When can I complain?
Private residential tenants can complain about a letting agent if they’re unhappy with the agent's conduct or if the agent has done something wrong. For example, if the agent:
charged the tenant a fee when they shouldn’t have
is harassing the tenant (eg entering the property without the tenant’s permission, stopping services (eg electricity), or threatening the tenant)
is failing to carry out repairs on the landlord’s behalf
is discriminating against the tenant (eg charging certain tenants a higher rent or deposit due to their nationality, race or sex)
Speaking to your letting agent and landlord
As the first point of call, tenants should try to raise the issue directly with the letting agent. Explain why you’re unhappy and ask your letting agent to sort out the issue.
If you feel it will help you, consider taking someone with you (eg a family member or friend), if you speak to your letting agent in person. If you don’t wish to speak to your letting agent face-to-face, consider calling or emailing them with your complaint.
You can also consider speaking to your landlord as they may be able to help resolve your issue with the letting agent. You can find your landlord’s name and contact details on your tenancy agreement. Ask the letting agent for your landlord’s details if you cannot find them as letting agents need to provide you with your landlord’s details if asked.
Making a written complaint
If speaking to your letting agent and/or landlord hasn’t helped, you can consider making a written complaint using the letting agent’s complaints procedure.
Most letting agents will have a complaints procedure that you can follow. Check the agent’s website or ask their office to provide you with details. Letting agents must tell you about their complaints procedure if you ask.
If your letting agent doesn’t have a complaints procedure in place, write to the agent’s manager.
In writing, clearly set out your complaint and what you would like your letting agent to do to resolve this problem. Where relevant, include:
the date(s) and time(s) the problem took place
details of any conversations with the letting agent
copies of any correspondence between yourself and the letting agent
photographs (eg showing damages or disrepair)
receipts for goods/services you’ve paid for due to a problem (eg dry cleaning bills if your washing machine broke)
a doctor’s note (where possible) if the problem has affected your or your household’s health and/or safety
Following such a complaint, the letting agent may investigate the issue, ask you further questions, inspect your home, and/or ask you to provide copies of supporting documents. Once the investigation has been concluded, you should be informed of its outcome.
Complaining to a redress scheme
If your letting agent doesn’t respond to your written complaint within 8 weeks or doesn’t resolve your problem, you can complain to a redress scheme (also known as a ‘complaints body’). Redress schemes can help you with a variety of complaints about a letting agent’s behaviour, for example, unfair treatment, hidden or prohibited charges, and poor services.
All letting agents must be members of a letting agency redress scheme. These redress schemes are:
To find out which redress scheme your agent belongs to, check the redress scheme website or ask your letting agent.
You can complain online on the redress scheme website. Explain the issue you have faced and what you’ve done so far to resolve it, including a copy of the letter(s) you previously sent to your letting agent.
If the redress scheme decides that your letting agent didn’t act correctly, they instruct the agent to change their practices and, if required, may tell them to pay you compensation.
Check if your letting agent is accredited
Some agents may be accredited by professional associations or voluntary accreditation schemes. If this is the case, they have to comply with certain standards and you can complain to the accreditation scheme if they don’t. The main schemes are:
These schemes can only assist with your complaint if you previously raised it through the agent’s complaints procedure. They cannot help you if you’ve started court action to deal with the complaint.
Reach out to the relevant scheme in writing, setting out your complaint and enclosing any relevant communication about the complaint (eg letters sent to the agent).
Complain to your local council
If the above steps have not been able to help, you may be able to complain to your local council. Your local council can only help with complaints about:
repairs not being carried out which poses a risk to your health and safety
dishonest or unfair trading behaviour
Contact your local council in writing, setting out your complaint and enclosing any relevant communication about the complaint (eg letters sent to the agent).
Bringing a court claim
You may be able to bring a court claim in certain situations, including if:
you are being illegally evicted (ie the letting agent is telling you to leave without following the correct eviction process)
you are being harassed
the agent won’t return your deposit
you are being discriminated against
Bear in mind that court action may be expensive and time-consuming. Ask a lawyer for more information.
What is the situation in Scotland?
In Scotland, letting agents must join the Scottish Government's Register of Letting Agents, for which they must pass a ‘fit and proper person test’. In most circumstances, it is an offence for letting agents to work if they're not on the Register.
Letting agents must also comply with the Letting Agent Code of Practice which, amongst other things, sets out rules relating to standards of practice, management and maintenance, communications, and resolving complaints.
Letting agents may also be required to comply with other codes of practice if they are registered with other voluntary or industry bodies.
Under the Letting Agent Code of Practice, letting agents in Scotland must comply with all relevant legislation when carrying out their business. They must also not discriminate against a landlord, tenant, or prospective tenant on the basis of protected characteristics (race, sex or disability).
If you believe that a letting agent is not complying with the Code of Practice, complain to them in writing using the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) template complaint letter. Your complaint must be dealt with according to the letting agent’s complaints procedure.
If the complaint sent to the agent does not resolve the issue, you can complain directly to the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) using Form J, setting out what you want the letting agent to do. Note that the Tribunal may dismiss your application if you have not tried to resolve the matter by complaining to the letting agency first.
For more information about the Tribunal, read First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) and costs or Ask a lawyer.