The government is being urged by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to do more to enforce compulsory fee disclosure.
Since May 2015, as part of the Consumer Rights Act, it has been mandatory for letting agents to publish all details of the fees they charge landlords and tenants.
In theory, those that don’t comply could be fined up to £5,000. However, statistics show the regulations have barely been enforced.
According to the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), since it became a legal requirement for agents to display fees over two years ago, 93% of councils have failed to issue a single financial penalty to an agent for breaking the law.
The NALS research found that just three penalty notices had been served across the whole of England for failure to display fees.
What’s more, 59% of councils admitted that they do not consider the displaying of fees to be a high priority and 45% said they only undertake reactive enforcement activity.
As MPs debate letting agent fees in Parliament today, the RLA is urging the government to better enforce existing regulations designed to improve transparency around fees before looking to introduce a blanket ban.
The organisation – which represents over 50,000 private landlords – says the government should force agents to display the fees they charge in greater detail and in more prominent positions.
It also suggests that fines for non-compliance should be £30,000, rather than £5,000.
“Laws without proper enforcement serve only to let tenants and good landlords down,” says David Smith, the RLA’s policy director.
“Rather than pressing ahead with plans for more legislation in the sector to ban letting agent fees at an unknown time in the future, Ministers could achieve greater and earlier impact by using the powers they already have to improve transparency and introduce far tougher penalties for agents found to be breaching the law.”
“This would send a clear message that enforcing bodies will not tolerate any letting agents flouting the law,” he adds.
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