Letting Agents, Still Not Compliant With The Law On Displaying Fees?
As we wrote in a previous article earlier this year, the legal duty of letting agents to show fees, has been in force since May 27, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It stipulates that agents must list their fees on the agent's own website and prominently in their offices.
The list must include a description of each fee and what it covers, and include all fees and charges payable to the agent. Where fees cannot be determined in advance, there must be a description of how they are calculated.
As well as displayable fees payable by a tenant, the list must show fees payable by landlords.
Trading Standards police the requirement and agents can be fined up to £5,000, if found to be non-compliant.
Earlier this month, Sheffield City Council announced that it had in the previous six weeks investigated a total of 200 agents and fined 11 letting agents a total of £37,000 for not belonging to a redress scheme!
Now, it appears that an anonymous Sheffield agent (who it's safe to assume is compliant) has drawn up and sent a spreadsheet of its competitors to trading standards. Out of 81 on the list, just four are compliant and 77 are non-compliant with 9 showing some but not all fees !
It's pretty safe to assume that Sheffield agents are not the only ones flouting the rules. In fact they are probably just the tip of the iceberg and the reason why could lie in a report earlier in the year by University of Birmingham researchers, which specifically looked at the effects of huge budget cuts on council services, including trading standards.
It stated that over the past few years almost all trading standards departments have experienced sharp cuts in their budgets and most now operate with about half the number of staff that they employed five years ago. Furthermore, it seems that at the very bottom of the list of Trading Standards priorities, are letting agents, who might come to the attention of Trading Standards if they misappropriate tenants' deposits or fail to display their fees.
Reportedly, a letter written by the Trading Standards Institute in response to a complaint from one agent who is compliant about one that is not, stated "please be aware that councils have received no extra resources to carry out these extra duties. In addition, as with any new regulatory legislation that is not safety related, the general expectation by government and business affected is for a 'lighter touch' on enforcement to be adopted in the early days. Nevertheless I share and appreciate your frustrations regarding a level playing field and I can assure you that the new rules are something we are actively engaged with".
So, it's all very well the government introducing new legislation but if the staff are not employed to carry it through, there will always be the good agents who will comply with the law and those that just can't be bothered, who may never be caught and in any case are prepared to risk the penalty if they are.
For those who wish to remain within the law, The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) created set of fees templates for letting agents to download, which may be useful.PCHomes Letting Agent Software, offers a full property management system, making it easy to handlle all your Tenant Fees, Window Cards & Particulars, Portal Uploads and Website Management, assisting you to keep compliant with the law.
To find out more about our award winning software services and website design, speak to a member of our
team today on: 020 8859 1700 (Option 1) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Deb Roberts
Source Estates IT Ltd