At last a complaints and compensation scheme to protect landlords and letting from rogue letting agents has started.
From midnight on October 1, 2014, a letting agent in England or Wales must belong to one of three government approved ombudsman schemes.
If they have not signed up, the letting agent could face a fine of up to £5,000 from their local council and could be forced to close the business for repeated abuses of the scheme.
Landlords can find out if their letting agent is a member of one of the three schemes by checking online:
After joining one of the schemes, the letting agent must follow a code of conduct and agree to abide by the ombudsman’s decision if any complaints are made.
Ignoring a ruling could mean the letting agent is removed from the scheme and cannot join one of the other alternatives.
Besides checking if a letting agent belongs to one of the ombudsman schemes, landlords should also demand documentary evidence that the agent has a client money protection scheme in place.
This safeguards rents and deposits taken by the letting agent should the business run into financial difficulties or close.
Any agent affiliated to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or Safe Agent will have this cover.
Letting agents with these organisations can be checked out online through the scheme’s web site.
Official figures estimate the UK has around 18,000 letting agents and 5,000 do not belong to a redress or client money protection scheme.