More than 46% of 1,922 letting agents inspected in the 15 months up to June 2019 by local council trading standards officers were non-compliant with either the Consumer Rights Act and/or the legislation on redress scheme membership, London Trading Standards (LTS) has revealed.
LTS added that letting agents had been fined more than £1.2m for breaking the law; “either for not displaying fees and charges or for not being members of a redress scheme”.
London boroughs had also instigated 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences including breaches of unfair trading rules, it said.
London Trading Standards’ Operations Director Stephen Knight said: “London borough trading standards teams have been increasingly active in tackling rogue letting agents in recent years, … but dodgy agents are far too commonplace across London and private renters need to be very careful not to be ripped off.”
LTS said two new laws, the Tenant Fees Act and the Client Money Protection Schemes for Property Agents, which have recently come into force, were 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,” LTS said.
London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing and Planning and Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Darren Rodwell, said: “Boroughs are cracking down on rogue letting agents to protect tenants from unfair treatment. As the research shows, this poses a serious challenge in London, where housing pressures are so severe and a significant number of letting agents have been breaking the rules.
“Borough trading standards teams are crucial for tackling this issue. Through raising awareness, issuing fines and pursuing prosecutions, we’re determined to support tenants and make clear to rogue letting agents that bad practice is unacceptable.”