Sian Berry AM outside an estate agent

News from Siân Berry: Letting agents flouting rules show need for ban on fees

24 March 2017

Letting them get away with it – a new study by Sian Berry AM – shows that rules for letting agents are being routinely flouted. The research shows that rogue agents enjoy a very low risk of facing any penalties from councils.[1]

Sian Berry’s investigation looked at the enforcement work done by London councils since new rules on displaying letting fees and membership of deposit and redress schemes were introduced in May 2015.[2]

The results show that less than one third of complaints made were acted upon. Despite 1,351 complaints made to councils about letting agents, only 444 visits were made by trading standards officers, just 462 warning letters were sent and only 52 final notices were issued.

Only four councils – Islington, Camden, Newham and Kensington and Chelsea – have issued any fines to letting agents. Only £66,000 was received in fines and nearly two thirds of this (£42,000) was taken in by one council – Islington.

Sian Berry said:

“Rules saying fees must be displayed are clearly not enough. My research shows councils aren’t able to enforce them effectively so an outright ban on letting fees is sorely needed.

“Everyone who rents knows horror stories of last-minute charges or hidden fees added by letting agents. We need to stop these unjust costs that hit people at their most vulnerable when they are worried about securing their home.

“The Government is due to consult on plans to follow Scotland and bring in a ban on letting fees to tenants, and I hope they will look at this evidence and stop the exploitation of renters when they can least afford it.[3]

“The Mayor has also promised a database of rogue landlords, and to look at including dodgy letting agents in this too. These measures can’t come quickly enough.[4]

“Tackling rogue letting agents was a top priority of the 1,500 Londoners who responded to my survey of renters last year, so they must be properly policed.”[5]

Notes to editors

[1] Letting them get away with it. Sian Berry AM, Mar 2017

[2] Consumer Rights Act 2015, duty of letting agents to publicise fees 

[3] Autumn Statement – some of the things we’ve announced. HM Treasury, November 2016 

[4] Manifesto for all Londoners, Sadiq Khan, 2016  

See also: Rogue letting agents. MQ 2016/4600 from Sian Berry AM
Thank you for your responses to my questions 2016/3010 and 2016/3630 in which you mentioned that you will be setting up a 'name and shame' database of rogue landlords. Will this vital information for tenants also include details of letting agents who break the rules?

Answer from the Mayor, Dec 2016
My officers will look into how criminal letting agents can best be covered by our approach to naming and shaming rogue landlords.
http://questions.london.gov.uk/QuestionSearch/searchclient/questions/question_291084

[5] What are London’s renters thinking? Sian Berry AM, Oct 2016

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