If you are already an established landlord or are considering the letting of property as a new venture then, unless you have the time and the resources yourself, you will want to appoint a letting agent.
That's where your problems could begin. Do you know how many letting agents there are in the country? No? Don't worry, you're not alone, nobody does not even the government. The UK is unique amongst other EU nations in that the entire letting industry is totally unregulated.
Anyone can start an agency, handle your money and be in charge on a day to day basis of probably the single most valuable item that you will ever own. The stories of mismanagement from the largest established letting agents down to what are little more than criminal enterprises are legion and are occurring with increasing regularity.( Here put in the clipping from The Standard).
Let's look at a worst case scenario. You are introduced to an agent or see an advertisement. The person from the agency seems pleasant and to know what they are doing and you sign an agreement for them to take charge of the management of your property, to find suitable tenants.
Your first problems might have already started. We have said that there is no regulation of the industry which is true, but there are a number of professional organisations which have set standards. You, as a member of the public, wouldn't necessarily know this and couldn't therefore ask for evidence of accreditation.
Even if the website or stationary bears the logo of an established and reputable professional body it is still worth a phone call to see that the agency is a member or not. It could be the case that the firm used to be but has been struck off or not paying its current membership fees or misconduct. It is not an offence to claim to be a member of many professional bodies and where that organisation discovers that their name and logo is being misused may decide that legal action which will be expensive simply isn't worth it.
We'll assume that your agent is now in place with a contract signed and now finds a suitable tenant for your property. This could be the next problem, suitability. There is a very simple rule. Check. Don't simply assume that what the prospective tenant tells the agent is true. The problem is that you have no way of knowing what transpired between them although you have a right to.
The agent should as a duty to you as the client under both common law and statute have checked the representations made by the tenant to see if they were true. A worst case scenario, and do always look at things from that point of view, is this. The tenant has used a friend to provide headed notepaper as proof of employment, obtained essentially bogus wage documents by trawling the internet for companies that supply " replacement wage slips" and essentially concocting a bogus character.
A part of the fees that your agent charges should involve credit checks . They don't cost much and are well worth the effort. Imagine the cost if after a couple of months or even weeks the tenant can't pay the rent, a court order has to be obtained which can take time and money and when possession is finally regained you walk into an empty property, all of your furnishings washing machine, fixtures and fittings are gone.
Another possibility is the following. The rent is forwarded to you for a few months and then stops. You naturally call the agent to find out what is happening, and have difficulty in that the land line phone number you have merely re-routes to a mobile which accepts messages but no-one gets back. Eventually someone from the agent calls back and promises to find out what is going on. What has happened is that the tenant, earning a much lower income that stated now cannot afford to pay the rent and has simply stopped. You instruct the agent to start court proceedings to regain possession of the property which they agree to do.
Eventually the case comes to your local county court and the judge throws the case out because your agents, with no legal training, have served a Section 21 Notice under the 1988 Housing Act instead of a Section 8 under the same Act. Judges see badly prepared cases and gross mismanagement every day and will always use their discretion on the side of the tenant.
You are now several months out of pocket on the rent and it's back to square one with the correct notice being served. Understandably you are not best pleased with your agents and are unwise enough to send them a series of text messages telling them so and saying that you want the tenants out ASAP whatever it takes. The agents then call at the property and make threats against the tenants telling them to get out.
Understandably frightened the tenants head for their local Citizens Advice Bureau where, unfortunately for you, they find a hot shot property lawyer giving a bit of free legal advice. He contacts the police who arrest the agents under the Prevention from Eviction Act 1977. When interviewed they show the police the text messages from you and the police arrest you as well.
The CAB obtains an injunction against you or anyone else going to the property or contacting the tenants. Bad enough? It gets worse. The tenants are now living in your property rent free and the building society are moving to take possession from you as the mortgage is in arrears, ironically under the same section of the 1988 Act that you were using however belatedly, against the tenants.
Season this witch's brew with a possible criminal conviction and a damages claim from the tenants which they would almost certainly win. Oh, and did we mention that the tenant's deposits were not kept in a separate client account protected by an insurance scheme and have now been used by the agents to keep their business afloat? Expect a claim from the tenants on that one as well, they will allege negligence on your part in not making sure that your agents complied with the Housing Act 2004.
We are not describing one single case but we have constructed a worst case scenario from situations that we know have happened. It doesn't have to be like this and by clicking on the appropriate connections we set out in full what we offer tenants and landlords which will be contained in a legally binding document backed by our membership of a professional association, Personal Indemnity Insurance with ourselves being bound by decisions of The Property Ombudsman, an official government body. Read on.