The Property Ombudsman and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute have announced a second phase of their campaign to tackle letting agents breaking the law by not displaying their fees.
Last year the first phase of the campaign targeted agents in Swansea and Dorset and TPO now says some 99 per cent of agents in those two locations are now compliant.
Phase two of the campaign launches this week with 179 agents in Reading, Basingstoke and surrounding areas as the next targets.
TPO says that despite the government announcing plans to ban agents from charging tenants upfront lettings fees, a period of consultation to draft and pass new regulations is yet to commence.
“In the meantime, the obligations on English and Welsh letting agents to display fees – along with redress and Client Money Protection scheme membership details – remain. Furthermore, any future ban of tenant fees will not prevent letting agents from charging fees to landlords” says the Ombudsman’s statement
During phase one, 266 TPO letting agents across Swansea and Dorset were asked to provide photographic evidence to demonstrate compliance with the law by displaying their fees in both the branch and on their company website.
Any agents found to be displaying the required information incorrectly were then given the opportunity to amend and re-submit.
Just two agents have failed to comply (by either not responding or not addressing flagged inaccuracies), and will now be referred to TPO’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee for further investigation.
The DSC is independent to the industry and has the powers to fine, suspend or expel an agent from TPO, as well as refer them to Trading Standards Officers, who can impose fines of up to £5,000.
“TPO has seen an increase in the number of enquiries about fees from tenants in recent weeks. It is essential that agents provide clarity and transparency about what fees are being charged for what service so that all parties understand the commitments they are entering into” says Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle.