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Letting agents are a key part of the rental process for many BTL homeowners and renting households, but now officials are looking into the industry after complaints from both sides of the property divide.

According to The Independent today, the Office of Fair Trading is now investigating practices in this key property sector after landlords and tenants expressed their dissatisfaction at a number of property marketing and management practices.

OFT investigators are reacting to almost 4,000 complaints from those involved in the rental process, which highlighted problems with “stealth fees” – those that are only publicised after contracts have been signed – and poor service.

Rental Market Needs “Greater Transparency”

They are calling for greater transparency, greater regulation and are also encouraging tenants to ensure they have all the relevant information before making a contracted commitment.

However, industry body ARLA (the Associaton of Residential Letting Agents) have welcomed the move, claiming the current economic climate and resulting lettings boom has led to unscrupulous opportunists bringing down the reputation of the industry.

ARLA managing director Ian Potter said: “We have long-called for a central system of regulation, and would agree with a number of the OFT’s recommendations to help improve the market.”

Advice for Landlords and Tenants

In the meantime, anyone involved in the property marketing process should:

  • Always choose a lettings agent that is a member of a recognised industry body such as ARLA or the NAEA
  • Ask for written details of all contracts and charges before committing.
  • Seek advice from a qualified party or organisation such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the event of confusion.
  • Report any serious issues to the OFT.