Letting agents in London who were hoping Trading Standards would ease off investigating those who don’t display their fees properly as the fees ban looms have been in for a nasty shock.
Over the past three months letting agents in the capital have been fined £370,000 by the city’s 15 trading standards offices, it has been revealed.
The fines are part of a big push by the capital-wide organisation that coordinates the policing of businesses in the city, London Trading Standards, to crack down on “rogue letting agents who flout the law”.
The shocking figures highlighting the level of fines levied on letting agents have been released to coincide with a week-long campaign of activity by the organisation, which kicked off on Monday highlighting knife crime, followed by lettings and property management firms yesterday.
London Trading Standards is focussing largely on agents who don’t display their fees clearly and issuing fines of up to £5,000 to those who transgress “to improve the rental experience for customers”.
Its most high-profile scalp was earlier this month when Camden Council’s trading standards department won an appeal in the Upper Tier Tribunal against Foxtons using the term ‘administration fees’, which led to the firm facing a penalty charge of £18,000.
“London’s two million renters deserve a better deal, which is why the Mayor [of London] has worked closely with partners across the sector to persuade Government to ban letting agent fees and cap rental deposits,” says James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development (pictured, left).
But it’s not all stick and no carrot. London Trading Standards says it is working closely with the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) to improve standards in London, which has included implementing the online NALS Enforcement Toolkit training course, which helps train local authority staff to regulate letting agents more effectively.
“Trading Standards play a vital enforcement role in the lettings landscape, ensuring agents trade fairly and consumers are protected,” says Isobel Thomson, CEO of NALS.
“We are delighted that London has taken a lead in increasing their activity and raising awareness so that rogue agents should not simply slip under the radar.”