Foxtons has been fined £2,500 after a tenant administration fee it charges was found to be not adequately explained. The sanction follows an inspection by Trading Standards at its Stratford branch near the Olympic Park in East London.
The London Borough of Newham has been cracking down on agents all over the borough over the past two years as part of its Fair Lettings Project, which has sent out reminders about agents’ “obligations to consumers” and inspection teams dispatched to check branches to “ensure they don’t rip off tenants or landlords”.
Foxtons was visited in January last year by a local Trading Standards officer who found that a £425 tenant administration fee charged to prospective tenants was not properly detailed.
Despite the error being pointed out by the officer, the fee remained unexplained at the branch for several months and a penalty charge of £2,500 was accepted by Foxtons.
“The Newham initiative was introduced to ensure that all of the 200 or so residential letting agents in the borough are complying with legislation designed to stop tenants being exploited,” the council says. “This includes ensuring that fees are transparent, that deposits are protected and that agents have fair terms and conditions.”
Newham is one of London’s more aggressive boroughs for lettings market regulation and over the past four years it has established a borough-wide landlord licensing system, prosecuted 900 landlords and banned 23 from operating within its boundaries.
“We are using all the powers at our disposal to drive up standards for tenants in the private rented sector to ensure that our residents have access to good quality homes,” says councillor Andrew Baikie (pictured).
“Those agents who have failed to clearly display their fees and charges are not operating within the law and we are taking action to protect our residents.”