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Calls for more regulation of letting agents in the UK

Demand is high as more property owners become 'forced' landlords because they can't sell and they need properly qualified agents, says the Association of Residential Letting Agents.

But the problem is that many unregulated letting agents have had no formal training and they may be completely unqualified, ARLA is warning. If they are not regulated they are also immune from any form of disciplinary action for misconduct, the organisation is also pointing out.

'The fact is that at the moment anybody can work as a lettings agent. It is ludicrous and, more to the point, dangerous, as it may create great risks for consumers in the current climate,' said Ian Potter, operations manager of ARLA.

'We need to ensure the standards of the lettings profession are upheld without exception. This means compulsory training and qualifications for anyone wishing to let a property on behalf of another, as well as client money protection, professional indemnity insurance and audited client bank accounts. Many agents hold clients' funds mixed in with their own business funds and this offers no protection if the agent's business fails,' he added.

Also from April the Tenancy Deposit Protection Service will no longer guarantee the deposits of unregulated agents.

ARLA wants to see more regulation in the lettings sector. 'It's high time the Government got off the fence and demanded regulation for the rental market and the compulsory licensing of agents. Setting professional standards for the industry is the first step to eliminating the cowboys,' he declared.

ARLA plans to introduce its own licensing scheme for lettings agents later this year, which its members will be obliged to join.