In this article we would like to explain whether and how letting agents are regulated in the UK. We are going to focus on 3 different topics:
- Licensing and quality of work – This topic will include: registration with professional bodies, getting qualifications and complying with professional Code of Practice.
- Solving disputes – In this part we will talk about registration with schemes which offer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for consumer disputes.
- Keeping customers’ money safe – The last part will be about 2 kinds of schemes offering customers’ money protection: Client Money Protection (CMP) Schemes and Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) Schemes.
These 3 topics are related to choosing ‘a good letting agent’. A good agent means the one, who follows the law, has relevant knowledge and is going to offer great quality services. We are presenting here some useful information for anyone who would like to choose a letting agent safely.
Letting Agents in the UK – Registration and Licensing
There are different rules and legislation for letting agents in different countries within UK.
The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 puts on letting agents in Wales an obligation for registration and licensing. The licensing authority is Cardiff Council, which is responsible for organising Rent Smart Wales service. A candidate for the agent must apply and go through licensing process. This includes undertaking a special training to get professional qualifications. The candidate also cannot have any relevant convictions. Moreover, letting agents have to comply with the Code of Practice, created by Welsh Ministers. So, all requirements are quite complex and important. Agents can get the licence for 5 years.
Letting agents in Scotland have to register and get the licence as well. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 defined this task for Scottish Letting Agent Register. The licensing criteria are similar to those in Wales. Candidates must undertake a suitable training and also must be fit to the job. Similar like in Wales agents have to follow Letting Agent Code of Practice. This Code was prepared by Scottish Ministers. At the end of the process agents receive the licence for 3 years.
ENGLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND
Letting agents are not regulated in these countries. But it is a good practice if they decide to register with one of the professional bodies. 3 of the most important professional bodies in the UK are:
- NALS – The National Approved Letting Scheme. This is an independent licensing scheme for letting and managing agents. Agents who want to register with NALS have to meet some criteria. These criteria include e.g. working with NALS standards and having Professional Indemnity Insurance. NALS members also have to protect customers’ money. They do this by keeping it on separate bank accounts, registering with Money Protection Scheme and allowing for annual inspection of client accounting procedures. To offer solving disputes solutions they have to create a written complaints procedure and register with a Redress Scheme.
- ARLA Propertymark – Association of Residential Letting Agents Propertymark. ARLA is a professional and regulatory body for letting agents. Agents who decide to register with ARLA will also have to register with a Redress Scheme. They will have to undertake regular training as well as stay up to date with legislation changes. Another condition of being a member of ARLA is complying with professional Code of Practice. And finally, for money protection members have to register with Clients Money Protection Scheme and allow for auditing of financial accounts. They also must have a Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- UKALA – UK Association of Letting Agents. UKALA is another professional body for letting agents. The members must comply with professional Code of Practice and Accounting Standard. Agents who register with UKALA also becoming members of Client Money Protection Scheme. Like in other professional bodies, they also have to get a Professional Indemnity Insurance. And finally, as a solution for solving disputes, they register with a Redress Scheme and prepare a written complaints procedure.
Letting Agents in the UK – Solving Disputes
There are different regulations about solving disputes in different countries within UK. Here we want to present only ADR solutions but if you want to find out more about other ways of solving problems read Consumer Rights – How to complain about your letting agent.
ENGLAND AND WALES
Letting agents in England and Wales must register with one of Redress Schemes that Government approved. These Redress Schemes provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services. So far, Government has approved 2 of them: The Property Ombudsman and Property Redress Scheme. Both of them provide free and independent help for solving disputes between agents and their clients. All agents in England and Wales must display on their website and in the office the name of the Redress Scheme they belong to.
Scottish letting agents doesn’t have to be registered with a Redress Scheme but they have other ways to solve disputes with clients. As the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) they use: mediation with mediator from Scottish Mediation Professional Body or arbitration with arbitrator from Scottish Arbitration Centre. Some agents might be members of a Redress Scheme but it’s voluntarily registration.
There is no regulation about making complaints for letting agents in Northern Ireland. That’s why, it’s better to check if the agent is a member of any professional body or a Redress Scheme. These agents are safe agents. Another good practice is if the agent has a written complaints procedure. However, if you don’t know what to do you can also contact Housing Rights to see if they can offer any help or advice.
Client Money Protection Schemes for Letting Agents in the UK
Client Money Protection Scheme (CMP) is an insurance, which protects clients’ money held by letting agents in the UK.
Registration with Scottish Letting Agent Register and Rent Smart Wales requires from agents from Scotland and Wales to have CMP Insurance. English and Northern Irish letting agents are not regulated but if they are members of any national operating professional body, they have CMP Insurance as well. Furthermore, for all English letting agents it’s also going to be mandatory to register with Client Money Protection Scheme from 1st April 2019. For this purpose, Government has approved 6 CMP Schemes so far:
- Client Money Protect
- Money Shield
- NALS Client Money Protection
- UKALA Client Money Protection
To provide the information for landlords and tenants about agents who keep their money safe there was also created a campaign – SAFEagent. This campaign offers a special SAFEagent logo to all agents who are members of Client Money Protection Scheme.
Letting Agents in the UK – Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes
All letting agents within UK must keep their clients’ deposit safe. For this purpose, Government approved a few Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) Schemes. Agents should return to their clients’ deposit money after termination of tenancy agreement. This happens if tenants were complying with terms of this agreement, paying rent and bills and left property undamaged. Here are approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes for different countries within UK:
ENGLAND AND WALES
We have presented here the basic requirements important to consider when you are choosing a letting agent. They are necessary if you want to choose a safe agent who can offer good quality services. Registration with professional body should prove that the agent complies with the law and a good Code of Practice. It should also be a confirmation that your agent has good professional qualifications. Registration with ADR Schemes or having a written complaints procedure can indicate that in case of any problems you will be able to fight for your rights. Finally, registration with CMP and TDP Schemes protects your money in agency hands. Presented above information is relevant for both: landlords and tenants, when they want to use a letting agent.