Letting agencies to face £30k fines in new enforcement drive

Trading standards has warned rogue agents in the West Midlands they could be hit with heavy penalties for not complying with regulations.

Rogue letting agents in the West Midlands are warned they could face fines of up to £30k.

Any individual agent caught breaking the law on protecting tenants’ and landlords’ cash will be sanctioned with hefty penalties, a trading standards group promised.

Central England Trading Standards Authorities [CEnTSA] group, which represents the region’s 14 authorities, has successfully bid for funding to carry out a project to check how compliant letting agents are in the region.

The project will involve working jointly with local housing officers, including district councils in two tier areas, with support from the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team [NTSELAT].

Since April 2019, letting agents have been required by law to belong to an approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme to ensure tenant and landlord money is protected should the business fail.

Letting agents also have to belong to an approved redress scheme, and to publish their CMP certificate and other important information on their websites and in their offices.

A similar project in London two years ago, found hundreds of letting agents non-compliant with these requirements. Significant non-compliances resulted in fines of up to £30,000 issued by trading standards authorities in that enforcement operation.

Officers in the West Midlands are providing advance notice of this project to give businesses the opportunity to check that they are taking the steps necessary and that they are compliant.

Real rogues

Simon Wilkes, chair of CEnTSA and Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, said: “West Midland letting agents are handling huge amounts of tenants’ and landlords’ money every year, so it’s vital that this is protected in the event of business failure.

“Tenants are often some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, and it’s important that the business sector recognises this and acts accordingly.

“This regional operation will enable us to step-up our efforts, particularly by working with our housing officer colleagues to identify the real rogues in this market,” he added.

“So, we’d ask anyone who operates in this area to get their affairs in order without delay, and to seek assistance if you are unsure.”

Link to Redress Scheme news

James Munro, head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, (pictured) 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.”

Read more about Trading Standards intiatives.

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