Nearly half of letting agents surveyed 'are breaking the law'

Figures released by London Trading Standards (LTS) show that 46% of letting agents in the capital are breaking the law by failing to comply with new regulations.

They were fined a total of £1.2m for not displaying their fees or for not being members of a redress scheme. Figures are not available for the rest of the country, but it’s thought that the problem is widespread.

LTS inspected 1,922 agents in the 15-month period up to June this year and found that nearly half were non-compliant with either the Consumer Rights Act and/or the legislation on redress scheme membership.

As well as the fines, London boroughs instigated 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences including breaches of unfair trading rules.

The enforcement survey by LTS shows that there were over 6,000 letting agents operating across the capital and over 1,000 complaints about them.

LTS Operations Director Stephen Knight said: “London borough trading standards teams have been increasingly active in tackling rogue letting agents in recent years,with over £1.2 million of fines issued in the past 15 months and 14 criminal prosecutions, but dodgy agents are far too commonplace across London and private renters need to be very careful not to be ripped off.”

Two new laws, the Tenant Fees Act and the Client Money Protection Schemes for Property Agents, which have recently come into force are likely to add significant new protections to tenants. Until now, trading standards teams had limited powers to tackle rogue letting agents.

Under the Tenant Fees Act, which applies to tenancies signed since 1 June 2019, agents are banned from charging fees for all but a handful of controlled subjects, and deposits are strictly limited.

Also, since 1 April 2019, agents must hold any client money in a separate client money account. This must be protected through membership of a client money protection scheme.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of commercial property law.

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