A new enforcement team has been appointed to provide better protection for tenants against letting agents charging illegal fees.
Following on from the decision to implement a ban on tenant fees (beginning 1st June 2019), this team will be led by National Trading Standards. It will be responsible for the regulation of the private rental sector (PRS), ensuring the compliance of letting agents.
Funding will come from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team will take the roll of Lead Enforcement Authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
Bristol City Council will lead letting agency regulation within England and Powys County Council will continue to drive estate agent enforcement throughout the UK.
David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, has commented on the news that Bristol Trading Standards will be the Lead Enforcement Authority for the PRS: “We welcome today’s announcement of the Lead Enforcement Authority, and hope this is a major step forward in improving enforcement in the private rented sector. At the moment, there is a severe lack of prosecution in the industry, allowing rogue agents to operate and thrive. We look forward to building a constructive working relationship with the Lead Enforcement Authority to eliminate these agents from the sector once and for all.”
James Munro, Head of National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said: “Bringing the two functions – lead enforcement authority for estate agency work and lead enforcement authority for lettings agency work – under one team will mean there is a single point of contact for enforcement work in this area. This single team approach will help us uphold consumers’ rights and enforce the law.”
Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said: “We are determined to make the private rented sector a fairer, more accessible market that works for all and I am delighted that local authorities will now be able to access the best advice and information from this new team. There is no place for unfair fees – now, with this new enforcement authority, we will be able to stamp them out.”
Cllr Steve Pearce, Bristol City Council cabinet member with responsibility for regulatory services, said: “We are delighted to be hosting this new function and playing our part in delivering a solution that combines both regulatory functions into a joint team that will provide a single coherent regulatory voice and help secure regulatory compliance for consumers.
“This places us at the heart of influencing the government policy to help enhance consumer protection. This is a hugely challenging area of regulation and we look forward to playing a leading role assisting enforcement authorities in the course of their duties.”
The main duties of the Lead Enforcement Authority team will include:
- Overseeing the operation of relevant estate and letting agency legislation
- Issuing prohibition and formal warning order to any who are found unfit to engage in estate agency work in the UK
- Approving & overseeing the UK’s consumer redress schemes, Ombudsmen, and Alternative Dispute Resolution entities in the estate agency sector
- Issuing guidance and advice for the public, businesses and enforcement authorities on estate agency work in the UK and relevant letting agency work in England