James Munro (pictured above), head of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) has revealed that the organisation is to begin intervening when local authorities cannot or will not police rogue letting agents.
The initiative is part of his team’s efforts to ensure enforcement of lettings industry regulations is as even as possible across the UK.
“The biggest challenge we have from the industry, and rightly so, is the lack of consistency when it comes to enforcement, support and advice,” he tells The Negotiator.
“That’s what we really need to address. We can’t stand up to our promise to safeguard reputable agents if we can’t ensure that in Essex for example you’ll be treated broadly the same as if you were in Shropshire.”
Munro says the challenge is that there are local politics involved; unlike sales agents, councils are required to enforce letting industry regulations in their own areas but each have different priorities.
“So we need to ensure that they are doing the same thing,” says Munro. “What you will see going forward is that we’ve picked some fairly high level priorities to target.
“This includes ensuring that agents are registered for redress and signed up to CMP and are protecting tenants’ deposits.”
Munro says he believes these three key areas are ‘paramount’ and should be enforced across the country.
“So we have agreed that we will work with local authorities to ensure that all the agents in their areas are compliant and if they aren’t, and where the local authorities won’t or can’t do it we’ll step in and do something about that,” he adds.
But Munro admits he has his hands tied; NTSEAT only has 15 staff at the moment and so it can only step in where there are serious problems with an agent and a local authority is unable to do anything about it.