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Regulations on letting agents lack teeth warns city property firm

news > Regulations on letting agents lack teeth warns city property firm

31st March 2017

Government-approved vetting schemes, tasked with scrutinising letting agents, lack teeth, according to a Birmingham professional.

Justyn Horton, senior branch manager at Century 21 Bigwood, was commenting on nationwide concerns that some unlicensed agents are still able to get away with flouting the regulations.

By law, letting agents cannot trade unless they are a member of one of three schemes, the Property Redress Scheme (PRS), the Property Ombudsman or the Ombudsman Service.

Critics say action is ineffective and there is a lack of regulatory power.

That is despite, for example, PRS, which costs £200 to join, claiming to offer “straightforward and easy-to-use consumer redress”.

It promises “to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers against our members”, offering mediation and making binding decisions on complaints.

Last year the PRS upheld four complaints against one firm of letting agents but the company failed to pay compensation of £15,406. That left PRS stymied – it could not enforce the order. The only redress it has is to expel rogue traders.

Mr Horton said it meant most cases are escalated to Trading Standards.

“This builds on the need for transparency within the market place and the choice of agent,” he said.

“Agents need to take all reasonable steps to protect the interests of the client throughout the whole process.

“However, overall the speed of redress is too slow for tenants when letting agents breach regulations. If the penalties were larger and enforceable by the three schemes this would deter rogues.”

But, he added, it was important to note that not all letting agents were considered “rogue”.

He stressed: “Like ourselves, the great majority of agents are respectable professionals acting to high standards. As always, it is the few who let down the many.”

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