Cow­boy agents must be rounded up and run out of town

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Michele Andrew

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.

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