bad agent. And with more tenants renting for longer*, and preferring their rented home to be looked after by an agent than by the landlord**, many could find themselves in an ongoing nightmare.
“The best Christmas present the government can give the 3.8 million tenants, and rising, in the private rented sector is to regulate letting agents. This would mean that in order to legally practice, letting agents would have to follow a statutory code of conduct, have qualifications in letting and property management and have Client Money Protection and Professional Indemnity insurance in place.
“The fact that anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent, with no experience, understanding of the market or knowledge of the law, and can do what they like with their clients’ money, is totally unacceptable. We believe that people looking for a home to rent – whether in time for Christmas or at any time in the future – should only have to worry about finding the right property and not have to concern themselves with vetting letting agents, which should be fully regulated by the government.
“40% of letting agents are not members of a professional body, so it is clear that self-regulation is not enough. How many more people must be let down before the government will regulate an industry that has been crying out for such measures for decades?”
Leaders has more than 80 branches and is the UK’s largest independently owned letting specialist. Established by the co-founder of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) in 1983, Leaders provides financial probity and rigorous standards in letting and property management. Membership of ARLA, SAFEagent and The Property Ombudsman gives landlords and tenants complete peace of mind. For more information please visit www.leaders.co.uk
Leaders’ survey of 5,750 tenants and prospective tenants, found that:
• *40% of tenants anticipate renting for 2-4 years with 16.5% anticipating renting for 5 or more years
• **67% of tenants would prefer their rented property to be looked after by an agent rather than the landlord
• Location is important to 99% of tenants choosing a rented property
• A modern kitchen and bathroom is important to 89% of tenants choosing a rented property
• Energy efficiency is important to 75% of tenants choosing a rented property
Parking is important to 68% of tenants choosing a rented property