The Association of Residential Lettings Agents says it backs a new Trading Standards-led body which will enforce the Fees Ban starting on June 1.
Yesterday afternoon there was a surprise announcement about the new National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team - NTSELAT - which will act as the lead enforcement authority for both the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
The estate agency side will continue to be policed by Trading Standards officers based at Powys county council, while the lettings agents’ ban and deposit cap - coming into force on June 1 - will be policed by TS officers from Bristol city council.
Bristol’s council and community organisations have been seen by some in the industry as aggressively anti-landlord and anti-letting agent in recent times.
In October last year the Lets Rent lettings agency refused to sign a pledge from a pro-tenant protest group and as a result, his agency office was the scene of a demonstration on a Saturday; also last year a former Bristol councillor said letting agents should be responsible for ensuring student tenants know how to organise their bins in a tidy manner; and for the past three years the Bristol branch of the campaign group ACORN has held protests outside agents’ offices in the city.
Currently the council is in the process of extending its existinglicensing scheme to include Houses in Multiple Occupation in 12 wards. The likely fee for the five year licence would be £1,200 - believed to be one of the most expensive in the UK - and involves a 38-point ‘test’ which has to be passed by applicants.
However, ARLA has spoken up for the move to make Bristol Trading Standards the lead enforcement authority for the private rental sector.
The association’s chief executive David Cox says: “We welcome today’s announcement of the Lead Enforcement Authority, and hope this is a major step forward in improving enforcement in the private rented sector. At the moment, there is a severe lack of prosecution in the industry, allowing rogue agents to operate and thrive. We look forward to building a constructive working relationship with the Lead Enforcement Authority to eliminate these agents from the sector once and for all.”
There is no official word yet on resources from the new body, which in its first statement yesterday afternoon said it would be primarily responsible for the regulation of estate agency work in the UK and letting agency work in England, specifically:
- overseeing the operation of relevant estate and letting agency legislation;
- issuing prohibition and formal warning orders to those found unfit to engage in estate agency work in the UK;
- approving & overseeing the UK’s consumer redress schemes, Ombudsmen, and Alternative Dispute Resolution entities in the estate agency sector; and
- issuing guidance and advice for the public, businesses and enforcement authorities on estate agency work in the UK and relevant letting agency work in England.
Those who missed yesterday’s announcement - covered exclusively on Estate Agent Today - can read it here.
“Bringing the two functions - lead enforcement authority for estate agency work and lead enforcement authority for lettings agency work - under one team will mean there is a single point of contact for enforcement work in this area. This single team approach will help us uphold consumers’ rights and enforce the law” explains James Munro, now named as Head of National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, expanding his previous role.
And Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP adds: “We are determined to make the private rented sector a fairer, more accessible market that works for all and I am delighted that local authorities will now be able to access the best advice and information from this new team. There is no place for unfair fees – now, with this new enforcement authority, we will be able to stamp them out.”
Finally councillor Steve Pearce, Bristol City Council cabinet member with responsibility for regulatory services, says of his authority’s new role: “We are delighted to be hosting this new function and playing our part in delivering a solution that combines both regulatory functions into a joint team that will provide a single coherent regulatory voice and help secure regulatory compliance for consumers. This places us at the heart of influencing the government policy to help enhance consumer protection.”
Additional information is also available on the team’s new website: www.ntselat.uk.