To say that some letting agents do not have the best reputation will not be an exaggeration. Despite the robust growth of private rented sector (PRS) at an impressive pace, there is a steep decline in the customer confidence level on many agencies. The blame must go to a handful of rogue operators who have let loose many bad practices and stymied the image of other professional agencies that are very law-abiding.
To stem the rot, pressure had been mounting on the government to crack the whip and ensure better regulation of the letting sector. Many lawmakers, politicians and charity organizations have already raised their voice in this regard. So, the time has come for agencies to gain the trust of clients with suitable reforms.
Industry observers are of the opinion that the best way to make letting agents behave and be trustworthy is to affiliate them to an industry body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents. Such an affiliation heightens the credibility by virtue of being part of a group that is well known in the PRS sector.
When tenants get to see the ARLA logo they will have a sense of reassurance that the agency they are hiring will be following a set of standards and guidelines unlike unprofessional agencies.
By joining an industry body and the resulting membership opens up a great platform to network and for industry contacts. This helps to receive tips and advice on how to develop an agency professionally. The opportunity to attend so many useful conferences and events will be an exercise in domain education.
An affiliated letting agency when puts out an advertisement it instantly carries some weight and is positively accepted by the tenants. Such transparent promotions will be welcomed by the renters or even those who had bitter experiences from unscrupulous agents who might have troubled them with hidden charges and costs.
In the matter of letting agent advertising, already many curbs are in place since last year. Many new legal requirements have come into force with the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) insisting all letting firms to disclose the details of the fees they will be charging.
So, the agencies now have to prominently display all information about non-optional charges in their adverts. Just in case these cannot be calculated in advance they should make it clear how this can be done in the future. The ASA chief executive Guy Parker calls it a positive step as the new curbs on advertising will help all stakeholders.
Certainly affiliation and advertising controls will go a long way in cleaning the issues pertaining to long term lettings and regain the trust of tenants. It will also smoothen the day-to-day functioning of an agency. A climate of openness and efficiency will be appreciated by all. Greater automation of agencies by way of the use of right tools such as letting agent software will be the positive fallout. So, it is time letting agents in London welcomed all these new initiatives.