Property Redress in London: how does your Borough shape up?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - By Sean Hooker, Head of Redress, Property Redress Scheme

It is estimated that more than a quarter of households in London are now renting their property. With demand for rental property far outstripping supply, tenants are facing steep competition to secure a place to live in the capital. It has been reported that up to nine tenants are chasing each new property that comes onto the market.

Unfortunately there are a few Agents out there (and landlord’s too) that choose to capitalise on the desperation of private renters. Some will charge unfair fees or provide substandard or unsafe housing; knowing that many prospective tenants are not in a position to ask questions or complain about the service they have received.

In this climate, redress has become more important than ever. ‘Redress’ means putting things right when goods or services go wrong or don’t live up to expectations.

On 1 October 2014, it became a legal requirement for all Letting Agents and Property Management Agents, as defined by legislation, to join a consumer redress scheme in accordance with the Consumers, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. The role of the schemes is to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to disputes between members of the public and Property Agents.

How does this affect me?

As a Landlord, you have a responsibility to select a reputable Agent – not only for the sake of your tenant but to protect your own interests as well. Remember, if your Agent does not properly register a security deposit or carry out the required health and safety checks on your property, it is usually the landlord that is held responsible.

When vetting a Letting Agent, the first question you should be asking is which redress scheme they have joined. Agents are legally required to display which scheme they are a member of in their offices and on their website. If this information is not visible or the Agent seems reluctant to provide it, this may be a sign that they have failed to comply.

There are only three redress schemes that an Agent can join. They are:

If you suspect that your Agent is not a member of a scheme then you should report them to the Trading Standards or Private Sector Housing Team at the local council. If the Agent does not belong to a redress scheme, they could be subject to a £5,000 fine.

A PRS registered Agent has let me or my Tenant down – What happens now?

If you have a complaint against an Agent registered with the PRS, you need to submit a Complaint Form via our website.

Upon receipt of a Complaint Form and supporting documentation, a Case Assessor will determine whether the complaint meets the scheme’s acceptance criteria. This includes establishing whether the Complainant has exhausted the Member’s in-house complaints procedure (if applicable) and has waited 8 weeks before raising a complaint with the scheme. If the Complaint is accepted, the Case Assessor will be in contact with the next steps.

How does my borough shape up?

Since 1st October 2014 we have looked at 46 complaints across 17 London boroughs, with 15 boroughs yet to receive a complaint against an Agent in their area. The breakdown of complaints is listed below:

  • Tower Hamlets – 8 complaints
  • Redbridge – 6 complaints
  • Camden – 5 complaints
  • Barnet – 4 complaints
  • Westminster – 3 complaints
  • Kensington & Chelsea – 3 complaints
  • Wandsworth – 3 complaints
  • Enfield – 2 complaints
  • Newham – 2 complaints
  • Brent – 2 complaints
  • Greenwich – 2 complaints
  • Ealing – 1 complaint
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – 1 complaint
  • Hackney – 1 complaint
  • Croydon – 1 complaint
  • Waltham Forest – 1 complaint
  • Bexley – 1 complaint

We currently have had over 1120 Agents that are members of the PRS in London. You can check whether your Agent is a member of the PRS on our website – remember that if you cannot find your Agent listed, they may have joined one of the other two redress schemes.

Helping Your Council Out

Despite positive membership numbers, it is clear that there are a number of Agents out there who, either through ignorance or wilful defiance, have not signed up to a redress scheme. Some doubts have been raised as to whether local authorities are doing enough to enforce compliance in their area as it has been reported that Newham, Islington and Camden are the only councils to have issued any fines in London.

We believe that it is the duty of the wider industry to help police this legislation. We are therefore working with local authorities to ensure the law is enforced as vigorously as possible and consumers remain protected – and you should do your bit too!

If you would like to report an Agent for non-compliance, you can find the contact details of their local trading standards department by imputing the postcode at the bottom of the page on the Trading Standards Institute website. You can also find contact details for the private sector housing team in every London Borough by visiting the London Property Licensing website.

The Property Redress Scheme is committed to improving relations between property agents and their consumers. This involves making sure that both landlords and tenants are fully aware of their right to redress. Look out for further posts from us for more information about our complaints process and the types of complaints we can help resolve.

To download a map showing all complaints against London Agents made to the Property Redress Scheme, please click on the link below.