Nearly four people every hour are complaining about problems with letting agents in the UK, mostly about them not making proper checks on tenants, according to the Property Ombudsman.
In the three months up to the end of September the Ombudsman received around 129 calls a week, well up on the 77 inquiries received each week during the same period in 2008. It was the highest number of complaints during the period since letting agents joined the scheme in June 2006.
The main cause of disputes was landlords saying letting agents had failed to make adequate checks on tenants’ references, while they also claimed inspection visits were not being carried out frequently enough.
Potential tenants also complained that it had not been made clear to them that they would lose their holding deposit if they decided not to go ahead with renting a property. There were also complaints about inspection visits not being frequent enough to prevent deterioration of the property.
Many of the inquiries were not investigated, as consumers were told they needed to take the matter to the letting agent first, while in some cases people were ringing for advice on how they should proceed.
The Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, also reported a rise in the number of cases about estate agents that he investigated as the property market begins to pick up again. There was a 17% jump in cases involving property sales, rising from 104 in the second quarter to 122, although cases were still 32% lower than a year ago, reflecting the subdued level of transactions.
Many of the complaints about estate agents related to the depressed market, with homeowners complaining about being asked to pay for Home Information Packs when their property had not sold, or being liable for dual fees after switching agents in the slow market.