Most tenants will rent their property via letting agents. But there are quite a few important points you should know about them .
Here are five for starters. You will probably find some others if you read around the posts on this blog.
1. Letting agents are unregulated
Yes, anyone can set up as a letting agent. There are no exams to pass, no regulations to comply with. So that letting agent with the fancy web-site and all the talk could be completely inexperienced, know virtually nothing about landlord and tenant law, and have no professional indemnity insurance.
Some agents are regulated but this is voluntary. But if at all possible it is best to choose one of these. The organisations are:
- The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) – www.arla.co.uk
- The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – www.rics.org
- The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) – www.nalscheme.co.uk
- The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) – www.naea.co.uk
It is also good if they are registered with the Property Ombudsman (TPO) – www.tpos.co.uk
2. The letting agents client is the landlord. Not you.
This will often mean that when push comes to shove, it is the landlords interests which are more important to the agent. The landlord is after all the one paying his fee.
3. If you pay your tenancy deposit to the agent, the agent is responsible for seeing that it is protected.
So if the agent says that he has passed it over to the landlord and it is none of his business, this is wrong. He is liable to you if the regulations have not been complied with, in the same way that the landlord is. This was confirmed in a High Court decision called Draycott & Draycott -v- Hannells Letting Limited.
Note that if you find this out after you have moved out the property, you will be able to make a claim using our tenancy deposit no win no fee service.
4. Your agent is legally obliged to provide your landlords’ details
Under s1 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the agent (or the person who collects rent) must give you the name and address of your landlord within 21 days of you making a written request.
If your landlord is a limited company, you are entitled to request the name and address of every director and the company secretary.
If the agent refuses to give you this information, it is a criminal offence. You should report this to your Local Authority Housing Officer however as Local Authorities are the prosecuting organisation, not the police.
5. If your agent assures you of something which then turns out to be untrue, you may be able to sue him for compensation.
This will not always be the case, and also you will only be able to sue if you have actually suffered some financial loss. You can read more about this in my blog post here.
Those are my five points. Do you have any points which you think tenants ought to know about?
See more help for tenants on Landlord Law.