Council’s Trading Standards given powers to crackdown on rogue letting agencies
Shropshire Council Trading Standards Team has been given additional powers to crackdown on the illegal activities of letting agents and property management businesses.
Cabinet members recently approved the adoption of Shropshire Council’s Enforcement and Determination of Financial Penalties for Breaches of Relevant Letting Agency Requirements Policy, which aims to target letting agents and property management businesses who charge tenants prohibited fees, fail to publish fees or fail to join appropriate redress and client money protection schemes.
The policy will give the council’s Trading Standards Team the power to use financial penalties to enforce the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and other related letting agency legislation.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 was introduced to make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants by reducing the costs at the outset of a tenancy by introducing a ban on certain fees payable by the tenant and also creating a ‘permitted payment’ regime. The law requires that tenants may only be charged certain fees and these must be upfront and displayed to prospective tenants.
Since the introduction of the 2019 Act, agents have been required by law to belong to an approved client money protection (CMP) scheme to ensure tenant and/or landlord money is protected should the business fail. In Shropshire and across the West Midlands there are hundreds of letting agents handling client money every day, so any significant level of non-compliance with the law could leave considerable sums of tenant and/or landlord money at risk. Letting agents are also required to belong to an approved redress scheme and to publish their CMP certificate and other important information on their websites and in their offices.
Any landlord or letting agent that fails to comply with the law on protecting tenants and their money face a fine of up to £30,000.
Councillor Ed Potter, Cabinet Member Economic Growth, Regeneration & Planning
“Shropshire Council has a statutory responsibility to regulate specific aspects of the letting agency and property management market by ensuring that tenants are only charged permitted fees, that where appropriate letting agents are members of a redress scheme and a client money protection scheme and that letting agents’ fees and charges are transparent/publicised appropriately.
“With the private rented sector market seeing significant increases, this means there are also increasing concerns over standards, unfair practices and safety.
“We know that most letting agents, landlords and property management businesses apply good practice and comply with legislation. However, there are still some agents who are breaking the law and are, for example, charging unpermitted fees or keeping tenants deposits unnecessarily.
“It is vital that tenants’ money is protected, that they are treated fairly and that they feel more safe and secure in their homes.
“We are, therefore, stepping up our actions in partnership with other West Midlands local authorities to ensure we protect tenants in our local communities. Our Trading Standards Team wants to educate, explain and encourage to help businesses achieve compliance, with enforcement being a last resort, but they will not hesitate to take robust action if this is needed.”
Shropshire Council is one of 14 West Midlands local authorities that are represented by the Central England Trading Standards Authorities [CEnTSA] group. CEnTSA has successfully bid for funding to carry out a project to check how compliant letting agents are in the region. Shropshire will benefit from this funding through the work of the Council’s Trading Standards Team.
The regional project will involve working jointly with housing officers in their respective authority areas, including district councils in two tier areas, with support from the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team [NTSELAT].
Any letting agent, landlord or property management business based in Shropshire can seek further advice from the Council’s Trading Standards Team on 0345 678 9000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any tenant who is concerned about the actions of an agent or business should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0800 144 8848 for advice. Any relevant information will be referred to Trading Standards.