SAFE – Safe Agent Fully Endorsed – is a mark denoting firms that protect landlords and tenants money through client money protection schemes.
There are several schemes* in the sector operated to which agents voluntarily belong. Landlords and tenants often make decisions based on cost but it is important to ensure you ask your agent for details of the organisation they are regulated by and whether or not they are covered by a client money protection scheme. All agents who are part of UKALA (The UK Association of Letting Agents) and hold the Safe Agent endorsement maintain and operate separate designated client accounts where your money is held completely separate from the operating funds of the firm.
If the agent you are using cannot provide you with the assurance that they are covered by a client money protection scheme the question you need to ask is, why not?
*CMP Schemes recognised by SAFEagent have common minimum standards requiring their firms/members to have professional indemnity insurance, defined accounting standards relating to clients money and a customer complaints procedure offering independent redress for consumers through an ombudsman scheme.
So, Why use an Ombudsman registered agent?
The answer is simple, as the property ombudsman scheme website (www.tpos.co.uk) states “My powers allow me to make awards of compensation for financial loss and/or aggravation, distress and inconvenience, where I feel that is appropriate. The service is free of charge for the public.”
If you, the consumer, has an issue with the agent you have used there is a route of redress if they are a member. If the agent you have used is not a member, how do you complain? How would you get compensation if you feel it deserved? The complaints procedure with the ombudsman is free. Mandatory membership of a redress scheme is not law for lettings agents, they can (at the time of writing) trade unregulated.
The food standards agency is responsible for food safety and hygiene, the ASA is the regulator of advertising across all media and the financial conduct authority (FCA) is the Regulator of all providers of financial services in the UK. So this begs the question, why would you use an agent who is not regulated in any way? We hope that regulation will soon be compulsory and many agents are signed up to the Property Ombudsman. If the agency you are using or about to use are operating ethically and have high standards of service, why would they not be a member?
Our advice is to use a SAFE Agent that has UKALA membership and who is also a member of the Ombudsman scheme. You can check if your agent is a member of the Property Ombudsman at www.tpos.co.uk/find-member.php
Here at Martin & Co we offer free advice to landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers so why not call us on 01252 311974 and speak to one of the Directors for expert advice.