Complaints against letting agents increased drastically during 2012, occupying the majority of the Property Ombudsman’s time and increasing the organisation’s workload.

During 2012, the Property Ombudsman received a total of 15,782 complaints, including those made against both Estate agents dealing with property sales and lettings and property management agents concerning renting property.

The increase in volume was a 12% jump up from 2011 when there were 14,066 complaints and landlords were slightly more likely to make a complaint about letting agents rather than the tenants complaining about landlords.

In addition there was also a 39% increase in the number of cases referred for formal review or easy resolution. In total, the Ombudsman supported 73.8% of complaints against lettings agents.

54% of complaints against lettings agents concerned poor service, letting agent fees and charges occupied 12% of inquiries. Of the cases that required investigation by the Ombudsman, 50% of issues concerned poor service, however, the complaints concerning fees and charges increased to 20%.

The increase in complaints put real pressure on the organisation and ombudsman Christopher Hamer admitted. “This has resulted in longer times taken to review each complaint, however, we are gradually bringing the situation back to a more acceptable level.”

Mr Hamer expressed his views saying that where an agent retains a sum of money which is kept when the tenant pulls out is not a fair approach. He said “Agents should only charge a prospective tenant up-front for referencing and reasonable administration costs. It should also be made absolutely clear that a prospective tenant stands to forfeit these amounts if they do not proceed, but if they do go ahead with the tenancy, that the money is credited against future rent”.

Landlords need to fight the poor level of service offered by some unscrupulous letting agents and demand better service. Fee structures exist to cover the administration and marketing costs associated with advertising the property to rent, time and money that is provided by the agents staff to work on behalf of the applying tenant as well as protecting the interests of the landlord.

There are more credible and reputable lettings and property managing agents than there are shysters in the uk, landlords should always endeavour to research their chosen agent before agreeing and committing to them managing the rental property. Ensure that the company is at least a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme, or a memeber of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) or National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).

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