Trading standards services in London are working together to help tackle problems with letting agents who aren’t complying with the law and are rolling out a UK wide programme.
A survey of 137 letting agents in the capital by London Trading Standards (LTS) revealed an extremely high level of non-compliance with the requirement to display fees and other information.
It also revealed that many letting agents in London are not being transparent about their fees and how they will protect tenants’ money. Some 53% were not displaying a Client Money Protection (CMP) statement, 37% were not displaying landlord fees and 31% were not displaying tenant fees.
LTS points out that three years after providing this information became a legal requirement, a number of agents are not still stepping up to the mark and raising standards, but continue to flout the law.
In one case, Trading Standards in Islington took ground breaking action against a letting agent who used a rental licence, which attempts to take away tenants’ rights.
Despite housing and private sector renting being the number one issue for London residents, there is a low level of reporting of problems with letting agents. LTS is advising those who experience or know of a letting agent acting unfairly to report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who will pass it on to the relevant Trading Standards Service.
Mayor of London Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker, a tool unique to London which lists enforcement action taken by London Boroughs against landlords and letting agents, helping people to avoid using them.
‘Working with trading standards teams in London and across the country, we are stopping rogue landlords and agents in their tracks. The new measures in our Tenant Fees Bill will save renters around £240 million a year by banning unfair letting fees and capping tenancy deposits,’ said Housing Minister Heather Wheeler.
‘On top of this, new regulations will keep renters’ money safe by only allowing letting agents that join a Government approved client money protection scheme handle their money,’ she added.
According to Martin Harland, chair of LTS’ lettings group, a significant number of letting agents and landlords have been getting away with rip-offs for too long. ‘To help us get the big picture and start tackling the rogues, we need to know who is causing problems in the London market. So please report it by contacting the Citizen Advice Consumer Service,’ he said.
James Murray, Deputy Mayor for housing and residential development in London, explained that in order to truly improve the private rented sector there needs to be much more wide ranging reform.
‘ In the meantime, the Mayor will continue to stand up for London renters by working in partnership with Boroughs and London Trading Standards on improving standards, enforcing transparency around letting agent fees, and helping renters to access information on rogue landlords,’ he added.
The industry wants to see the issue of rogue agents addressed. ‘Professional letting agents who work hard to ensure they adhere to the law have their name tarnished by the agents who fail to comply,’ said Isobel Thomson, chief executive officer of the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).
‘Only by reporting these agents can we stamp out rogues, and improve the private rented sector for all. We would also urge consumers to check their agent is a member of a professional regulatory organisation like NALS who will have a strict code of conduct to ensure the highest standards,’ she added.