By Steve Roulstone

Shelter part 1

The introduction:

Two weeks ago, Shelter launched a campaign to remove Tenant Fees from the current standard practise of renting a property through Letting Agents. The outcry from the Industry could be heard loud and clear as calls to action were sounded. What is needed is a realistic look at the reasons why and the current practises of the Industry and through several Blogs I will look to state the case for those concerned as it currently exists, along with my own take on the subject.

The Blogs will mainly consider Shelter’s stance as the impact of and reasons why the campaign was launched at all is considered from all sides. This is a debate that will run and run, but one that could have been tackled already if the Government of the day had listened to the clamour for licensing that is supported by those who link themselves, through professional bodies and through our membership of approved recourse agencies, to the word ‘professional’ at all levels.

I will also comment on the impact of the process in Scotland where such legislation was introduced as far back as 1984, but as Shelter recognises, only truly took effect with legislation allowing recourse last year.

Shelter make many claims in their report, but one thing stands out quite clearly in how they describe both the industry and what they believe should happen and that is that they do not fully understand the industry and how it should operate. I say this because they clearly recommend that legislation could be introduced alongside the existing Estate agency legislation that oversees that particular section of the industry, but fail to recognise, that for many years, the majority of those who charge high fees, are in fact Estate Agents who Let property as well.

Even the suggestion, that an industry that deals with such complicated legislation as Letting Agents do, should be dealt with by linking us to Estate Agency legislation makes no sense. Rather, what this industry requires is legislation to ensure that not only are Letting Agents registered, but that they are also qualified. That is legislation that needs to stand alone and indeed, only then, could Estate Agents who, let’s face it, have turned to our industry for survival after the collapse of the sales market, be seen to understand and be aware of just how complex this market is.

Of course the problem with such statements is that there are plenty of Estate Agents who do know and have always known how to run a Lettings section. Just as there are plenty of Letting agents who have spent years taking advantage of Tenants. I admire and object to both accordingly, but to suggest that some ‘bolt on legislation’ could solve the overall issue, is short sighted, in my opinion.

Indeed there is plenty wrong on all sides and what this campaign does do is give the opportunity for the overall scenario to be discussed. I for one welcome that opportunity and by writing what I hope will be an informative article, hope to clarify some of the statements that are currently flying about.

I do however fully understand and accept that in many cases Tenants are overcharged for the process. The most worrying fact that has come out of the report is that many Landlords are not even aware that charges are levied upon Tenants and surely therefore, would not be aware, that many Tenants are starting Tenancies in their property, feeling they have been taken advantage of and somewhat cheated from day one! As a Landlord, that is a situation I would wish to avoid, at all costs!

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