GL #5: When things go wrong with letting agents


In this week’s episode, Richard Jackson and Suzanne Smith discuss what landlords can do when things go wrong with letting agents, and how to make a complaint. It’s the third in a series of three episodes on what landlords need to know about letting agents.

While the vast majority of interactions with letting agents are positive, it’s important for landlords to know what options they have when things go wrong. Richard and Suzanne discuss how to make complaints to the letting agents and the redress schemes, and the additional protection that choosing Propertymark members provides landlords. The podcast episode also touches on complaints to Trading Standards and taking legal action in the small claims court.

This episode follows GL#3: Guide to selecting good letting agents and GL#4: Tips for signing up with letting agents.

female landlord complaining on the phone about a letting agent

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What are the most common complaints about letting agents?

According to the Property Redress Scheme 2023 Annual Report, the top three categories of complaints about letting agents are holding deposits (presumably by tenants), poor service and management, and tenancy payments and rent collection.

Here are other common causes for complaint by landlords:

  • Poor communication and failure to provide information
  • Inspections: failing to carry them out or not preparing a report after they do an inspection
  • Signing up poor quality tenants
  • Not arranging gas safety certificates in time when it’s not due to the tenant failing to give access.
  • Repairs: not carrying out repairs promptly or properly, or overcharging
  • Rent arrears: not chasing late payments properly and not keeping the landlord informed about rent arrears
  • Failing to forward rent onto the landlord

Keeping good records

It’s important for landlords to keep good records of conversations with letting agents so it’s clear what has been agreed and what feedback has been given. Richard keeps his notes in the Alphaletz property management software so there is a record in the event of a dispute.

Contemporaneous notes that are made at the time can provide excellent evidence if a complaint escalates into legal action, where “recollections may differ”.

Different ways to make complaints about letting agents

Landlords have three different routes to making complaints. The first is to make a complaint to the agent, which is then escalated to the redress scheme if the landlord isn’t happy with the outcome of the complaint. The second is to complaint to Trading Standards. The third is legal action. It is possible to combine one or more of these routes.

>> Blog post: The Independent Landlord guide to resolving problems with letting agents

Informal complaint to letting agents

The first step is to make an informal complaint to the branch by speaking to the branch manager, and making clear where their service falls short and what action you expect. They might not know you’re unhappy and it might be a simple thing that can put right. You can speak to them on the phone or sit down with them in person.

Even though this is informal, do follow it up by email so that there is a clear record. This will be useful if they don’t rectify the problem. If you don’t have written evidence, it’s as if it didn’t happen.

Formal complaint to letting agents

If the informal route doesn’t achieve the result you were asking for, the next stage is to make a formal written complaint to the letting agent.

First ask for their complaints procedure. Not all agents will have a complaints procedure as it’s only compulsory for members of The Property Ombudsman redress scheme, and not the Property Redress Scheme. If they have a complaints procedure, make sure you follow it correctly. If they don’t have a complaints procedure, write to the branch manager (or the regional manager if the complaint is about the branch manager).

The complaint should explain why you are unhappy and what the circumstances were that you believe led to the act or failure to act that you are complaining about. It is helpful if you provide evidence or a timeline. Make sure you say what you would like them to do to resolve your complaint.

>> Useful resource: The Property Ombudsman: How to make a complaint to letting agents

>> Useful resource: The Independent Landlord template complaint letter about poor service

Refer complaint to redress scheme

All letting agents have a legal obligation to belong to one of two redress schemes: The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme. (As an aside, the Renters Reform Bill is due to introduce a landlord redress scheme for tenants to use when they want to complain about their agents: Guide to the new PRS Landlord Ombudsman).

The agent should have the logo of the redress scheme they have joined on their website. You can also look the agent up on the National Trading Standards’ property agent checker.

Landlords can escalate a complaint to the agent’s redress schemes if they’re unhappy with the final outcome of their complaint to the letting agent (called the “final viewpoint letter”) or if 8 weeks have passed since you complained and the issue remains unresolved. respond. It’s free for landlords to refer a complaint to a redress schemes.

With both redress schemes, landlords need to complete a complaint form. You can find to the forms by clinking on the links below.

>> Useful resource: Property Redress Scheme Online Complaint Form

>> Useful resource: The Property Ombudsman Complaint Form

Propertymark members – extra recourse

Letting agents who are members of Propertymark are subject to additional regulation. Not only do they have to comply the Codes of Practice for Residential Letting agents of The Property Ombudsman, with but they also have to Propertymark’s Conduct and Management Rules.

If a landlord isn’t happy with the response to the complaint from the agent or the redress scheme, provided the agent is a member of Propertymark, the landlord can send their complaint to Propertymark.

They have an independent disciplinary panel, which includes lay (independent) members who hear the complaints.

>> Useful resource: Check to see if the agent is a member of Propertymark

Complaint to Trading Standards

The National Trading Standards Estates and Letting Agents Team is responsible for enforcing the Tenant Fees Act 2019, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

If all else fails, it’s possible to take legal action against letting agents by bringing a claim in the small claims court division of the county court. For instance, to recover rent that the letting agent has not passed onto the landlord.

Golden nuggets

The first golden nugget is that is worth taking the effort to complain. If they’re a good agent, they’ll want to learn from the experience. Your action might actually nip this practice in the bud.

There will be some agents who don’t want to lean into the feedback, but they still need to be held to account.

The second golden nugget is that it’s important to choose quality agents. Don’t just go for the bargain basement, but choose ones that have proper systems and processes in place. Agents with trained staff. It’s worth paying extra for agents who prioritise good service.

Credits

Music: “Paradise Found” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech. Licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 License.

what to do when things go wrong with letting agents

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