‘Cowboy’ Letting Agent Causing Havoc For Tenants

by Editor on May 31, 2013

Cowboy

Flawed government policy is causing many in Scotland to suffer at the hands of unregulated letting agents.

Shelter Scotland has released a damning assessment of the country’s existing housing policy, remarking that paltry regulation means that letting agents are trading in a sector “reminiscent of the Wild West”. Graeme Brown, Managing Director of the housing charity, said, “We want the Government to make sure that all letting agents in Scotland are effectively regulated, so that all tenants and landlords get a fair deal and the opportunity to make a house a home.”

Mr. Brown said he believes that an evolution of policy is essential, saying, “Private residential renting in Scotland is growing and evolving, driven in part by the fast- increasing number of families and people looking for a safe, secure and affordable place to live. Despite this, letting agents have been able to operate in an unregulated sector reminiscent of the Wild West, with the flagrant disregard of the law by a few causing havoc and upheaval to tenants.”

Voluntary Registration

Registration with the Association of Residential Letting Agents is currently voluntary. There are approximately 500 letting agents in business nationwide that together deal with over 150,000 private rental agreements each year. However only 155 of these are registered to this recognized body that provides industry oversight and financial security and Shelter Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to introduce legislation to better regulate the sector. Its campaign has received widespread support across the country and in the industry itself, whose responsible letting agents would also benefit from tightened laws.

Clearing Out The Cowboys

Shelter Scotland says that dealing with “cowboy” letting agents means that tenants open themselves up to poor customer service including appointment no-shows and overly aggressive sales tactics, as well as deposits handed over that have no protection scheme coverage. There have also been widespread reports of tenants moving into homes that they later found to have serious maintenance issues and of others being charged a reference-writing fee on top of the charge for a reference check on the other end. Taken together, Shelter Scotland said complaints about letting agents to the UK’s property ombudsman had increased by 123 per cent in little over five years.

Improving Existing Legislation

A spokesman from the Scottish Government reaffirmed its commitment to improve regulations in the sector and announced that a new strategy would be released on 30 May. “That is why we reexamioned and clarified the existing legislation last year to make it clear in no uncertain terms that the charging of premium payments for entering into a private rented tenancy was not allowed, and also introduced the Tenancy Deposit Scheme to safeguard tenants’ deposit money.”

The scheme was original launched in England three years ago and has been deemed an overwhelming success, (perhaps not by the unscrupulous landlords and letting agents it hit hard in the wallet though!)

Have you been the victim of a subpar landlord or letting agent? Perhaps they never returned your deposit, or charged an extortionate amount for ‘cleaning’. If this sounds like you we would love to hear from you. Please share you experiences in the comments below.

About the Author

Stuart is a Plymouth letting agent and is a member of the Deposit Protection Scheme.

photo by: Moyan_Brenn

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