Council trading standards officers have launched a London-wide enforcement operation aimed at cracking down on letting agents that fail to comply with the law on protecting tenants’ and landlords’ money, or other legal requirements.
The enforcement operation is being run by London Trading Standards (the partnership body of the 33 London local authority trading standards services) and the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, with funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Since April 2019 letting agents have been required by law to belong to an approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme to ensure that tenant and/or landlord money is protected should the business fail.
Letting agents are also required to belong to an approved Redress scheme and to publish their CMP certificate and other required information on their websites and in their offices.
London Trading Standards said hundreds of letting agents had already been identified where there was evidence of a breach of the law.
It added that almost 100 of these had already been served with a formal ‘Notice of Intent’ by their local council, warning of an intention to impose a financial penalty and "many more will receive similar notices over the coming weeks".
These agents have 28 days to provide any evidence or mitigation in their defence before councils will make a final decision on issuing a financial penalty, which can be up to £30,000 for failure to belong to a Client Money Protection scheme, or up to £5,000 for other breaches of the law.
Nishi Patel, Chair of London Trading Standards, said: “London letting agents are handling billions of pounds of tenants’ and landlords’ money every year, so it’s vital that this money is protected in the event of business failure. London borough trading standards teams have been increasingly active in tackling rogue lettings agents in recent years, and this London-wide operation has enabled us to step-up our efforts to a new level. I warn any London agents out there who think they can get away with failing to comply with the law that they need to think again and get their affairs in order without delay.”
The London-wide crackdown is being supported by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, which provides specialist advice, guidance and support to local authorities across the UK.
James Munro, head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said: “Our officers are providing advice and guidance to support this landmark enforcement initiative, helping to safeguard billions of pounds of consumers’ money. The intelligence gathered from this campaign will be used to support local authority investigations across the country, which will help protect consumers, raise compliance across the industry and boost consumer confidence.
“Agents who hold client money are required by law to be registered with an approved CMP scheme – and to inform tenants who they are registered with. To find out more, please visit www.gov.uk/client-money-protection-scheme-property-agents.”
See also: What is the role of the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team in assisting enforcement authorities? Robert Brown, Principal Solicitor at Powys County Council, recalls joining the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) and explains how the team can help legal officers in enforcing their council's statutory duties.