The fees display regulations introduced two years ago to force agents to show how much they charge tenants remain largely unenforced, research by the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has revealed.
NALS made Freedom of Information requests to every local authority in England and the results make for grim reading, while also highlighting the huge challenges that cash-strapped councils will face when they begin enforcing the government’s proposed letting fees ban.
An astonishing 93% % of all the Local Authorities canvassed have not issued any penalties or final warnings to agents for not displaying their fees since the new regulations were introduced in 2015.
And the three local authorities who have issued financial penalties – Warwickshire, Kensington & Chelsea and Redbridge – have only mustered THREE in total. Only one of these has been paid in full.
Local Authorities’ ability to issue warning letters is only marginally better.
Just three local authorities have issued warning letters in significant numbers – East Sussex, Redbridge and Walsall – and in total only 83 warning letters have been issued across the UK so far.
Lack of resources
These figures reflect the lack of resources that most local authorities have available to police the regulation of letting agents.
The NALS research shows that a third have no resources available and only two local authorities had a full-time member of staff checking on letting agents, while most allocate very small amounts of time and resource, if at all.
Also, nearly 60% of the local authorities canvassed by NALS do not consider letting fees display a high priority.
This will all become academic when the fees ban is eventually introduced this year, but its enforcement will also be the responsibility of local authorities, two thirds of which have not even worked out if they have resources available to take it on.
“We’re clearly concerned by these results and the disconnect between Government’s aspirations with consumer protection legislation and the reality of delivery through enforcement,” says NALS Chief Executive Isobel Thomson (pictured, left).
“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?”.