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Four calls an hour to Ombudsman over lettings problems

New cases concerning house sales are also on the rise again.

Hamer said he expected these figures to grow still more later this year.

Hamer reports he is investigating almost 79% more lettings cases (127) at the moment than he did in the same period, July 1 to September 30, last year (71) although the number of people calling for help about lettings has only risen by 67% to reach 1679 over the quarter.

Cases under investigation involving sales have risen 17% for the third quarter, from 104 to 122. But reflecting market conditions they are still almost 32% below last year’s level (179) while inquiries are down by 36% over the year (966 in 2009, 1525 in 2008).

"The statistics in this report covering the period 1 July to 30 September 2009 show the continuing trend of increasing lettings disputes referred to my office," Mr Hamer said.

"I have noted, however, a small surge in sales disputes and whilst there has been much talk about the market beginning to pick up, if that is true it will be some months yet before that has an effect on my workload.

"Trends in the market are mirrored in the numbers of cases that I am asked to decide about three to four months later so any actual increase in activity in the market will become apparent in my workload towards the end of the year."

The principal causes of disputes over lettings arise when agents are alleged to have failed to make adequate checks of tenant references, not explaining that holding deposits are forfeit if the tenant does not go ahead with renting the property, and inspection visits not being frequent enough to prevent deterioration of the property.

With regard to sales, complaints have arisen from sellers who have been asked to pay for a Home Information Pack when the property has not sold and home owners who have become liable to dual fees after switching agents when the market was slow.

Related to this second point, Hamer reports he is also getting calls from estate agents complaining about the behaviour of other agents who are making unsolicited approaches to sellers who already have their properties for sale or to let, widely known as "touting".

He adds that the quantity and format of "flyers" put out by agents, whether targeted at a district, street, or individual addresses, could be an irritation to occupants. To comply with the Code of Conduct issued by TPO, any material should also fully explain to property owners that there is the risk of a double liability to fees if they are currently, or have been, selling their property through another agent.

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0 thoughts on “Four calls an hour to Ombudsman over lettings problems

  1. Running a lettings business requires due diligence after all you are responsible for other people’s property and recommendations you make as an agent will be judged by the tenants performance. Although no one can predict how a tenant will be I do think a little common sense should be used.

    There are a lot of agents that have joined the The Property Ombudsman Lettings in order to show landlord’s tenants that they are prepared to have set service standards, however this has been mainly due to the amount of Sales agents that have jumped on the Lettings side to survive the downward trend in property sales. This ultimately means there are some companies that may have not had a lot of experience in letting properties and the complexities of legislation and relevant housing acts.

    A landlord should use a lettings agent that uses a reputable referencing agency such as FCC Paragon, HomeLets ect therefore if they follow the conclusions from these companies about a tenants suitability there is less of a chance of not correctly checking a tenant and more importantly the reference company is responsible not the letting agent.

    Part of the NALS accreditation schemes advises tenants that they will be made aware of the Lettings Agents Terms of Rental/Business this should have what they are expected to pay agents fees and when they are refundable i.e. landlord withdrawing from letting the property.
    Doing regular visits to properties that are being managed by an agent is fundamental – my company will visit a managed property at least once every 3 months, a suitable Section 11 Notice should be served on the tenant and the agent should carry out a thorough visual inspection take the camera along just in case for evidence.

    With precautions like these in place should lead to fewer complaints.

    We recently joined forces with a new property sales agent Scarlett Property Services in Farnborough Village, Kent they approached us as they knew we only deal with property rentals instead of trying to do lettings themselves they would rather concentrate on what they know best Sales and pass all Lettings business through to us.

    Find out more visit http://www.scarlettpropertyservices.com and http://www.winchesterlettings.com