Newham Council launch new inspection programme for letting and managing agents
Newham Council’s Private Sector Housing & Standards team, together with Trading Standards, will are carrying out unannounced inspections of letting agents and property management agents starting this week (10 January).
As part of their commitment to fight for Newham private renters, the council have said they will be inspecting agents’ offices and company websites to ensure they are complying with their legal duties to landlords and tenants.
These duties include the agents’ obligation to display all fees and charges, and to be a member of a government approved client money protection scheme and property redress scheme, as well as other responsibilities under the Consumer Rights Act.
Agents who are not members of the requisite redress or client money protection schemes face a fine of up to £30,000 per breach. They could also face revocation or variation to their property licences, if breaches are found.
In late November 2021, safeagent, a not for profit accreditation scheme for letting and managing agents, published a Letting Agent Enforcement Toolkit to help Trading Standards Officers enforce the rules (read here).
Rokshana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, said:
“My message to any renters facing rent rises or possible evictions is that we are on your side. We are absolutely committed to supporting renters in Newham by helping you to understand your rights and protections.
“These inspections will ensure a level playing field for responsible agents while shining a light on unfair and potentially criminal practices by a dangerous minority.
“Newham renters can be reassured that we will not hesitate to impose fines or prosecute any agents that we find to be taking advantage of renters.“
Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive of safeagent added:
“It’s really positive to see this kind of proactive enforcement action from Newham Council. Safeagent firmly believes that if we are to stamp out rogue agents in the Private Rented Sector and protect consumers, we must have effective enforcement of the legislation. This not only ensures tenant and landlord safety but also drives up professionalism and compliance, making it a level playing field for hard working, professional agents.
“This kind of action is in line with our work to support Local Authority enforcement teams, through safeagent’s Effective Enforcement Toolkit. Providing Trading Standards teams with the tools to enforce legislation robustly, this is a complete guide to regulating agents, in a step-by-step format.“
With one of the highest rates of private renting in London, Newham’s research with partner Generation Rent has revealed that 84% of renters have encountered problems with tenancies, but 70% have not reached out to the council or others for support. These inspections are part of the council commitment to build greater awareness and understanding of tenancy support.
The Council also encourages renters and agents to participate in the online consultation on future property licensing schemes which continues until 26 January 2022 (read here).
Tenants who are concerned about unfair trading practices can report concerns directly to Trading Standards by emailing Trading.Standards@newham.gov.uk or can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.
Newham Trading Standards advise tenants renting in the borough that 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 through the Citizens Advice website.
Our free guide with more information about property licensing and HMO planning rules in the London Borough of Newham is available here.
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