Posts with tag: rogue letting agents

London Trading Standards’ warning is “admission of enforcement failure”

Published On: September 17, 2019 at 9:12 am

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London Trading Standards (LTS) has warned tenants to beware of rogue letting agents, as new figures reveal more than 46% aren’t complying with the law.

The figures show that 46% of 1,922 agents in the capital inspected over a 15 month period were breaking the law and £1.2m of fines had been issued.  

In its recent report, LTS tells private sector tenants: “understand your rights or risk being ripped off by rogue letting agents”.

In response, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says that this is an admission of failure in enforcement. 

The RLA has long argued that low levels of enforcement against criminal landlords and letting agents by local authorities are a result of a lack of funding to enforce the powers available to them. 

Its own Freedom of Information analysis found that in 2017/18 over half of councils said they had no enforcement policy in place.

David Smith, Policy Director the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Whilst it is good to see some increase in enforcement, it is still patchy with different levels of action from one council to another.

“Local authorities must have the funds they need to properly enforce the wide range of powers they already have to tackle sub-standard housing and criminals operating in the sector. The Government should provide a multi-year funding packaging to councils specifically to improve enforcement action.”

David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark also comments on the LTS figures: “We’re really pleased to see Trading Standards prosecuting bad practice in the industry; it’s the only way to clean up the sector and we’ve been calling for it for a long time. 

“People should remember that if they can’t see an agent’s fee template, CMP certificate and redress scheme membership prominently displayed in their office, that’s three laws that they have already broken.

“This raises the question what other laws will that agent break? At that stage, a tenant should walk straight out and choose an ARLA Propertymark member where agents follow a strict code of conduct which puts the tenant first. 

“It’s also why we have been calling on the Government to regulate letting agents and are pleased that plans are well underway for mandatory registration and training for all letting agents”.

Rogue letting agent and landlord database should be opened to industry

Published On: September 10, 2019 at 8:38 am

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The national blacklist of rogue letting agents should be opened up to the industry, says ARLA Propertymark. It’s important that agents have access to this information to avoid hiring crooked staff.

The database contains names of rogue letting agents and landlords. It can currently only be accessed by local and central government.

ARLA has highlighted that a local council will know that an agent on the blacklist is banned from the industry, but potential employers will not.

A consultation was launched over the summer by the Government discussing the possibility of opening the database to tenants and prospective tenants. This would be useful to all looking to research an agent or landlord before committing.

In ARLA’s official report it states that the Government should go even further and allow access to membership organisations and letting agents. It wants the individual agents to be ‘named and shamed’ rather than the firms.

The organisation stated in its response: “ARLA Propertymark believes that letting agents would greatly benefit from access to the database.

“This is because they will be able to properly vet potential employees before making any recruitment decision.

“Currently as the database stands letting agents are concerned that because only the local authority can view entrants, they may be at risk of hiring a banned letting agent.

“For this reason, we also think that it is vital that the database focuses on individuals rather than the agency that employs them.

“This is because, if an estate agency business receives a database entry rather than the individual working within it, there is nothing stopping the rogue letting agent from setting up another company or working in lettings elsewhere.

“Placing the focus on the individual agent would limit this.

“By making the database open and transparent, access to the details of banned letting agents would be a greater added protection to employers than just receiving employment references.”

Failure to Prosecute Rogue Letting Agents Must Stop says NLA CEO

Published On: July 5, 2019 at 8:59 am

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Rogue letting agents are continuing to get away with illegal activity as local authorities fail in their duty to prosecute offending parties. The National Landlords Association (NLA) has warned that this is undermining efforts to improve the image of the private rental sector (PRS).

The NLA has found that over half of local authorities failed to prosecute a single letting agent during the four year period from 2014/15 to 2017/18.

The association made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 20 local authorities, discovering that 53% of them made no prosecutions. A further 32% prosecuted three or less.

The best results were seen from Liverpool City Council, which prosecuted 13 letting agents in total during this period. Then we have Hammersmith and Fulham Council that didn’t even bother to reply to the FOI.

Out of the 20 Councils questioned, 13 responded that they had already introduced landlord licensing schemes.

With around 16,500 letting agents currently operating in the UK, they play a vital role as intermediaries between landlords and tenants. However, some letting agents have continued to act illegally, despite law changes such as the Tenant Fees Act.

Some have been making unauthorised alterations to a landlord’s property, leading to a breakdown of trust between the tenant and the landlord. It has also been noted that certain rogue letting agents have let one property to multiple tenants without the landlord being aware, effectively making it an illegal house in multiple occupation (HMO). Licensing laws on HMOs are even stricter than those for a single occupant property, leaving a landlord liable to fines of up to £30,000 or even criminal charges.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, says: “It is clear that too many local authorities (are) failing in their duty to prosecute rogue letting agents. These bad ones can really poison the relationship between landlords and tenants. We want to see local authorities take much firmer action.

“We were shocked to find that so few letting agents are being prosecuted by local authorities. While many local authorities have introduced licensing schemes to crack down on rogue landlords, they seem to be allowing letting agents to get off scot-free. This must stop.

“In the meantime, landlords should make sure their chosen agent is reputable and is a member of a client money protection scheme that will safeguard their assets — rental money, deposit or other funds — if they misappropriate them or go bust.”

Eviction Specialist Recovers £16,000 from Rogue Letting Agent

Published On: June 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

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Eviction specialist Landlord Action has recovered £16,000 for its clients from a rogue letting agent in east London.

The new series of Channel 5’s Nightmare Tenants Slum Landlords has launched, featuring cases handled by Landlord Action.

In the second episode, aired on Monday 10th June, the Founder of the firm, Paul Shamplina, helped two landlords track down £16,000 they were owed by rogue letting agent Lang and Ward.

The latest series delves into the dark side of Britain’s overheating rental market. Gaining unique access into the lives of the haves and have-nots of generation rent. The eight episodes follow the work of a letting agent trying to keep a roof over their tenants’ heads, while cameras are on the frontline with housing teams, as they try to protect vulnerable tenants living in squalor and dangerous conditions.

Equally, the series also witnesses eviction experts helping frantic landlords who can’t get their tenants to pay or move out.

One particularly unique case was shown on Monday. Married landlords, Monwara and Mohammed, hired east London letting agent Lang and Ward to manage their property, only to then discover they had been pocketing their tenant’s rent. With a new company name above the door, familiar employees claiming ignorance and a violent confrontation, the landlords were left out in the cold. However, a few minutes later, the landlords received a call from the letting agent, with Shamplina attempting to chase down the £16,000 that the landlords were owed.

Shamplina comments: “If ever people needed to understand the significance of using a letting agent which has Client Money Protection (CMP), this is it. Ironically, these rogues, Lang and Ward, attempted to join our sister company, Client Money Protect, but were refused membership, as they had doctored and falsified their bank statements.

“Now that CMP is mandatory for all letting agents, greater protection for landlords’ rents and tenants’ deposits is in place. In this case, Monwara and Mohammed were extremely lucky to be able to collect their stolen rent back, but, unfortunately, many other landlords who contacted us were not so lucky, as the business closed down. I only hope that Trading Standards takes significant enforcement action and gets some sort of justice for those who have lost money.”

He adds: “Some letting agents will find the market more challenging now that the tenant fees ban is in place, so, while I would always recommend landlords use a letting agent to fully manage their property, it is imperative they carry out thorough due diligence on their prospective agent first. This includes ensuring they are a member of a redress scheme and have CMP.”

Letting Agent Excluded from TPO for Four More Years

Published On: September 5, 2017 at 10:01 am

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Letting Agent Excluded from TPO for Four More Years

Letting Agent Excluded from TPO for Four More Years

The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has extended its exclusion of a letting agent by an additional four years, after seven more landlords raised disputes against the firm.

Premier Property Management (PPM), based in Truro, Cornwall, was originally expelled by the redress scheme in November last year, after it was discovered that the agency had failed to pass on rent payments and delayed handing over deposits to a landlord.

PPM was initially excluded from TPO for a period of two years, but the expulsion has now been extended following additional complaints by landlords, which resulted in awards totalling £20,566.23.

The punishment means that PPM can no longer trade legally, although it appears that the company is no longer trading and the website is no longer active.

The Chairman of TPO’s board, Gerry Fitzjohn, says: “While it is believed that the firm is no longer trading, we have taken action to ensure the firm’s expulsion is extended so they are unable to trade if they attempt to register with any redress scheme.

“We have also alerted the relevant authorities concerning their conduct. We urge consumers to always check their sales or letting agent is registered with TPO and following the scheme’s Codes of Practice, which offer additional safeguards to protect consumers from unfair practices.”

In coming to a judgement on each case, TPO considered the evidence presented by landlords, which included emails and bank statements, and the standards set out in TPO’s Code of Practice.

TPO, Katrine Sporle, also comments: “This agent’s behaviour fell well below the standards expected, and their systematic failure to pass on rental payments and deposits received has affected the lives of several landlords.

“Cases like these are fortunately extremely rare, but do highlight the importance of consumers keeping their own written records, so I can review emails, bank statements and correspondence as part of my investigation to determine if the agent has acted fairly.”

Landlords, remember to always check whether your letting agent is registered as part of an approved redress scheme, such as TPO.

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Letting Agents in Essex Fined Over £14,000 for Failing to Display Fees

Published On: January 11, 2017 at 11:27 am

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Several letting agents in one borough of Essex have been fined over £14,000 for failing to display fees.

Letting Agents in Essex Fined Over £14,000 for Failing to Display Fees

Letting Agents in Essex Fined Over £14,000 for Failing to Display Fees

Thurrock Council embarked on a crackdown to expose letting agents that do not comply with the law to display fees. It says the money raised by the fines will be used for further enforcement.

Following the launch of its crackdown last summer, the council visited 33 agencies and subsequently issued 13 with a notice of intent.

It has now issued fines totalling £14,100 to agents failing to comply with consumer rights laws that require agents to display fees, the redress scheme they belong to and whether they offer Client Money Protection.

One estate agent, Edward Clark Estates, appealed the penalty charge of £3,250 on the grounds that a member of staff was on holiday at the time the advice letter was sent and the amount of the penalty was unreasonable.

However, the court responsible for the case – the General Regulatory Chamber – dismissed these arguments and ruled in favour of Thurrock Council.

Councillor Rob Gledhill, Leader of the council and Portfolio Holder for Housing, says: “It is right that the council is taking action on those letting agents who flout the law and are not supplying the residents of Thurrock a high level of service.

“The legislation was passed in 2015, so there is no excuse for not meeting the requirements. Even after our officers visited these agents, some decided not to take the action needed.

“Well, now they face the consequences. The rental market in Thurrock is a very lucrative one, so I want to make sure letting agents are doing their part. The £14,100 raised in fines will be used to fund further enforcement activity by our Trading Standards team to help protect Thurrock residents.”

If you use a letting agent to manage your property portfolio, be sure that it complies with the rules to display fees before entrusting your assets with it.