Mandatory licensing for lettings agents cannot come soon enough, says county agent
While I am not in favour of red tape and unnecessary legislation, there is no doubt in my mind that the lettings industry requires tighter regulation and control.
Over the last 20 years I have witnessed the steady growth of the private rented sector, with further growth expected as more and more people, some through choice as well as necessity, require rental accommodation.
Currently there is nothing to prevent anyone from setting up a letting agency. When you consider what the job entails, producing legally binding contracts, collecting thousands of pounds in rents and deposits from landlords and tenants, often without any protection whatsoever, how can this be allowed to happen?
There are typically close to a hundred pieces of legislation that a letting agent may be required to call upon on a day-to-day basis to practice both professionally and efficiently.
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By not regulating the industry the government are effectively permitting any Tom, Dick or Harry free rein to cause havoc and misery to unsuspecting landlords and tenants.
It's all well and good to say that people should seek out an agent who belongs to a voluntary licensing scheme, but the average man in the street would reasonably expect consumer protection from any operator in our industry.
There have been incidents recently, all local and reported in the press, of three letting agents disappearing with thousands of pounds of client monies. Two have been arrested and are being prosecuted through the courts, but I suspect it is highly unlikely that the unfortunate landlords and tenants involved will ever see any of their missing money.
Therefore, I fully support RICS findings and recommendations. To my mind mandatory licensing cannot come soon enough.