Complaints against letting agents from landlords and tenants were up 28.6 in the first four months of 2013.
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has released new figures showing the number of complaints surged from 279 to 391 in comparison with same period (January 1 – April 30) in 2012.
The TPO reviewed more cases in comparison to the same time last year – 296 against 208, while 381 were closed against 195 in 2012.
However, more letting agents are arguing the decisions – up from 50 in 2012 to 121 in 2013.
The TPO, Christopher Hamer, also warned letting agents to expect more legal action from the Office of Fair Trading and local trading standards offices over consumer protection rules.
Although the rules were introduced in 2008, enforcing them gives the TPO some teeth to make decisions.
The regulations cover:
- Misleading Actions – like wrongly describing a property
- Misleading Omissions – like failing to disclose key information
- Aggressive Practices – Putting undue pressure on a prospective tenant to use an associated service
- Banned Practices – for example claiming to be a member of a professional body when not.
- Lack of professional diligence – not carrying out reasonable checks on information from a third party.
As an example, a disagreement over gardening at a rented home sparked a complaint when the tenant discovered the letting agent was falsely claiming membership of a trade body.
The deceit was spotted when the tenant tried to complain to the trade body.
The ombudsman awarded the tenant £200 against the agent for time wasted complaining to the trade body. However the ombudsman had no power to take action against the letting agent for the banned practice.
“I hope agents are now aware of the importance of developing their businesses to take into account the obligations they face under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations,” said the ombudsman.
“In simple terms, mean full disclosure at the earliest opportunity of all that an agent knows about a property, all that they should reasonably be expected to know and what they become aware of during the marketing of the property; and which will affect the average consumer’s transactional decision.”