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Massive increase in complaints against lettings agents in UK

The latest figures from Christopher Hamer, the Ombudsman for Estate Agents, shows a massive 200% annual increase in letting related complaints.

It highlights the need for the public to be acutely aware of rapid changes in the property letting industry, Hamer says in his latest report to the industry.

While sales activity dwindled, the rise in the residential lettings market saw a 200% increase in the lettings disputes handled by the OEA and Hamer predicts that during 2009 lettings will become the major area of his activities and more agents are joining the OEA.

'Lettings agents still only join the OEA on a voluntary basis and it is therefore satisfying to see so many firms opening up access to my scheme for their customers. Those firms will be operating in accordance with the standards laid down in the OEA's Code of Practice,' he added.

The managing director of the UK's largest dedicated letting agency with 160 offices across the country said that new landlords in particular need to take proper professional advice.

'The Ombudsman's report illustrates a dangerous phenomenon that should be of concern to anyone letting, or thinking of letting their property. As properties fail to sell, we have seen a sizeable increase in the number of new, and sometimes reluctant, landlords entering the market,' said Ian Wilson, Managing Director of Martin & Co.

'These are the very people who need protecting from the unscrupulous, uneducated or inexperienced letting agent who claims to be able to represent their best interests,' he added.

But he also warned that there is also a corresponding increase in the number of estate agents entering the lettings arena as a way of bolstering their dwindling sales revenues and this has potentially disastrous consequences.

'Not only is the continual service role of the letting agent surprisingly different to the quick fix function of an estate agent, but there are also over 100 pieces of letting related legislation in which to be conversant,' he explained.

'Knowing how intensively letting agents need to train and the pressure they are currently under to deliver ambitious results without compromising customer service excellence, it is not a job for the fainthearted,' Wilson said.

He added that landlords should be extra vigilant when choosing a letting agent and to make sure that they have defined standards of customer care and has a published complaints procedure.