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Majority of councils failing to police compulsory fee disclosure

Research by the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has identified that some 93% of local authorities have failed to issue a financial penalty for non-compliance of compulsory fee disclosure.

As of May 2015, it has been a legal requirement for letting agents to prominently display the fees they charge both in their offices and on their websites.

Using Freedom of Information requests, London Property Licensing carried out the survey of English councils on behalf of NALS.

Just three penalty notices have been issued for failure to display landlord and tenant fees, with just one of these having been paid in full.

Almost two thirds of councils surveyed admitted they do not consider the display of letting agent fees as a high priority. 

What's more, 45% of authorities said they only undertake reactive enforcement measures.

One of the biggest problems seems to be a lack of resources as 33% of councils said they had allocated no staffing resources to this work in 2016/17 and 62% said they don't anticipate any change in the level of staffing they can allocate to enforcement in 2017/18.

NALS says it is concerned about the disconnect between the government's aspirations and the reality of delivery of enforcement.

For example, 64% of councils surveyed said they are yet to assess the likely impact on enforcement when the proposed ban on up-front letting agent fees charged to tenants is introduced. 

Isobel Thomson, NALS chief executive, asks: "We recognise Trading Standards teams are underfunded and under-resourced, but if local authorities aren’t enforcing the current legislation what will make things different when the fee ban is implemented?"

“Without sufficient robust and coherent enforcement action, we will never stop the criminal element in the PRS," she says.

"They will continue to operate knowing they won’t face any penalty and it’s the consumer who will continue to suffer. We believe now is the time to start a constructive dialogue with the

Chartered Trading Standards Institute and its members on how we can work together to stamp out the rogues.”

Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), adds: “[We] welcome the research produced by NALS and believe that it highlights the issues of the robust enforcement needed for existing regulation that can deliver for the consumer.” 

“We look forward to further engagement with NALS.”

CTSI has sent open letters to the political parties as it believes the current model of trading standards is ‘broken’ and needs to be fixed.

Full list of local authorities surveyed: Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon & Somerset, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Bolton, Manchester, Oldham, Stockport, Trafford, St Helens, Wirral, Barnsley, Rotherham, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, West Yorkshire Joint Services (includes Calderdale), Barnet, Brent, Croydon, Kensington & Chelsea, Richmond upon Thames, Redbridge, Southwark, Bath & North East Somerset, Brighton & Hove, Durham, Herefordshire, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Redcar & Cleveland and South Gloucestershire.

No response received from: Bexley, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, Torbay and Wokingham.

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