Cowboy agents must be rounded up and run out of town
ONE in three tenants has never heard of an organisation which could save them from rip-off letting agents
Widespread lack of awareness of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) is encouraging rogue traders, it was revealed at the association’s national conference.
It is a concern shared by association members in Yorkshire.
Simon Coulthurst, owner of Angus Roberts, a residential lettings agency in Ilkley and Harrogate, says: “Without qualifications, training or scruples, unregistered letting agents are fooling us all. They are fooling an unsuspecting public and they are making fools of the law which does little to stop them. How does the public make their choice?
“We use the ARLA logo on nearly all our marketing materials where appropriate, to help signpost our servicedriven approach to tenants and landlords,” he said.
Carole Carter, co-owner of City Lets, in York, says: “Today’s cowboy agents blend seamlessly into the high street. Camouflaged by smart offices, slick patter and even by websites bearing the ARLA logo, they are in our territory and after our reputation.”
With Mary Portas’s exposure – in Channel 4’s Secret Shopper series – of the poor customer service given by estate agents, investigative eyes are fixed on the property industry.
This time, it’s the turn of those renting out properties to come under the spotlight. This week, 500 letting agents gathered, in London, at ARLA’s 30th anniversary conference, to hear Sue Hughes-Thomas, president of ARLA, voice her concerns.
“As with all people-orientated businesses, customer service has to be the lynch-pin for our members’ organisations. People now expect poor service from estate and lettings agents, so we need to work even harder to build strong relationships with our customers.”
She went on to share some research she had undertaken independently. This illustrates that there is still a lack of awareness about ARLA and the security it can provide to tenants and landlords. Only one in three bothers to check for ARLA status and 34 per cent of those polled had no idea that the lettings industry is still not regulated.
Sue Hughes-Thomas added: “Letting agents should take responsibility to educate customers on the role of ARLA, using their membership as a badge of honour, displaying it on all marketing materials at all opportunities.”
With more than 6,000 members nationwide, this message could be very powerful.
“Once we have well-informed tenants and landlords, we’ll have raised the bar against which all residential letting agents should work, and the industry as a whole will benefit from a more positive reputation.
“It’s up to the industry to stand tall above rogue agents and for us to distance ourselves from this image. We must continue to lobby for the forced regulation of letting agents but, in the meantime, use our collective force to continue to selfregulate.”
Mrs Hughes-Thomas, who has run her own residential lettings agency, The Home Management Company, revealed she entered the industry after experiencing poor service from an agent abroad.
“I determined to run the cowboys out of town, and opened my own residential lettings agency.
“I had no professional training and not even the ability to change a washer myself.
“Yet, I felt sure that I couldn’t make a worse job of property management that our own shameful agents had. And I was right.”
She wasn’t alone. Up and down the country, other wellintentioned souls had also been striving to do better by landlords and tenants.
On June 11, 1981, a meeting took place at The Westbury Hotel, in Mayfair, and ARLA was formed.