The number of renters in Britain has been steadily rising and this trend is set to continue throughout 2014. There are now moves to improve legislation in regard to the relationship between letting agents and their customers (both tenants and landlords).
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has announced that it is now obligatory for all letting agents to be part of Redress Schemes that will regulate the relationship between estate agents and tenants and landlords. The schemes have been set up to investigate complaints of misconduct on behalf of agencies and to recoup losses for individuals where necessary. Although the schemes were introduced in 2007, it hasn’t been essential and 40% of letting agents are currently not members.
Landlords often have to pay large estate agent fees and are typically overlooked when it comes to rental legislation. This move should make the process of renting out buy-to-let properties more transparent. This suits new landlords who may not have the confidence to enter the rental market without an agent.
Before the decision to make compensation schemes mandatory, consumers didn’t have a step to take before taking an agency to court. Due to the lengthy and complicated nature of this process, some letting agents have been getting away with unfair treatment of their tenants and/or landlords with no recourse. Now, a consumer will employ the help of one of the redress schemes and the complaint will be investigated. If the complaint is found to be valid, money will then be returned from the agent to the tenant or landlord.
The announcement has been made after figures showed that there were 10, 179 complaints from tenants and landlords about lettings in the year 2012-13, which is a 23% increase on the previous year. These figures show an increase in awareness of rental rights from both sides. A further move to increase transparency has been made by the Advertising Standard Authority who declared in 2013 that letting agents must disclose all of their non-optional fees alongside the monthly rent amount on the properties they advertise.