The Association of Residential Letting Agents is urging tenants to “walk straight out” if they believe an agency is breaking the law.
ARLA’s stark recommendation follows London Trading Standards’ report at the end of last week suggesting that approaching half of the agencies it contacted in a 15 month survey may have broken laws, particularly applying to the display and charging of fees, redress scheme membership, and website content.
“We’re really pleased to see Trading Standards prosecuting bad practice in the industry; it’s the only way to clean up the sector and we’ve been calling for it for a long time” explains David Cox, ARLA Propertymark chief executive.
“People should remember that if they can’t see an agent’s fee template, CMP certificate and redress scheme membership prominently displayed in their office, that’s three laws that they have already broken. This raises the question what other laws will that agent break?” he says.
And he suggests: “At that stage, a tenant should walk straight out and choose an ARLA Propertymark member where agents follow a strict code of conduct which puts the tenant first. It’s also why we have been calling on the government to regulate letting agents and are pleased that plans are well underway for mandatory registration and training for all letting agents”.
London Trading Standards’ figures claim that letting agents in the capital have so far been fined over £1.2m for breaking the law - either for not displaying fees and charges or for not being members of a redress scheme.
Figures from LTS show that more than 46 per cent of 1,922 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.
As well as the fines, London boroughs instigated 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences including breaches of unfair trading rules.