The slump in house purchases has meant that the number of households renting privately in Scotland has nearly doubled to 290,000 over the past 10 years. The number of letting agents has also increased dramatically to about 500. The result is that complaints to the property ombudsman have risen by 123% in five years.
Letting agents for private property should be regulated by the Scottish government, says the leading housing charity Shelter.
Shelter Scotland said the sector was becoming filled with “cowboy” operators because agents needed no professional expertise or experience to set up.
“We’re not altogether surprised at Chalmers & Co,” says Christopher Lamotte at the firm. “We’ve seen a lot of inexperienced estate agents moving into lettings and management, and quite a few new agents entering the market, often trying to undercut us. They think it’s an easy source of new revenue but have little experience and few processes.
“The result is poor, unprofessional client service for both the landlord and the tenant. Properties for let are mis-represented and maintenance is inadequate.
“Chalmers & Co has been in the letting business for about 50 years. We’re chartered surveyors so we are regulated by the RICS. Chalmers & Co manages nearly 200 properties and most of our landlord clients are very long term.
“All of Chalmers & Co’s properties are formally inspected internally and externally every year. We have an excellent network of trusted tradesmen and builders to maintain properties, and our architects get when properties need significant improvements. We have robust letting and management processes which look after both our landlords and tenants.”
Shelter said regulation was vital as the UK government’s changes to Housing Benefit were likely to increase demand for rented accommodation.
The Scottish government said it would publish a strategy for the private rented sector by the end of the month.
But according to the charity’s director, Graeme Brown, agents are unregulated, and complaints against them are increasing.
“They’re letting properties that are in disrepair; they’re claiming some properties are furnished when they’re unfurnished,” he said.
“Some of them are setting up business, taking deposits, closing down and setting up under a different name. “These are cowboys. This is Wild West territory and we want the Scottish government to regulate this sector.”
If you’re unhappy with your letting agent’s service, feel free to contact Chalmers & Co for some advice on 01620 824000.