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UK landlords facing increased problems from rogue letting agents

Eviction and rent collection service Landlord Action says it is increasingly being asked to undertake debt collection on behalf of landlords who have fallen foul of agents. The claim comes at time when the government is considering a national lettings agent registration scheme.

'We have seen a huge increase in instructions from landlords asking us to carry out debt recovery proceedings against lettings agents who have not passed on the rent but withheld it for their own use, even though the tenant has been paying regularly and on time,' said Paul Shamplina, the director of Landlord Action.

Meanwhile three lettings agents with one of the UK's biggest franchises are under investigation amid allegations that £190,000 of tenants' deposits have gone missing. Martin & Co said that those involved have been stripped of their licences and auditor firm Marshals is to undertake a full audit of each of Martin & Co's 166 franchisees.

Shamplina said he backs calls for lettings agents to be registered. 'It can only be a good thing. And it will stop decent lettings agent getting a bad name due to rogue agencies that tarnish the industry,' he said.

It can be difficult for landlords to take action. 'The police often aren't interested saying it is a civil matter and before they take any action there needs to be numerous witness statements to show that the agent has carried out theft. Trying to get help from trading standards can also be hard. Landlords are left feeling they are fighting a losing battle and no one is on their side,' he added.

But not everyone in the industry is in favour of further regulation. According to Graham Kinnear, the managing director at Landlord Assist, landlords must already deal with so much bureaucratic red tape and restrictive legislation than any further schemes or mandatory licenses may discourage new landlords from entering the buy-the-let sector in the first place.