If you rent privately, you may have dealt with a letting agency who looks after the tenancy on behalf of the landlord. If you are not happy with the letting agent, you may be able to complain in a number of ways.
Complaining to the letting agent
How you complain to a letting agent depends on whether the agent is a member of a professional association or scheme.
A member of a professional association or scheme must have a complaints procedure. Get information from the letting agent’s website or ask at the agent’s office. They must tell you about it if you ask. If they do not have a complaints procedure or will not tell you about it, contact the professional membership scheme and they will make sure that your complaint is properly dealt with by their member.
If the letting agent is not a member of a professional organisation or scheme they may have a complaints procedure. Ask about the complaints procedure at the letting agent’s office, or get information from the letting agent’s website.
If the letting agent does not seem to have a complaints procedure, or if you cannot get any information about it, complain by letter. The letting agent may investigate, ask questions, ask you to send copies of documents, and/or inspect your property. Then the letting agent should write to you to tell you the result.
If you are not happy with the result of your complaint or if the letting agent has not replied to your complaint, you can complain to the letting agent’s professional association or scheme (if there is one). If your letting agent is not a member of a professional association, you may need to seek advice about resolving the dispute using alternative dispute resolution or going to court.
Complaining to a professional association
The main professional associations for letting agents are:
- National Approved Lettings Scheme
- Association of Residential Letting Agents
- National Association of Estate Agents
If the letting agent is a member of one of these schemes you can complain to that association or scheme. However, you can only complain if you have already been through the member’s own complaints procedure, but you are not satisfied with the result.
You should write to the relevant association or scheme to explain what your complaint is about, enclosing copies of previous correspondence about the complaint. The association or scheme will deal with your complaint, provided that:
- you have reached the end of the letting agent’s complaints procedure
- you do not have a court case about your complaint.
If at the end of the complaints procedure, you are not happy with the result, you may be able to use alternative dispute resolution or go to court. But if you have agreed an offer or decision about your complaint, then you cannot take it any further.
Complaining to the Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman scheme provides a free, independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents and their customers. Many letting agents are members; those that are must display the ombudsman's logo on windows, advertising and stationery.
Member agencies must:
- follow the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice
- have agreed to have professional indemnity insurance to ensure that any compensation awarded to you can be paid
- have an in-house complaints system with written procedures
- explain how the ombudsman can help resolve complaints and cooperate with any investigation
- agree to pay compensation promptly, if the ombudsman awards it and you accept.
The ombudsman can only consider complaints if you have already tried to use the letting agent's internal complaints procedure but are not happy with the outcome, and you have not started court action against the letting agent. See the Property Ombudsman website for more information.
Complaining to your landlord about the letting agency
If you don't want to follow a formal complaints process, you could contact your landlord instead to complain about poor service given by the letting agent.
Even if you don’t normally deal with them directly, your landlord’s name and address should be on the tenancy agreement or included in other correspondence or documents.
If you do not have your landlord’s name and address, ask the letting agent for them. The letting agent must tell you if you ask. If your landlord is a company, the letting agent must tell you the names and addresses of all the directors and the secretary.
If you are not happy with your landlord's response, or if the landlord fails to reply to your complaint letter, get advice from an advice agency about your next steps.