Failure to join redress scheme leads to £5,000 fine for Islington agent
Islington Council is urging letting agents to make sure they are aware of their legal responsibilities after it fined a local firm £5,000 for failing to sign up to a complaints redress scheme.
Since 1 October 2014, all letting agents and property managers have been legally required to sign up to one of three official redress schemes, so both tenants and landlords can get independent adjudication of complaints:
Before the new rules came in, Islington Council’s trading standards team and the Property Ombudsman wrote to letting agents in Islington advising them to sign up to a scheme or risk a fine.
Almost all of Islington’s 150 letting agents signed up, but APS Estates Ltd of 210 Caledonian Road did not. Trading standards followed up the letter with a visit and further reminders. On 10 December 2014, Islington’s trading standards team issued a notice saying they intended to impose a fine of £5,000 for failing to sign up.
APS Estates Ltd appealed the decision, but on 5 June 2015 an independent tribunal found in favour of Islington Council and agreed that the fine should remain at £5,000. APS Estates Ltd has now joined a redress scheme.
Other changes in the law also affect letting agents. Since 27 May 2015 it has been a legal requirement for agents to display fees charged to both tenants and landlords, on their website and on their premises. Islington Council is this week writing to all local letting agents to remind them about this. Agents that fail to display fees and required information face a penalty of up to £5,000.
Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “More and more people in Islington rent privately, and we want to make sure they are treated well and not ripped off.
“The vast majority of local lettings agents signed up to a redress scheme in good time, but we took action against the small number that did not. It’s important that tenants and landlords can get independent adjudication if they have a complaint.
“It’s also important that letting agents follow the rules about displaying fees – we’ll be encouraging them to do so now, so that they avoid the possibility of a fine.“
Commenting on the case, Richard Tacagni, Managing Director of London Property Licensing said: “It is great to see Islington Council taking such proactive action to enforce these new regulations, thereby helping to safeguard both landlords and tenants. Unlike a Magistrates’ Court fine, this £5,000 civil penalty is paid to the council and can be reinvested to fund further enforcement activity“.
For more on the letting agent redress scheme, including links for tenants on how to check membership see www.islington.gov.uk/tradingstandardslettings.
Any Islington lettings agent wanting advice, or tenant who want to report an agent who is not a member should contact Islington Trading Standards on email@example.com or 020 7527 4028.