THE perils of renting a property through unregulated letting agents have been exposed again on national TV – after actor Nigel Havers revealed he had been conned out of £1,300.
The Coronation Street star was left out of pocket after the agent who rented him a property in Manchester during his filming schedule vanished without trace.
Havers went public on the BBC TV programme Watchdog is a bid to raise awareness among both landlords and tenants of the dangers of going through an unregulated agent – with no protection in place to safeguard your money.
Linley & Simpson, the independent Yorkshire letting agent with nine branches in the county, has long campaigned for tighter controls over the letting sector and said while Havers was a high-profile victim of a scam, there was evidence that rogue agents were targeting all sections of the public.
It repeated its warning to would-be tenants and landlords to only deal with agents that had met the strict membership criteria for recognised industry bodies, such as ARLA and NALS.
And it urged people to look out for the SAFEagent logo, which offers peace of mind that client money is fully protected in an official scheme.
Havers, a familiar face on the small screen for over 30 years, said: “Just like my money, the agent who rented the property has disappeared.”
He paid six months’ rent in advance – but apparently not a deposit requiring protection. Five months into his tenancy he had to leave because the apartment was being sold. He then found he was unable to get a refund for the final month’s rent of £1,300.
Havers took the firm to court and won an order for payment. However, it is unpaid and he has been unable to contact the agent’s management – thought to be in the USA.
Havers said that his experience made him realise that the lettings industry is unregulated, leaving him shocked to find that anyone being able to set up as a letting agent without experience or qualifications.
He also found that membership of a redress scheme is – for the time being – purely voluntary.
He said that the Government had not yet announced when a law compelling letting agents to belong to an ombudsman scheme is to come in. However, he went on to argued that just belonging to a redress scheme will not solve all problems.
Linley & Simpson director Nick Simpson said:
“Many people are not in a position to buy their own homes and will be renting for many years to come.
“It is therefore of the utmost importance to choose a letting agent with whom you know your money is protected.
“Registered SAFEagents like us are able to offer this assurance, and also prove a commitment to professional business practices.
“Nobody books a holiday with a travel agent who is not properly accredited and registered – but, as ever-increasing numbers like Nigel Havers are finding to their cost, this isn’t always the case in the rental market where the stakes are far higher.”