17:02 PM, 9th March 2011, About 11 years ago
Letting agents are closing ranks against rogue firms that fail to safeguard money handed over by landlords and tenants with a new kitemark scheme.
The industry is beset with scammers and unscrupulous operators as no regulatory framework governs who can set up as a letting agent.
In recent months, several firms have shut down owing clients money – and some have faced theft and fraud charges involving hundreds of thousands of pounds in court.
Only this week, The Property Ombudsman blacklisted two letting agents for financial impropriety and infringements of the ombudsmans code of practice.
Now, nine leading letting firms with hundreds of offices across the UK have joined forces to launch the kitemark in a bid to engender more trust from landlords as clients loathe to hand management of bonds and rents to agents.
The kitemark group is made up of Bushells; Foxtons; Winkworth; Belvoir Franchising; Northwood Franchising; Spicer Haart; Touchstone; Young London; and Linley & Simpson.
The message is that landlord and tenant cash could be at risk if a letting agent is not a member of the kitemark scheme.
Kitemark group chairman Nick Cooper, managing director of Northwood, said: “Those agents within existing client money protection schemes who have fully compliant client accounting standards want to root out the unscrupulous operators who tarnish the reputation of the sector.
“The group believes, as many other firms do, that the industry needs to find a more effective way to communicate to consumers the benefits of using agents who have client money protection. We believe the way to achieve this is to engage the support of consumer groups.
“This is where the new kitemark will come in. It will ensure consumers know exactly what to look for when they approach an agent. The aim is simple no kitemark, no financial protection if the agent goes bust.”
“Landlords often make decisions on placing their business with an agent based on cost but if agents are not part of a money protection scheme, consumers have no possibility of recovering lost funds.”
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