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Letting agents accused of safety failings

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Consumer champion Which? has accused letting agents of failing tenants, after its undercover researchers were shown around mouldy properties and not informed about safety details during viewings.

The researchers were sent on 30 viewings across England and Scotland, armed with a list of questions to ask the letting agent to see whether they were following health and safety rules and providing vital information.

One in five of the properties had damp, though none of the agents were able to commit to fixing the problem. One of the agents said they could not not comment on a damp stain on a carpet as they didn’t have the “technical expertise” to work out whether it was a damp problem.

The researchers rated eight out of the 30 viewings as poor in terms of the answers provided on property maintenance and repairs, with the same number also receiving a poor rating for their explanation of holding deposits. The agents struggled to explain how much these payments would be and how they would be refunded.

Which? also said it was concerned over the standards of safety information provided on the viewings. Half of agents were unable to provide any info at all on the property’s boiler, while most were also rated below ‘good’ for their knowledge of carbon monoxide alarms.

The study found that the letting agents were rather better at explaining the other fees the tenants would be charged, such as security deposits and administration fees, which ranged from £20 to more than £400.

Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, said there were “clearly real issues” with agents showing prospective tenants around properties that are not up to scratch.

He added: “It’s unacceptable that all too often agents can’t answer basic questions about important issues like boiler safety and carbon monoxide alarms.

“Tenants need to be given clear and accurate information before moving in to a new place and agents must do more to deliver an acceptable level of service.”

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