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Time to curb lettings agents, says Which?

Consumer group Which? has called for the lettings market to be regulated in the same way as house sales after its exposure of widespread abuse in the sector.

Which? said its investigations and a tide of complaints to the Property Ombudsman service has shown that many letting agents impose unfair fees on tenants, use misleading advertising and aggressive sales techniques.

"People searching for a rented home through a lettings agent are too often hit by unexpected and unfair fees or unacceptably bad service," said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.

"With the private rented sector now the only option for millions of people, it is vital more is done to protect tenants and landlords from rogue lettings agents."

Mr Lloyd is calling for the legal protection for those buying and selling property to be extended to those renting. Lettings agents would then be covered by the same legislation as estate agents and would be required to sign up to an ombudsman scheme. The Office of Fair Trading would have the power to ban rogue agents.

Which? also revealed landlords and tenants do not check their lettings agents. Two thirds of tenants and nearly half of landlords said they didn't know if their agent was a member of a professional body.