Tenants have been warned to beware of being ‘ripped off’ by rogue letting agents despite the introduction of new legal protection.
London Trading Standards said tenants must understand their rights or risk losing hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
The warning comes after London Trading Standards (LTS) found that more than 46% of 1,922 agents inspected in the 15 months up to June 2019 were non-compliant with either the Consumer Rights Act and/or the legislation on redress scheme membership.
Offending agents were fined a total of £1.2m. There were also 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences including breaches of unfair trading rules.
The enforcement survey by London Trading Standards shows that there were over 6,000 letting agents operating across the capital and over 1,000 complaints about them.
Under the Tenant Fees Act, which applies to tenancies signed since 1 June 2019, agents are banned from charging fees for all but a handful of controlled subjects and deposits are strictly limited.
Also, since 1 April 2019, agents must hold any client money in a separate client money account. This must be protected through membership of a client money protection scheme.
London Trading Standards’ Operations Director Stephen Knight said: “Dodgy agents are far too commonplace across London and private renters need to be very careful not to be ripped off. If you need help with a dodgy letting agent, then contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 and they can refer you to your local council trading standards team.”
Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, a campaign organisation on behalf of private renters, said: “This year’s Tenant Fees Act has the potential to save you hundreds of pounds every time you move. But because so many letting agents have been flouting existing laws, you have to be vigilant when looking for a new home to avoid being ripped off. If a letting agent asks for something unusual, like a payment for something that is not rent or a refundable deposit, then you should question this and seek advice if unsure. For example, London Renters Union could help you if you’ve been asked to pay an illegal fee.”
Consumers may report London related information on trading standards issues to London Trading Standards, via our online reporting tool http://www.londontradingstandards.org.uk/report-consumer-crime/.
Tenants outside London should contact their local trading standards authority or seek further help from Citizens Advice.