Agent critical of report’s accusations

KIS managing director Ajay Jagota, based in North Shields.
KIS managing director Ajay Jagota, based in North Shields.

A NORTH Shields businessman has criticised a government report accusing letting agents of charging excessive fees for ‘scaremongering and slandering’.

A report from the Office of Trading published last week claimed some agents “exploit customers” with “surprise charges” and are all too often less than transparent about fees.

But while acknowledging the existence of bad practice and bad practitioners, Ajay Jagota, of KIS Lettings, who manages properties for some 700 landlords across the north east, feels the report paints an unfair picture of a typical agent and risks alienating responsible practitioners at a time when the government and the lettings industry need to work together.

He said: “I’m sure I speak for a lot of landlords and lettings agents when I say how sick of being judged on isolated and extreme examples of poor practice, which on no level reflects typical standards of conduct or service.

“There is no question there are dodgy operators out there, and landlords and tenants alike need to be careful about who they do business with – but this report poisons the reputation of good lettings agents who can be relied on to do right by their clients.

“I was particularly infuriated by the OFT’s claims that agents interests are not always aligned with those of landlords.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth – in fact countless landlords up and down the country have been convinced of the benefits of lettings agents precisely as we have their interests at heart.”

But Mr Jagota accepts his industry does need to pay close attention to the government report.

“As an industry we need to take serious steps to improve our image,” he said.

“Unless we take a stand on stamping out rogue agents we may as well be trying to let houses by only letting prospective tenants see pictures of the septic tank.

“For all its faults, we still should pay close attention to what the OFT is saying.

“The report stopped short of calling for state regulation of the industry. If standards don’t, it just gives more ammunition to people who have an interest in introducing regulation.

“Greedy fees are in no-one’s interest, but neither is slandering and scaremongering.”