Five valleys agents back call to licence lettings industry
Five Valleys estate agents are backing calls for the Government to regulate the lettings industry.
Lack of effective regulation has allowed the lettings sector to become the property industry's Wild West, putting consumers at risk, according to RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).
RICS' consumer letting survey, published last week, highlights the potential for rogue lettings agents to cash in on the current rental boom due to a combination of consumers' low expectations and a total lack of effective regulation.
Stroud letting agent Gill Critchson, of The Property Centre, which has an office in Stroud, said new landlords also needed help with regulation when starting out.
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"It can be particularly difficult for first time landlords to comply with every piece of legislation, which is why I strongly recommend landlords to choose a reputable letting agent to manage their property, whether it is a single address or a larger portfolio of properties.
"All of our tenants are given the prescribed documents and are required to sign that they have received them. This protects both the landlord and the tenant from any misunderstanding."
Despite the fact 92 per cent of tenants said they were satisfied with their lettings agent, two thirds of those surveyed in key areas across England said they did not receive an inventory when moving into a property, demonstrating the worryingly low standards expected by tenants.
It is currently possible for anyone to set up a lettings agency without appropriate qualifications, knowledge or understanding of the rental process. In addition, it is not compulsory for agents to conform to any code of conduct, provide safeguards or register with a government-approved redress system.
Richard Powell, of RICS-regulated Naylor Powell estate agents, which has an office in Stonehouse, said regulation was essential.
"It is a problem," he said. "The Government need to license this."
Despite this, four out of five renters believe lettings agents are required to abide by a government, ombudsman or regulatory body code of practice – demonstrating a lack of accessible information on lettings agent's legal requirements.
In addition, there is a clear demand for regulation amongst consumers, with 87 per cent of renters supporting a single compulsory regulation scheme for all letting agents.
Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "What we would like to see is the government taking direct action on this and introducing a single regulatory and redress system for both sales and lettings agents to make sure they are fully accountable.
"Until this happens, we recommend that tenants use an lettings agent that is a member of a professional organisation, such as RICS."