Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer claims new laws demanding letting agents join a redress scheme to deal with complaints from landlords and tenants does not go far enough in punishing bad practice in the industry.
Hamer writes in his report for last year that England is lagging Scotland and Wales in cracking down on bad landlords and letting agents.
From October 2014, letting agents have had to sign up to one of three government authorised redress schemes in England.
Wales is about to introduce new licensing laws for private rented homes and Scotland has had a national landlord register and licensing scheme for some years.
Since the new measures came into force in England, the number of letting agent complaints handled by the ombudsman has surged by 40%.
At the same time, the number of letting agents joining the ombudsman’s scheme has jumped by 28% to almost 13,000.
The ombudsman Christopher Hamer said:
“Last year saw significant growth in the private rented sector. With an estimated 1.6 million private landlords, many of whom have limited experience and understanding of their responsibilities, and large numbers of consumers seeking tenancies, the role of letting and managing agents in providing quality customer service based on a comprehensive knowledge of relevant legislation, is more important now than ever before.
“In that context I again call for a properly structured regulatory regime for the lettings sector. Over the past year we have seen numerous pieces of legislation being passed which deal with aspects of the private rented sector.
“I feel an opportunity has been missed to bring all such legal obligations into a coherent and sensible single law to avoid the potential for inconsistency and misunderstanding of what is required.”
The top three letting complaints were:
- Communication failures with letting agents (17%)
- Dissatisfaction over repairs and maintenance (11%)
- Deposit disputes (8%)
Landlords made 54% of complaints, with an average award of £524 compensation.
London and South East accounted for a third of the 9,648 complaints, followed by 9% each from the South West and North West (9%).