Posts with tag: letting agent

Letting Agents Breaking Existing Laws on Tenant Fees

Published On: May 29, 2019 at 9:55 am


Categories: Lettings News,Tenant Fees Ban

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Tenant lobby group Generation Rent has found 21 letting agents around the country that are breaking existing laws on tenant fees.

The campaigners found that many letting agents are currently flouting the Consumer Rights Act, four years after it came into force, which raises concerns about the effectiveness of the upcoming tenant fees ban.

The Consumer Rights Act requires letting agents to display the fees that they charge in their branches and on their websites. The penalty for failing to comply is £5,000. 

In 2017, Generation Rent research of 1,088 agents found that 131 were failing to display their fees.

With the Tenant Fees Act coming into effect on 1st June 2019, Generation Rent has been assessing how well letting agents comply with existing laws, inviting supporters to report unlawful behaviour on its Report an Agent page.

A group of Generation Rent volunteers, nicknaming themselves the Letting Fees Detectives, have been mystery shoppers online, checking agents’ websites and making phone calls. The research has revealed 21 agents that are still misleading tenants by failing to publish their fees.

The Report an Agent page has received reports of agent attempts to avoid the tenant fees ban, including:

  • Pressuring new tenants to sign up to expensive no-deposit schemes
  • Asking existing tenants to renew their contracts before 1st June, allowing the agent to lock in renewal and check-out fees for the next year
  • One agent told a tenant that the fee ban is “like Brexit” – it is being delayed and probably won’t happen

The Tenant Fees Act received royal assent in February and will come into force on 1st June in England.

Georgie Laming, a Campaigner at Generation Rent, says: “The scale of malpractice from the lettings industry is shocking. Failing to display fees is in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, and it’s ripping off tenants who can’t make an informed choice. Whilst the Tenant Fees Act is a brilliant victory for renters, it is clear that we need better enforcement of the law if it is to work properly.

“That’s why Generation Rent supporters have started a Letting Agent Detective team. These are ordinary renters, taking matters into their own hands by mystery shopping letting agents across England to expose them. We’ve found letting agents across the country disregarding the law or deliberately misleading tenants.”

They add: “Probably one of the most shocking examples was a letting agent who told a tenant that the letting fees ban was ‘like Brexit’in that it was constantly being delayed and probably wouldn’t happen, so she should sign a contract now.”

Letting Agent Expelled from The Property Ombudsman after Failing to Pay Award

Published On: August 24, 2017 at 8:20 am


Categories: Property News

Tags: ,,,

A sales and letting agent in southwest London has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme for a year after failing to pay an award to a complainant.

Premier Moves Management Limited (PMM) did not pay the £4,900 award, as instructed by TPO, so the case was referred to TPO’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee (DSC), which ruled that the firm should be expelled from TPO.

Letting Agent Expelled from The Property Ombudsman after Failing to Pay Award

Letting Agent Expelled from The Property Ombudsman after Failing to Pay Award

Landlords and tenants are being warned that the firm may still be trading illegally, as its website is still live with both for sale and to let properties, even though the office is shut and the agent does not appear to be registered with Rightmove or Zoopla.

The complainants said that they received a poor service from PMM, with “promises made and not kept” and poor communication; PMM was not contactable during office hours.

The specific complaints were that PMM failed to:

  • Pay over rental money received
  • Advise about Council Tax and whether it should have been accounted for in the rent
  • Confirm whether a deposit was taken, the amount and where it was registered
  • Effectively manage the property, citing a lack of tenancy agreements, updates about renewed tenancy agreements and failure to conduct regular inspections
  • Advise the complainants about changes to lettings of which PMM were aware

TPO investigated each issue and upheld the complaints. PMM had already agreed it owed £3,600 in rent received. TPO then directed PMM to transfer all rent monies owed by this point (£4,350) to the complainants. In addition to this, a £500 award of compensation was made. The total award was £4,900.

TPO, Katrine Sporle, comments: “My investigation found the agent had failed to ensure rent was passed on to the complainants (landlords) promptly, and considered this caused the complainants aggravation, distress and inconvenience. The agent agreed, in writing, that the amount owed to the complainants would be fully paid to them in 28 days, but the agent failed to make any payment, so the case was referred to the DSC.”

All members of TPO are obliged to comply with awards made by TPO and are also obliged to co-operate with investigations. PMM also voluntarily agreed to abide by the Code of Practice.

PMM did offer to pay by installments following TPO’s decision, but the complainants refused this. However, no further offer or any payment on account was made after that.

The DSC therefore considered this a serious and flagrant breach of PMM’s obligations under the Membership Deed. In view of that, the DSC concluded that PMM should be expelled and excluded from membership of TPO and from registration for redress for one year.

This means that PMM will, for that period, no longer be registered with TPO for lettings redress, as required by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, and could not operate as a sales agent, as redress registration is also required by Section 23A of the Estate Agents Act 1979.

The Chairman of TPO’s Board, Gerry Fitzjohn, says: “We set high standards for agents – the scheme’s approved Code of Practice goes above and beyond the letter of the law, requiring agents to offer additional safeguards to protect consumers. This firm will no longer be able to trade as a result of this expulsion, and we urge any consumers that suspect the firm is trading to contact Trading Standards, who have been notified of PMM’s expulsion.”

Every sales and letting agent in England is required to register with a Government-approved redress scheme, which enables consumers to have their complaint reviewed independently in the event of a dispute.

An agreement between the three Government-approved redress schemes means that PMM will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agent to trade legally.


Lettings Administrator who Stole £14,000 in Tenants’ Deposits Spares Jail

Published On: March 13, 2017 at 9:49 am


Categories: Finance News

Tags: ,,,

A lettings administrator who stole more than £14,000 in tenants’ deposits has been spared jail.

Lettings Administrator who Stole £14,000 in Tenants' Deposits Spares Jail

Lettings Administrator who Stole £14,000 in Tenants’ Deposits Spares Jail

Julie Feilden, 51, stole the funds over a six-year period and has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence. She has also been ordered to complete 120 hours’ unpaid work and pay costs of £1,250. She admitted 13 charges.

Feilden was employed by Smiths Gore in Newmarket, Suffolk, where she was responsible for collecting tenants’ deposits. Where cash was accepted, Feilden was required to log the funds and keep them in the stationery store under lock and key. She had the keys to the store, and part of her job was to bank the money and complete the paperwork for the tenants’ deposits.

Ipswich Crown Court was told that, in 2015, redundancies were made at the firm, which included Feilden’s role. At the end of the year, the business was sold to Savills.

Although she was made redundant, Feilden asked to take the books home to get them up to date.

It took several months for the firm to retrieve the books, and it was then that the thefts were discovered.

When police interviewed Feilden, who has no previous convictions, she made full admissions.

Representing herself, Feilden told the court she was “very sorry” for what she had done.

Savills acquired the 31-branch agent in 2015 for a staggered payment of up to £40m. The announcement at the time said that Smiths Gore had an unaudited revenue of £30.8m and gross assets of £14.9m, with profit before tax and partners’ drawings at £6.3m.

Discussing the theft of tenants’ deposits, a spokesperson for Savills says: “Savills can confirm that Julie Feilden was an employee of Smiths Gore, based in its Newmarket high street office from 2010-15, when these offences took place.

“Smiths Gore was subsequently acquired by Savills. No clients suffered a loss as a consequence.”

Landlords, remember to stick to the law where tenants’ deposits are concerned: /landlords-guide-tenancy-deposits/

Is it getting harder to evict rogue tenants?

Published On: December 16, 2016 at 10:00 am


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,,,

A property boss had warned that small administrative errors could see landlords stuck with nightmare tenants.

The majority of landlords and letting agents use Section 21 of the Housing Act 1998 to end tenancies in the event of damage to a property or other grounds.


However, Ajay Jagota, director of sales and lettings firm KIS, feels that changes in the law-amended in the Deregulation Act 2015, could see property owners powerless to evict rogue tenants.

It is feared that possession claims are unlikely to fall should agents not put tenants’ deposits in authorised deposit schemes, within 30 days.

In addition, Jagota notes the importance of providing tenants with the prescribed information relating to their deposit within this allotted time-frame.

Mr Jagota noted: ‘I know people tend to start playing the world’s smallest violin when they hear about problems being faced by landlords, but these rules could see someone’s much-loved family home or pension jeopardised by tiny administrative errors.’[1]

‘Changes in the legal and taxation system mean that if you have any sort of investment in property, protecting that assets is a priority-not something you can do on the hoof,’ he continued.[1]

Is it getting harder to evict rogue tenants?

Is it getting harder to evict rogue tenants?


Jagota went on to say: ‘Usually the answer is a reputable letting agent, but they aren’t necessarily legal experts and the rising number of failed Section 21 applications implies that what landlords really need to invest in is good insurance. That way when the worst happens they can get the experts in rapidly and affordably.’[1]

‘It’s clear at the moment that both agents and landlords are getting it wrong. If you’re a landlord and you don’t have the sophisticated insurance you need, you’re leaving yourself wide open. There’s also the matter of the impact on the wider community. It only takes one family to ruin a street or village, and most landlords want to be able to take action, not just to protect their investment but on the community’s behalf. This situation could leave them powerless to help because they forgot to give those tenants a leaflet they probably wouldn’t have read anyway.’[1]

Concluding, Mr Jagota observed: ‘The saddest thing is that deposits are a relic of a bygone age. There is absolutely no need for landlords or letting agents to be using them at all when there are significantly more effective insurance-based solutions available.’[1]



Landlords Urged to Help Tackle Homelessness

Published On: August 9, 2016 at 9:51 am


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,,,

A Hertfordshire-based housing association has called on landlords to help tackle homelessness in the area through its new social lettings scheme.

The Hemel Hempstead-based Hightown Housing Association, based in the Dacorum Borough Council area, is launching its own social letting agency to help combat the increasing problem of homelessness in the district.

Landlords Urged to Help Tackle Homelessness

Landlords Urged to Help Tackle Homelessness

Hightown Lettings will offer private landlords a three to five-year lease for their properties, which they will let to families who are homeless or facing homelessness.

Under the terms of the new scheme, landlords will be guaranteed a monthly rent, whether their property is occupied or not, while Hightown Lettings will also manage the properties.

Landlords will also benefit from quarterly inspections, a £300 contribution towards minor repairs each year, and the ability to fund more expensive repairs/renewals by taking the cost out of their monthly payment.

Hightown will also return the property at the end of the lease in the same condition as the start, aside from fair wear and tear.

All properties leased under Hightown Lettings will be let and managed on Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), with a break clause for either party to end the agreement within three months.

The housing association hopes that the scheme will help to reduce homelessness in the area, as the number of applications in the Dacorum Borough have risen by a huge 70% between 2014-15 to 131 in the last quarter.

The Chief Executive of Hightown, David Bogle, says: “The number of people being made homeless is increasing nationally, with 68,560 households living in temporary accommodation at the last count. Locally, the overall trend is not improving and we’ve been looking for new ways to assist local authorities with the problem.

“We hope this scheme will assist the local community and help us fulfil our aims of providing homes for those in need. For local landlords, they’ll have the benefit of long-term, no hassle letting with the rent and welfare of the property guaranteed.”

The housing association also reminds landlords that they will save on letting agent fees by leasing through the scheme, but they must be aware that the rental income they earn will usually be controlled by the amount of housing benefit that the tenant receives, which is typically 80% of the average local market rent.

The Lettings Manager of Hightown, Brian Finn, adds: “By guaranteeing the rent every month and not charging fees, the landlord’s income under Hightown Lettings will be very similar to the income received by going through a high street letting agent.”

The call from Hightown Lettings arrives as a new report highlights the chronic housing crisis in the UK. Shelter recently found that three million working families in England are at risk of losing their homes due to sky-high housing costs:

Could you join the new scheme?

Fake letting agent put behind bars for deceit

Published On: August 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm


Categories: Landlord News

Tags: ,,,,


A man has been put behind bars after falsely posing as a letting agent to scam both landlords and tenants.

Reporting service Court News said that Adam Coote started his deceit with Andrew Rickard and Sahila Kauser in 2012. Coote had only just been released from prison for a similar offence.


Mr Coote, also know as Elliott Wilson, used fake agency names, such as Belgravia Property Group, Mayfair Residential and Park Lane Residential to offer fake properties in London, Bristol and Birmingham.

Coote was jailed for 28 months at Southwark Crown Court. Mr Rickard had been sentenced for 18 months imprisonment, while Kauser had been sentenced for the same period, suspended for 2 years.

Previously, Coote had been jailed for four years in August 2009 for similar scams in Manchester and Liverpool. His most potent scam was to take six months rent from the tenant, only for the ‘agent’ to disappear with their money.

Court News suggests that Coote used the profits from his deceit in order to buy an apartment with a £2,000 fridge, a chauffeur driven Range Rover and trips to fancy restaurants.

Fake letting agent put behind bars for deceit

Fake letting agent put behind bars for deceit


Mr Warwick Tatford, prosecuting, said, ‘the defendants were able to secure access to the properties and keys and a number of prospective tenants would then be shown around the properties.’[1]

Would-be tenants were told to give Coote and his associates deposits, to find that they had failed credit checks. The fraudsters than informed the tenants that their landlord was happy for them to move in, if they paid the first six weeks rent upfront.

Tatford continued by saying, ‘prospective tenants were provided with access keys of the properties and when they attended to move into the property they would find there was already a tenant in place who had also signed a tenancy with the company.’[1]

The fraudsters made a total of £26,585 from their deceit, which is likely to be recouped in compensation and confiscation proceedings.