14 September 2014

A YORKSHIRE residential letting agent is backing calls by a consumer watchdog for the property rental sector to be policed more strictly.

Linley & Simpson, an independent letting specialist for 15 years, said it was not surprised that an in

Will Linley

The magazine claimed that consumers were “gambling” whenever they had to choose a letting agent - and called for all letting agents to be governed by the same tough laws as estate agents, with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) having new powers to ban them.

Linley & Simpson, with bases in Leeds city centre, Horsforth, Roundhay, Wakefield, Ilkley, Harrogate, Wetherby, Ripon and York, has long campaigned for tighter controls and the need to drive up standards across a rapidly-expanding marketplace.

Its Director, Will Linley, said the Which? findings followed on the back of a report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors which likened the rental sector to “the Wild West” - full of cowboy operators and in desperate need of mandatory regulation.

“We were disappointed when plans to regulate letting agents and private landlords were shelved two years ago and welcome the fact that it seems to be back on the political agenda,” he said.

“Both these reports reveal a pressing need for tighter regulations to be introduced because at the moment anyone can set up as a letting agent or private landlord.

“ Nobody books a holiday with a travel agent who is not properly accredited and registered - but, as ever-increasing numbers of tenants are finding to their cost, this isn’t always the case in the rental market where the stakes are far higher.”

He said that landlords and tenants should check that their letting agency was part of a voluntary scheme, such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents or the National Approved Letting Scheme. Such initiatives - alongside the new SAFEagent kitemark of quality - offered ultimate peace of mind about customer service and client money protection.

He added: “One of the many worrying findings of the Which? report was that two-thirds of tenants and nearly half of landlords did not know whether their letting agent belonged to a professional body - this is something where we all need to promote greater awareness.”

Which? said it had uncovered bad practice, unexpected and unfair fees, and a lack of consumer protection that fails both landlords and tenants.

Researchers also found that both tenants and landlords were found to have lost money through agents not passing on rent, unfairly handling deposits or failing to protect deposits.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “With the private rented sector now the only option for millions of people, it is vital that more is done to protect both tenants and landlords from rogue letting agents.”

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