Landlords hold key to cleaning up lettings industry
By Simon Thompson
Landlords should play their part in cleaning up the letting industry by refusing to do business with agents who fail to protect money paid to them as deposits and rents.
As Labour and self-interest landlord groups vie with each other to set up industry profiles, the real power lies with landlords - only they don’t seem to realise.
The problem highlighted by the latest Labour paper on lettings is anyone can start a property rental business without any qualification or licence and start accepting payments from tenants.
Letting agents regularly go bust owing tenants and landlords thousands of pounds in lost rent and deposits, even though the law says deposits must be safeguarded with an approved service.
Various groups have tried to set up self-regulated services to try to resolve the issue without success - these include SafeAgent and the Association of Residential Letting Agents.
The simple truth is if landlords turned their backs on letting agents who failed to protect deposits or ring fence other money held for clients, these agents would soon go out of business.
Lobby group the Residential Landlords Association backs this move - and calls for professional bodies to do more to root out bad agents.
Chairman Alan Ward said: “Landlords especially have it within their power to supply property only to letting agents which act fairly and professionally - and thus starve out the unqualified, the fraudulent and criminal operators.
“Landlords need to be discriminating in whom they employ as agents and not just take the cheapest offer.
“Equally it is incumbent on the agents, who are members of professional bodies to make clear their charges at all times to both landlords and tenants. Professional bodies should enforce those policies vigorously through effective self-regulation and therefore avoid the need for unnecessary extra regulation.”