Should Letting Agents Be Held Accountable for Sub-Par Service?

The struggle of looking for accommodation and sorting out housing issues with friends is a rite of passage for university students. Unfortunately, there’s a perception that letting agents treat students differently to other tenants who are working full time and are often not seen as a priority in comparison. Many of us have experienced the lack of effective communication and organisation of letting agents and at times their customer service can leave a lot to be desired. Should these businesses be held accountable for sub-par service?

Obviously, there is no such thing as a perfect property, but as first-time renters, students are often unsure how the renting process works and what legal rights they have. For example, when letting agents are dealing with everyday situations, as professionals, a certain level of respect and understanding must be adhered to in providing optimal customer service. Sadly, this is not always the case and it’s fair to say a number of us have experienced various housing dramas throughout out time as students. For example, University of Leeds student, Emma Chambers, recalls an incident where she was laughed at over the phone by a Let Leeds staff member, after asking for more desk chairs, as only one was provided for a property of four people. The matter was only resolved after several subsequent phone calls from her parents to the letting agent. In this case, there was a resolution, but situations such as these emphasise the unacceptable behaviour of letting agents combined with the landlords who seem to show a lack of interest in sorting out situations regarding their own properties. Both landlords and letting agents do not always seem to take the issues of students seriously and as legitimate businesses, they should be focused on customer care, regardless of whether the client is in full-time study or full-time work.

There also seems to be an overly casual approach when it comes to students at Sugarhouse Properties. Another UoL student, Julia Constable, reported being repeatedly given less than 24 hours’ notice for housing viewings. Although it is understandable that viewings for new tenants need to take place, they can be refused if insufficient warning has been given to the tenant. However, some students often feel under pressure to still go ahead with viewings, despite their right to refuse. Overall, more consideration could be shown towards students who have parted with significant amounts of cash to rent a property as their own for a specific period of time and are entitled to sufficient warning with regard to people entering their home.

Some students have also experienced problems with Red Door Lets. For example, UoL student, Francesca Beckett, explained to us that her Landlord filed a dispute with the Deposit Protection Service in an attempt to claim £1000 from the tenants for going over the limit of their inclusive utility bills, despite the tenants constantly informing the letting agency that their heaters wouldn’t turn off. 

As letting agencies are the vessel of communication between landlords and students, it would make sense that they are also held under scrutiny for their actions, as it is evident that the demographic in areas near the universities predominantly consists of students. We would argue, that both letting agents and landlords should be held accountable for their actions and ensure that they are operating under a scheme of best practice.

Leigh-Ann Quist