The lettings sector needs more regulation, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has said, after revealing a rise in the number of so-called rogue agents.
Those renting properties are at risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents amid "a total lack of effective regulation", RICS warned after surveying 2,000 people.
The organisation said that renters had come to expect "worryingly low standards", with two thirds of those questioned saying they had not been given an inventory when they moved into a rented property in the last two years.
Lettings agencies do not have to conform to codes of conduct, RICS highlighted, and can be set up by people without relevant qualifications, knowledge or understanding of the rental process.
A clampdown is needed to prevent the sector turning into "the property industry's Wild West", RICS added.
Peter Bolton King, global residential director at the organisation, said rogue agents were taking advantage of the UK's booming rental market.
Demand for rental properties has shot up as people struggle to afford the deposit required to buy their own homes, or fail to meet banks' tough borrowing conditions.
"A good lettings agent can be worth their weight in gold for both landlord and tenant," Mr King said.
"However, there are too many corrupt agents that do not belong to any professional body who are taking advantage of the current gap in regulation, putting consumers at risk."
He added that a rogue agent could land a tenant with problems including lost deposits, broken agreements and excessive charges.
"What we would like to see is the Government taking direct action on this and introducing a single regulatory and redress system for both sales and lettings agents to make sure they are fully accountable," he said.
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