Both the Welsh and Scottish governments are getting closer to regulating lettings agents through their own Housing Bills.

Here in England there still seems to be reluctance to follow suit. What we need is a law that introduces effective banning of lettings agents, just as the Estate Agents Act 1979 has measures that can lead to sales agents being thrown out of the industry.

The furthest our government seems to want to go is in making all lettings agents be part of a redress scheme and it will shortly be announced which will have been chosen.

It’s likely that The Property Ombudsman will be among them – it would be stupid if that scheme were excluded when so many lettings agents already belong to it voluntarily.

But what the Government proposes is not quite the same as already exists for those voluntary members, who sign up to a rigorous code of practice.

Really what the government is suggesting is that lettings agents must only register, which means some agents will remain outside the TPO requirements for professional indemnity insurance (PI) and client money protection (CMP).

Consumers will not find it easy to know the difference between registered and member agents so they will still need to look for other things that mark out a good lettings agent, such as membership of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA).

All ARLA members have to be full members of TPO unless they are already members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), they have to have CMP and PI. So the moral of the tale is that despite whatever the government does about redress the best way to ensure you have a good lettings agent is to look for the ARLA logo as well as that of TPO.

The easy solution to driving out rogue agents from the lettings arena actually lies with landlords. If they didn’t use the rogues then neither would tenants, who tend to be drawn to the home available either because of the price or location and not because of the agent, often a secondary consideration for them.

So the advice really is for landlords to choose a top quality agent – it may cost more, but not necessarily, in fees but there’s much less risk of losing rent or deposit monies. Landlords often don’t appreciate that while the agent collects the deposit, the landlord runs the risk of repayment if the agent can’t and had no form of client money protection either.

Tenants can also enter into arrangements with their eyes open more widely. If the agent is dodgy or doesn’t feel quite right, is the property really so important that it’s worth running the risk with their money?

As they say on the BBC these days when they mention products, it’s always worth remembering that other agents are available! The old saying is “never mind the quality, feel the width”. For lettings agents, it ought to be “never mind the wide boys, feel the quality”.

[B]Colin Shairp, proprietor, [URL=””]Town and Country Southern Estate Agents[/URL].[/B]