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Can you spot a ROGUE letting agent?

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Written by Kevin Winchester - www.winchesterlettings.com

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There are many good honest letting agents that this blog will not apply to, however there are also a growing number of companies that this will apply to.

Since the market crashed in 2008 there have been a number of new property rental companies sprouting up. Plenty of these agents have been offering very low fee services to entice landlords to use them; although in principal there is nothing wrong with this, the ‘discount agents’ seem to be the ones that end up costing landlords and tenants more.

The saying that applies here: “If the deal is too good to be true, then it’s likely not to be true.”

One of the misleading things that a rogue agent does is to make the consumer believe that you should use their services by using false advertising of belonging to a professional membership such as ARLA, PROPERTY OMBUDSMAN, NAEA, RICS and NALS. It is very easy for a dishonest company to copy and paste one or all of the above logos onto their website and marketing material without actually becoming a member.

If you are in doubt whether they are genuinely a member of a certain accreditation or discipline schemes then I would suggest you contact the membership they claim to be part of who will be able to confirm verbally if they are genuine members or will list all member agents on their website. If a lettings agent goes to these lengths to make a client believe they are a credible when really they are not, then alarm bells should be ringing!

An article on Letting Agent Today mentions about an agent that was found to have added professional membership logos to their advertising without actually being members; when they were challenged about it by Trading Standards they claimed it was an error and was junior staff that had done it without permission of the owner!

The other main problem which frequently appears in the news is the misuse of clients money i.e. rent and deposits paid by tenants to the lettings agents for landlords they manage. A public awareness campaign was launched recently called SAFEagents – an industry Kitemark for the consumer to show that the agency they are using holds Client Money Protection Insurance. I would urge all tenants and landlords to use agents that use this Kitemark and ask to see a copy of the certificate showing they have the correct insurance in place.

Unfortunately there is no real regulation for lettings agents which means that for the time being its buyer beware; check all paperwork for fees and charges and always ask for proper invoices and receipts for payments you make to a letting agent. Spotting a rogue letting agency is tough as the dishonest ones will cover up what they do. If you are ever in doubt I would suggest that you contact your local Trading Standards office or Citizens Advice who will be happy to investigate any suspect agents.

Winchester Lettings Group based in Bromley, Kent are members of NALS (Accreditation No: A2605), Ombudsman for Lettings (Membership No: L000385), SAFEagents (No:  S2767) we fully support an initiative for full regulation of the industry.

5 Responses to “Can you spot a ROGUE letting agent?”

  1. Dave Wright Says:

    We have spotted a lot of these popping up all over the place recently, it puts a really bad mark on the industry for those who are genuine.

  2. Anna Says:

    I have dealing with a rogue managing agent for years; having finally decided to replace them with someone competent I am facing all sorts of problems : they are refusing to pass the property keys, claiming they don’t have them, and have with-held a ridiculous amount of money as “transfer fee”, which is not in our contract.

    As the agents in question are not members of any association is there any redress ?

    Thank you

  3. Kevin Winchester Says:

    Dear Anna,

    Thank you for commenting and I am sorry to hear that you have fallen foul to a rogue letting agent. Even if an agent is not part of a redress scheme you can still try the following:

    DO:
    Report them to the Office of Fair trading.

    Consider taking legal advice, based on the feedback from a contract solicitor.

    If they are estate agents they may be members of http://www.naea.co.uk/complaints/ if so they may be in breach of the membership obligations.

    DONT:
    Start a smear campaign although it may be satisfying doing so, you could end getting sued for slander or getting a visit from the police.

    The least hassle for you is the OFT route, they will take great pleasure in investigating said agent.

    Good luck and please let me know if you get anywhere.

    Regards

    Kevin Winchester

  4. Dennis LUI Says:

    My lettings agent took our tenant’s deposit.

    Now he claims that there was some crime committed within his agency and he does not want to return the deposit to us.

    What recourse do we have against this dishonest letting agent?

  5. Miss Antill Says:

    We used Bisley Homes Poperty in St. Johns, Woking who allowed the tenant to sublet our 2 bed house to 4-6 people who have caused severe damage to the property, they only made 1 check on the property way back in February and nothing since even though they had keys. They are changing their name to Heaths Estate Agents.

    They are no longer members of TPO or NAEA.

    I can safely advise DO NOT use this rogue agent.

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