Agents, landlords – you are under attack!

publication date: Mar 28, 2018
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Increased scrutiny for landlords and letting agents

Over the last few years landlords and lettings agents have come under increasing scrutiny both from within the industry and by the general public.

Online agents have caused traditional high street agents to re-evaluate their modus operandi and you only have to do a quick google search to see the type of landlord and agent stories that make the news – and most are not complimentary!

Here are some of the headlines that I found on just the first few pages when searching “landlords and letting agents fines”:

Fining, prosecuting and banning landlords isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it weeds out the bad apples in the industry and allows for a general improvement in the market.

Latest landlord fines from around the UK
With Local Authorities being able to fine, not necessarily going to the expense and time it takes to prosecute landlords, those breaking the law are expected to come under increasing amounts of scrutiny.

Here are a selection of the latest landlord fines and crimes:

If you don’t know whether your property would incur a fine from the Local Authority, make sure you get it checked by a local letting agent that is a member of ARLA, RICS or UKALA. They will do this for free for you and make sure you are charging a fair rent, in return for the chance to visit the property and take on the management of your property.

Agents are being expelled from redress schemes, meaning they can’t lawfully trade
We are also starting to see more agents as well as landlords being banned from operating, here’s the latest list of expelled agents from The Property Ombudsman:

  • Wincon, London: Expelled by The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for not stating that a third bedroom in a flat was already being let, it had been advertised as having two bedrooms. Wincon also hadn’t stated that VAT was payable on top of admin fees and did not protect deposits within 30 days. TPO also admonished the agent for not communicating appropriately or in a timely manner;
  • Wilkins Residential, Hove: Expelled by TPO due to a complaint of non-payment of rent being upheld. Wilkins residential failed to pass on rent to landlords totalling more than £12,000
  • Seekers, Birmingham: Have had an expulsion extended for an extra year by TPO following a further complaint. In November, the agent was expelled for not paying awards of more than £4,000 after the complaints of two landlords – the complaints included failing to protect deposits. TPO has warned that Seekers is still appearing to trade despite not being registered with a redress scheme as it legally be. Trading standards has been notified.

For more, visit The Property Ombudsman.

London Mayor’s landlord and agent name and shame site
Last April, Sadiq Khan announced his intention to follow through on a manifesto promise to launch a rogue landlord and agent checker. The plan is to root out “unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who exploit their tenants”.

As the database was published on 19th December 2017 Khan said “The housing market in London is difficult enough for Londoners to navigate, without those landlords and letting agents who behave unscrupulously leaving tenants living in appalling conditions, despite often paying sky-high rents. I promised to do everything within my powers to help Londoners facing this problem – I will not stand by while they are exploited.

“Many landlords and agents across London offer a great service – but sadly some don’t. My new database is about empowering Londoners to make informed choices about where they rent, and sending rogue operators a clear message: you have nowhere to hide.”

The rogue landlord and checker contains data on private landlords and letting agents who have been fined or prosecuted by the following boroughs with plans afoot to add the others in due course:

  • Brent
  • Camden
  • Greenwich
  • Islington
  • Kingston
  • Newham
  • Southwark
  • Sutton
  • Waltham Forest
  • Westminster

Taking a quick glance at the numbers we can see that the total fines imposed are nearly £2,000,000 (£1,830,881.32) out of a total of over 380 of 672 cases cases available (source GetRentr).

To see the cases in your borough visit: www.london.gov.uk/rogue-landlord-checker.

So, agents and landlords you have been warned! There are 400+ rules and regulations you have to abide by to let a property, so don’t get caught out as ‘I didn’t know’ is rarely a defence, especially now Local Authorities can not only fine people, but that money can go back into their own enforcement pot, not to the treasury or council in general, giving them more funds for future lettings enforcement.

Choosing a letting agent - Belvoir Joining a landlord association - RLA Identifying damp, condensation and mould - Envirovent

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