Letting agents. You really don't like them. When we asked Twitter for your bad experiences with landlords, several of you served up howling tales of incompetent and occasionally illegal agent activities; and we regularly get comments complaining about fees. So it might be some comfort to know that as of today, all letting agents are legally required to be signed up to a redress scheme or be fined £5,000.
Some comfort, but not much. These schemes (either The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property or the Property Redress Scheme) give you, the tenant, somewhere official to go and complain about discrimination, harassment, hidden or outrageous fees, being misled about a contract or state of a property, your deposit going walkabout or another form of aberrant behaviour. Thing is, we already had recourse to an official place to complain, which was Trading Standards; except Trading Standards are funded by local councils, which are having their budgets cut, which might go some way to explain why recently there have been barely any prosecutions.
So it's helpful if you're the kind of bloody minded individual who's prepared to wade through bureaucracy and processes to the bitter end. But we're still lacking compulsory standards for how property should be managed, a definitive tenancy agreement and any kind of control on fees. (In Germany, fees will soon be paid by the landlord in the vast majority of cases. When it comes to private renting, we kind of love Germany.) The balance of power in the UK is still tipped too far away from renters. Knowing your rights is all well and good and it's your landlord who holds the power of eviction, but the letting agency could still screw you over on references or the inventory if it decides to try and intimidate you. Sorry, but we don't see this redress scheme making much difference to that.