Last month, members of the Home Sweet Home group went undercover in Brighton and Hove to examine letting agents’ compliance of consumer rights law. Their findings are shocking.
The team of local campaigners found that 80% of letting agents are potentially in breach of consumer rights laws.
Home Sweet Home visited 67 letting agents, finding that 55 offices may not be complying with the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was enforced on 1st October.
Agents that do not comply with the new rules could face council action and a fine of £5,000.
The group assessed the agents on their membership of Government-approved deposit protection and dispute resolution schemes, and checked the offices for a prominent display of the fees they charge.
Of the 67 offices inspected, just 12 appeared to be compliant with all three. The biggest failure regarded fees, with only 15 displaying a full list of fees in a place that it is likely to be seen.
With so many agents apparently in breach of the regulations, Home Sweet Home plans to contact the branches by letter, stating the changes to the law and recommending best practice regarding the display of fees.
The letters will be hand-delivered alongside Home Sweet Home certificates for the 12 agents that passed all three criteria.
Campaign Leader of Home Sweet Home, Summer Dean, says: “Our aim is to uphold the letting agents’ legal obligation to provide transparency to tenants regarding the often hidden fees they have to pay. Our longer term goal is to create a more open and accountable renting culture in Brighton and Hove, so that people can start to see rising standards here.”1
The group is made up of local councillors, Labour Party members and renters hoping to raise the profile of private tenants in Brighton and Hove. It is supported by the broader organisation Movement for Change, which gives local leaders the power to campaign on issues important to their communities.
Representatives from student unions have also been part of the campaign and are working to create a comparison table of the fees charged by the agents in question.
Lead Councillor for Private Rented Sector Housing at Brighton & Hove City Council, Tracey Hill, comments: “The Citizens Advice Bureau reports that housing is the second biggest issue they deal with, especially regarding the private rented sector, which is growing as fewer people can afford to get onto the housing ladder.
“Poor living standards, rising rents and housing scarcity leave private tenants extremely vulnerable to the housing market.”1
Home Sweet Home hopes to make a difference to the nine million private tenants in England, many living in the one-third of private rental homes that do not meet the Decent Homes Standard. Part of this involves the fair treatment of tenants and landlords by letting agents.