It continues to sadden me that Landlords are still willing to hand over their valuable properties to unscrupulous Agents with no affiliation to any of the Professional bodies that are specifically there to protect them. Once again the TPO (The Property Ombudsman) Annual Report 2011 highlighted another year which saw a further increase in letting complaints, Christopher Hamer, is renewing his call for standards to be raised across the lettings industry in his latest Annual Report.

The TPO’s office dealt with 7,641 letting enquiries during 2011, a 26 per cent increase on 2010, slightly more than 25 per cent of these complaint enquiries concerned letting agents who were not registered with TPO and the TPO are concerned that, for those consumers, they may have little alternative but to undertake potentially costly legal action to pursue their complaint, a daunting prospect in the current financial climate.

Knowledgeable landlords already check if an agent has a separate account for client money and has signed up to a redress scheme, before allowing them to market their property. However, landlords who are new to lettings, for example, will no doubt be attracted by lower fees and may not enquire what protection the agent can provide both them and their tenants should problems later occur. Agents who protect client money and follow the TPO Code of Practice can give landlords this reassurance.

If all landlords ensured that their agent had these credentials, I firmly believe that tenants and landlords would see the benefits of using agents who adhere to important standards of business and stories concerning ‘rogue agents’, with which we are all familiar, would dramatically reduce. In order to achieve this level of consumer awareness, the Ombudsman is proposing the formation of an industry council to develop and promote overall standards within the lettings sector.

The council would also seek to ensure that consumers understand why they should avoid letting agents who refuse to follow a set of industry standards, such as the TPO Code of Practice, and who do not seek out membership of recognised industry bodies such as ARLA, NALS, or RICS. Getting that message across can be difficult particularly since the lure of low fees can be so tempting. Landlords need to wise up and realise that low fees usually come with low standards which ultimately mean that bigger issues will arise at some point during the tenancy.

Landlords – don’t cut corners when it comes to handing your property over to an Agent it will only come back to haunt you in the end, use an Agent that is affiliated with one of the professional bodies already mentioned. Sadly the TPO is contacted way too often these days to pick up the pieces.