The housing charity Shelter Scotland has launched a website designed to help private tenants to reclaim fees unlawfully charged by letting agents. The site, offers information and advice about what agents can and can’t legally charge. Tenants can use templates of standard letters and obtain a user guide to the small claims court in Scotland.

There is no doubt that a bad agent can make life very difficult for both the tenant and landlord alike. Most of our landlord insurance clients are in England and Wales and often manage their properties themselves but many do use the services of professional managing agents. Choosing a good one is essential because there are so many areas where disputes can arise between the landlord and the tenant. A good agent will be able to steer both sides through all the procedures that need to be followed so that a satisfactory relationship is established.

As well as getting all the paperwork in order the agent should be fully aware of the rules about protecting deposits and the time limits for notices. Inventories are another area where things can go wrong. If the agent or the inventory clerk fail to draw up the inventory and condition schedule accurately it is almost certain that one or both of the landlord and tenant will be dissatisfied.

Finding a good agent is a skill in itself. Perhaps the best way is to ask other landlords for a personal recommendation. As far as the tenants are concerned, they have little choice- if they want to rent a particular property they will have to put up with the landlord’s choice of agent.