New report looks at how letting agents could improve their reputation

A new report has been compiled by rental payment platform PayProp, off the back of a recent roundtable event in London, and features key suggestions on some of the things letting agents can do to help improve their reputation.

Making the compliance burden easier to manage, focusing on the minority that do not comply, and putting in place a robust complaints procedure and shouting about the industry’s many successes are all listed as key issues that can help improve the reputation of letting agents, according to the report.

PayProp points out that on the face of it, research suggests agents are providing homes that tenants want to live in. The vast majority (83%) of private renters are satisfied with their current accommodation according to the 2019-20 English Housing Survey.

However, they say that agents suffer from ‘a rock bottom reputation’, referring to the Ipsos MORI Veracity Index 2020. It measures people’s trust in various professions, revealing that estate and letting agents were in the bottom five along with journalists and politicians.

Part of the problem for agents is that a PR gap seems to be adversely affecting the industry, according to the panel of experts. Agents need to do more to get a positive message across to consumers.

Kate Gregory, sales director at Agent Rainmaker, believes this imbalance in media coverage is not surprising, but that “if we want the perception of our industry to change, we need to go out and present a different one”.

Another view that needs to be countered is that of agents seeing tenants as a cost, not as clients, according to Emma Cooke, policy manager at the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team.

“Often we go in and say to agents: ‘We’ve had a complaint and we’d like to get your side of the story. Can we discuss it with you?’ And they reply ‘Well, we thought the tenant was just being annoying. They kept coming back and writing letters, they were really getting on our nerves.’ In other words, they were just being consumers,” Cooke explained.

Neil Cobbold
Neil Cobbold

Neil Cobbold, chief sales officer of PayProp, argues that agents need to take complaints seriously, as even a minority not doing so is a big reputational risk for the industry.

“We don’t realise just how much one tenant’s bad experience can spread. Every time a tenant comes with a complaint, agents have an opportunity to shine – and to have a ripple effect on how our industry is perceived. A lot of that is about the complaints procedure. I’ve had complaints with companies where I didn’t necessarily get the result I wanted, but I still felt that it was dealt with properly. I was listened to by that professional.”

Kristjan Byfield, co-founder of base property specialists and The Depositary, says agents have a duty and responsibility when it comes to compliance and improving the industry’s reputation.

He said: “I’ve spoken to agents over the years who have another agent in their patch who is an absolute shark. They know they’re breaching HMO regulations. They know they’ve not got proper Client Money Protection. But do they tell anyone?

“Additionally, we have to be really strict with our tenants on behalf of our landlords – but we equally have a duty to be strict with our landlords on behalf of our tenants. So, if you’re presented with a landlord who doesn’t bother with licensing fees, or when the landlord’s property is looking shabby, you put your foot down. The control we have as agents is to choose not to work with that landlord – even when it hurts from a business perspective.”

Sally Lawson
Sally Lawson

Landlord Action’s Paul Shamplina, who highlights the work of the minority of rogue landlords and letting agents in his show Evicted! Nightmare Tenants, says redress has helped to improve the reputation and regulation of agents.

“By law, letting agents and property managers in England and Wales must join an approved redress scheme (agents in Scotland and Northern Ireland are not required to do so). Redress schemes handle unresolved tenant complaints and may order agents to pay compensation,” he explained.

Sally Lawson, founder of Agent Rainmaker and a former ARLA president, believes lightening the regulatory burden is crucial.

She said: “The industry model we have dates back to the 1990s and before. Thirty years later we have around a hundred times as much compliance work to do. But there just aren’t enough hours in the day or pounds in the bank.

“We need to reduce the workload on agents. That’s where PropTech comes in. There’s a lot of room for agencies to make more use of it.”



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  1. A W

    The more I read of these sort of “articles”, the more I realise that those who comment have never had any experience with property management.


    1. KByfield04

      Hi A W- whilst some of the panel haven’t been agents a few have and lettings & management is what I do- day in, day out. What was it in the article you didn’t agree with?

      As agents we are the masters of our destiny- about 3 years after launching base we landed a 200+ portfolio client fully managed on good fees- in the first two lets it became apparent the landlord was only interested in doing as little as possible and ignoring tenant maintenance needs. We dis-instructed ourselves because we weren’t willing to put tenants into poorly managed accommodation just to line our own pockets. Never regretted that decision.

      We have regularly taken landlords to task- some leave, most fall in line and learn that better-managed properties achieve better rent levels, have fewer voids and, in the long run, usually cost less to run/maintain.

      1. A W

        1. You did not de-instruct the landlord because of the poor tenants, you did so because of vicarious liability. If you cared about the tenants then you would have taken the properties to manage and ensured that the tenants received the proper care.

        2. You did not de-instruct the landlord because of a “business decision” but a legislative one (s.11 LTA 1987).

        3. You do not “take landlords to task” – you educate them on the current legislative and regulatory landscape to ensure compliance.

        4.  I do not agree with Neil Cobbold’s comment about shining every time there is a complaint – i.e. there will always be complaints. So long as they’re dealt with promptly and efficiently, that’s all you can ask (a happy outcome for the complainer is not guaranteed).

        5. I do not agree with Emma Cooke’s comment that agents are callous and flippant about complaints – she does not even specify whether she spoke to the “agency”, the negotiator or the property manager or what the complaints are about.

        This article appears to be merging everything to do with lettings all in one, which is ridiculous because lettings and management are very different animals. Not only that but within lettings itself there are many different subsections i.e. social, PRS and HMO.

        Please be aware that you are not re-inventing the wheel here but doing what 99% of agents are doing (without the song and dance). I do not wish to be derogatory or demean your accomplishments in anyway, and indeed you are acting with due diligence… but then again so is the rest of the industry.

        1. KByfield04

          I hope as Neil suggests that you respond to complaints in a more friendly manner than you have my comment 😉

          1. This was pre HFHHS legislation and, unless you know a way to force a landlord to undertake repairs, we were not willing to knowingly place tenants in a property we knew would not be maintained to the standards we expect.

          2. Lots of agents work with bad Landlords- that’s the problem- many just operate on a LO basis sidestepping maintenance liability.

          3. It’s not about compliance it’s about a quality standard of living- compliance is black & white and there is no discussion- but providing a quality home is a different matter.

          4. Tackling issues in a pro-active friendly manner can stop an issue escalating. Engaging with bad reviews when you get them can transform a persons perception of your business and service. We have done this many times over the last 17+ years- a lot of the time it is about educating them first and foremost and making them feel listened to.

          5. A generalisation comment taken from a live recorded interview process. I think we can allow some leeway here- or not.

          Whilst there are different sub-sectors the points discussed are applicable to lettings & management across all rented housing/accommodation sectors (aside from technical/legislative points).

          Sadly I disagree with your 99% comment. The industry has got better and constantly is, however, there is a ‘not insignificant segment of our industry that justifies the reputation we have and drags us all down with them. A good experience does get forgotten after a few years- a horrendous one never does.

          1. A W

            I hope that you’re not as condescending in your correspondence to others as you were in your response to my comment Kristjan 😉

            1. I assume you mean HHSRS, which was applicable from 2004. However there has always been a common law duty of care towards the tenant.

            2. You’re unjustly generalising that “lots of agents work with bad landlords“. Agencies are not responsible for maintenance on a let only basis, and the only recourse would be to advise the tenant to speak with Shelter / Citizen’s advise should the landlord not meet their obligations. It is not “sidestepping” liability, you were only contracted to find a Let the property, not manage it.

            3. It’s is about compliance. A tenant has a right to a warm, watertight and safe property. They do not however have a right to say; that the walls need to be re-painted every year, or that they need an electrician to change a lightbulb.

            4. Not every agent has an abundance of staff to chase every “bad review” to engage with them. However a review can be left for many reasons i.e. the tenant painted the walls pink without permission, the landlord proposes unreasonable deductions etc… The complaint process is there to ensure that the complaint is addressed to a satisfactory resolution and should they not be happy with the result they can escalate to a redress scheme.

            5. It is that sort of mentality by those who are supposed to represent us that hurts the most. Excusing such actions perpetuates the myth that agents are callous and as we are supposed to be held to a higher standard, we expect those who “represent” us to be held to a higher one.

            You yourself perpetuate the myth in your closing comments that there there is “not an insignificant” amount of bad agents. They are a dying breed and the overwhelming majority of established agents act with the due diligence and high level of customer service that is demanded by the industry.

            For example when an agent is banned from the TPO it makes the news, but there have been less than 100 agents in the last year that have been banned from a redress scheme? Whereas there are over 20,000 agencies… so you’re talking about less than 0.5%!

            You can agree with me or not, however if those who “represent” us don’t believe in the industry then why on earth do you think that you can represent us? Everyone can do better yes, however do not belittle just how far the industry has come since the cowboy days of yester year.


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