It’s important that good letting agencies are making sure their tenants are aware of what to look for in a company and how others may be breaking the law, says PayProp.
The lettings payment automation provider highlights that by demonstrating their own compliance, agencies can spread the work about industry rules that must be kept. Being seen to honour such rules will help them to raise industry standards.
This will also help renters to have a better understanding of the tell-tale signs to look out for in order to avoid non-compliant agencies.
An alarming level of non-compliant agencies
A huge number of agencies in London have broken the law, according to research by London Trading Standards.
1,922 firms were inspected in the 15 months to June 2019. 46% of them failed to comply with either the Consumer Rights Act or their obligation to join a redress scheme.
This led to £1.2m in fines being issued as well as 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences.
Neil Cobbold, Chief Operating Officer of PayProp UK, says: “The number of London agencies that have failed to comply with their obligations is a cause for concern as the industry’s proportion of law-breakers is often described as a ‘minority’.
“It’s positive to see that Trading Standards is taking a proactive approach to enforcement. However, following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act and compulsory Client Money Protection scheme membership earlier this year, there is now more regulation for them to police.
“If everyone associated with the industry was equipped with the knowledge of what is required, we could avoid non-compliant agencies and improve industry standards as a whole.”
Are tenants aware of what to look out for?
Widespread abuse by rogue operators has been highlighted by these efforts from Trading Standards, but the body still needs help from the public, particularly consumers with first-hand experience.
However, PayProp is concerned that many tenants may not be aware of what they need to look out for. This includes agency’s fees templates, CMP certificates and redress scheme memberships prominently on display.
Cobbold continues: “Although the average renter will be aware of poor service when they come across it, they may not be aware of all the little things which could mean an agency is breaking the law.
“That’s where the leading agencies can help by demonstrating to their customers how they are fully compliant and committed to transparency. This could have a knock-on effect of raising awareness among renters and landlords.”
Protecting the image of the industry is crucial
Although it only focused on the capital, Trading Standards’ compliance research could have negative implications for the reputation of letting agencies across the country.
Cobbold goes on to conclude: “These statistics should act as a wakeup call for the industry to get their house in order and distance themselves from wrongdoing – more agencies are operating outside of the law than many people may have previously thought.
“At a time when the lettings sector is in the spotlight due to its growing size, the huge number of private renters and its political importance, agents must do everything they can to protect their public reputation.
“This can be done by improving consumer knowledge of what agencies do and what is required of them, as well as operating professionally and transparently at all times.
“This year’s new legislation combined with Trading Standards’ increased commitment to enforcement, can help to identify and punish more rogue operators.
“This will leave the compliant agencies who prioritise customer service to reap the benefits of a growing and increasingly regulated market.”