11 September 2014

The National Approved Letting Scheme has become the first organisation to welcome the SAFE kitemark inititiative spearheaded by a group of agents.

Under SAFE, agents who have client money protection in place will be able to display the kitemark

"It makes complete sense that they should get the added value for money that this single distinctive kitemark will give. Consumers should make their decision on who to place their business with based on the protection that they get, should anything go wrong.

"This kitemark will help to point them in the right direction, and as a consumer focused organisation we are delighted to have been asked to help the agents get this off the ground. We believe this is a very positive move for the sector."

Letting agents have become increasingly concerned that agents who do have CMP in place through NALS, ARLA, NAEA and RICS are - in the public's eyes - indistinguishable from agents who do not.

Yet in one recent case, an agent which recently closed down led to 120 people losing a total of £450,000.

One concerned agent who had to deal with the fall-out of a firm which had used its client account to fund its business through the recession, found that its landlords had believed they were dealing with a professional organisation because it showed the OFT and Ombudsman logos.

When a landlord complained to the TPO, they found out it was too late. The OFT advised that they did not deal with individual complaints and suggested the landlord contact the TDS, which in turn advised that as membership had lapsed, they should refer the matter to Trading Standards, which suggested that the TDS should deal with it as it was a deposit issue.

When the agent asked the landlord why they had used the firm, the answer was: "Because they were cheaper."

Another concern for agents is that although all companies report to Companies House, a number do so showing negative balance sheets but carrying the caveat that the shareholders will support the company in the coming financial year.

Yet such agents are actually trading insolvently. Nor do their abbreviated accounts show any debtors, and crucially, nor do they include any reports for their client accounts.

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On the Market January 2015
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