The odd story about rogue letting agents will hit the headlines from time to time, as there would be bad guys in any walk of life, but when 2 happen in a fortnight and both are from businesses based in Imagine heartland, it does tend to strike home with a little more meaning. The risks of choosing the wrong agent in letting really do sink in and it’s a salutary lesson for landlords to be diligent in choosing a reputable agent. This is pretty unlikely to mean cheap!
The MD of Sure Lets in Hemel Hempstead faces a custodial sentence after being found to have let one of his own clients properties in Apsley and then sub-let it to a Madam he was in business with to run as a brothel.
While another individual in Watford was fined £70k for continuing to let 3 ‘dangerous’ properties long after his HMO license was revoked. He had continued trading under the estate agency franchise of Open House, even though that agency had terminated his right to practise in 2016.
This is off the back of a multitude of cases nationally over the last year where agents have run off with client money.
Whilst it’s true there still isn’t a proper regulatory body to control letting agents, that genuine agents among us have long wanted, there are many criteria a letting agent must or should have in place to trade professionally and legally.
- Strict Anti-Money Laundering regulations and policies.
- Right to Rent checks and Adverse Media checks on all clients.
- Membership of a redress scheme and a complaints procedure.
- Membership of a Client Money Protection scheme is optional, but should be a given.
- Multiple business insurances.
- Regular independent auditing of how the bank account and client accounts are run.
- Membership of a recognised body like NALS or ARLA is also optional, but again should be a given.
- Contracts for clients that are kept up to date with all the changes in lettings legislation.
All of these cost money and time and money to have in place before you even open your doors for trading and start office, staff and marketing costs. It’s why if you do things properly, you simply can’t be cheap too. Cheap comes from cutting corners and taking risks with either your own or your clients assets and as the two businesses stated above have found to their detriment, eventually that comes back to haunt you.
My advice is to do your homework, look for value not cheap and protect your most valuable asset by working with established, reputable firms.
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