Estate agents who deal with lettings are being advised by the Ombudsman for Estate Agents, Christopher Hamer, to pay particular attention to their dealings with clients.
With uncertainty in the residential sales sector, there is an increasing emphasis on renting property in the private sector as a housing solution for many people as they wait to see what happens with mortgage availability and property values.
But in his first quarterly report for 2008, Mr Hamer reveals an 86 per cent rise in cases investigated that concerned complaints involving residential lettings compared with the last quarter of 2007.
"Some of this growth can probably be attributed to the OEA only recently becoming involved with the lettings sector in a big way so people are becoming more aware of my scheme as a means of redress when they have a complaint," he said.
"In a time when many people are feeling more than usual stress over finding and keeping a home it’s important that all parties co-operate with each other and try to avoid needless difficulties arising."
Mr Hamer’s report shows that new cases involving lettings rose from 37 in the last quarter of 2007 to 69 in the period from January 1 to March 31 this year.
Of the 19 cases involving lettings closed in the first quarter of 2008, 13 were resolved in favour of the complainant.
The disputes considered in relation to lettings arose from agents mainly failing to provide clear communication to either landlord or tenant about the transaction and issues to do with rent collection or repayment of deposits.
Where residential sales are concerned, the number of new cases remained around the same level at 220 for the quarter until March 31, 2008.
The overall number of enquiries received by the OEA rose by nine per cent to 2,983 between January 1 and March 31. But of the 1,655 enquires that came within the Ombudsman’s terms of reference, 448 concerned lettings, a rise of 39.6 per cent, while 1,140 were about sales, a rise of 1.6 per cent.
At the end of the quarter, 12,672 offices belonging to 5,683 firms were covered by the OEA scheme. Of these, 3,350 offered both sales and lettings and 839 just offered lettings.
The OEA only began dealing with complaints concerning lettings in June 2006, following a rule from the National Association of Estate Agents that all its members, with a few exceptions, should be part of the OEA.
On January 1 this year, the scope was broadened as firms accredited under the National Approved Letting Scheme also came under the auspices of the OEA for the first time.