There has been much said, and we wrote recently, about the proposed ban on letting agent fees - and as a result much discussion about the role of letting agents. However the positive role that letting agents play is often overlooked. There can also be confusion in who does what in the management of a property.
Often it is the case that a letting agent is accused of not keeping up with the maintenance of a property where it is actually out of their control. While some landlords ask a letting agent to fulfil every part of the letting out and managing of a property, other landlords do not. Some use a letting agent only to find a tenant and then choose to take on the management of the property themselves leaving the letting agent powerless to help if the landlord does not then fulfil their obligations to the tenant.
Approximately 50% of landlords choose to rent their properties out themselves and this can result in a tenant receiving a very different level of care. While large landlords with multiple properties are likely to keep on top of the latest legislation and safety standards, many smaller landlords will not and may be oblivious to the fact they need to. This can result in a poorer outcome and levels of service for the tenants.
How can it be right that a tenant who goes through one route can be left fully protected in a well-maintained property, while a tenant who lets through a different route can receive none of this protection?
The other element in the mix is property management companies, also known as block management. These companies tend to look after communal areas in blocks of flats for example, and very often neither the landlord nor the letting agent will have any control over how these companies behave.
There are often delays in repairs being carried out by block management companies that impacts on tenants occupying a flat in the building. Often there is little that the landlord or their letting agent can do about anything associated with the responsibilities of block managers, however it is easy to confuse the responsibilities of block management with lettings and management agents. Changing a lettings agent is relatively easy; changing a block manager is much more difficult.
Therefore there should be regulation that covers all parts of the property management chain including letting agents, managing agents (including block managers) and landlords and there should be a requirement that all are members of a professional body.
Regulation needs to focus on ensuring properties are let legally and safely. Tenants are entitled to expect to live safely and in comfort. A good letting agent will look after both the landlord’s interests and that of the tenant’s, but every tenant should expect these same rights. The proposed ban on letting agent fees will do nothing to help ensure that this is the case.