9 August 2014

LANDLORDS and tenants across Yorkshire continue to be left out of pocket by rogue letting agencies after plans to clean up the industry were ditched by the Government.

Rental specialists Linley & Simpson are reporting a rise in the number o

Will Linley

Never has it been more important than now, it says, to go through accredited agents who follow strict guidelines and work within stringent standards laid down by professional bodies such as ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) or NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme).

Director Will Linley said: "Nobody books a holiday with a travel agent who is not properly accredited and registered - but this isn't always the case in the rental market where the stakes are far higher.

"At the moment, anybody or any organisation can set up as a letting agent without any experience or qualifications as landlords and tenants are still finding to their cost. And, as the sector bucks the economic trend and continues to grow, it leaves the door wide open for more unethical operators to enter it.

"Our staff continue to hear sorry tales where landlords and tenants have put their trust into unregulated agents, and their money into their bank accounts - regrettably never to see it again. All too often it is used as an interest-free loan to keep them and their businesses afloat."

Linley & Simpson has helped a range of new customers pick up the pieces after being hoodwinked by an unregulated agent, including:

  • A York landlord who lost hundreds of pounds after the agent holding his tenants deposit suddenly disappeared without trace from its 'office' on an industrial estate.
  • A Leeds property owner who was left with empty pockets when the rental agency he had used to manage his portfolio closed down.
  • A Harrogate private landlord who used his tenants deposits to help his own cash-flow problems and reduce his overdraft.
  • An Ilkley tenant who transferred money to secure a property for rent featured on a classified website only to find to his cost that the property didn't exist.
  • A Wakefield tenant who was conned out of his monthly rent in a scam where he was telephoned by a fraudster pretending to be from a letting agency asking him to pay into a different bank account.

Long-awaited plans to clean up the sector by introducing a mandatory licensing scheme were set to come into force last year, with the twin aim of raising standards and driving out unqualified, unethical and unprofessional agencies. But they were dropped after a Government U-turn, leaving agents to explore new ways of policing the sector themselves.

Linley & Simpson is throwing its support behind the launch of a new 'kitemark' standard, which would easily define those managing agents who abide by all the current legislation, including the protection of client money and the holding of professional indemnity insurance, and are judged to operate to the highest standards.

It is drawing upon its expertise to work with other leading letting agents and ARLA to take forward the initiative further, with a launch planned later this year.

"More needs to be done to help clients differentiate between the good, the bad and the plain ugly in terms of letting agents. A kitemark-style standard and high-profile publicity campaign would help achieve this, giving landlords and tenants ultimate peace of mind in knowing that their money was safeguarded," said Mr Linley.

Other benefits of using regulated agents are that they offer a right of redress via The Property Ombudsman; they also have to offer a proper complaints procedure and ARLA agents have to comply with the ARLA code of conduct; client accounts are audited annually; and they have to have Client Money Protection (insurance against fraudulent accounting).

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