Fourteen Trading Standards authorities across a swathe of England are embarking on an enforcement project to check lettings agency compliance.
The Central England Trading Standards Authorities group, which represents 14 authorities, has won funding to carry out the project; this will involve working jointly with housing officers from local councils, with support from the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team.
A similar project began in London in 2020 and found hundreds of letting agents non-compliant with these requirements. Significant non-compliances resulted in fines of up to £30,000 issues by trading standards authorities in this London-wide enforcement operation.
Officers in the West Midlands are giving advance notice of this project to give businesses the opportunity to check that they are taking the steps necessary and that they are compliant.
Advice will be available should agents have any queries, although significant work has already been done by NTSLEAT with the various professional representative bodies for agents. Failure to do so may mean non-compliant agents facing similar levels of fines to those in London.
James Munro, nead of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, says: “Our officers are providing advice and guidance to support this enforcement initiative, helping to safeguard up to a billion pounds of consumers’ money. The intelligence gathered from this campaign will be used to support local authority investigations across the country, which will help protect consumers, raise compliance across the industry and boost consumer confidence.
“Agents who hold client money are required by law to be registered with an approved CMP scheme – and to inform tenants who they are registered with. To find out more, please visit www.gov.uk/client-money-protection-scheme-property-agents.
“Agents must join a redress scheme if you’re a letting agent or property manager in England or Wales. If a customer has a complaint about your service that you cannot resolve between yourselves, they can complain to the scheme. To find out more, please visit www.gov.uk/redress-scheme-estate-agencies.“
Since April 2019 letting agents have been required by law to belong to an approved Client Money Protection scheme to ensure tenant and/or landlord money is protected should the business fail.
A representative from Warwickshire County Council -“ one of the local authorities involved in the project - says: “This is a really important campaign from our Trading Standards Service to ensure that all agents are members of both a Client Money Protection Scheme and a Redress scheme. This is the law and any letting agents found to not be complying with this could face legal action and large fines. We would also like to encourage tenants to be aware of their rights in relation to this and ask that they report any non-compliance from Letting Agents via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service."
And Simon Wilkes, chair of the Central England Trading Standards Authorities, adds: “Tenants are often some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it important that the business sector recognizes this and acts accordingly. We realise that many businesses will already have these protections in place, and those who are unsure should use this opportunity to check they are doing what is necessary.”