Letting agents who fail to protect tenants’ deposits or comply with other legal requirements are being targeted by Trading Standards teams across the West Midlands as part of a special initiative, and could face fines of up to £30,000.
The 14 local Trading Standards authorities across the region are being supported by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team (NTSELAT) as part of a funded project to ensure letting agents comply with the law.
The Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA) group has successfully bid for funding to carry out the project, which will involve working jointly with housing officers in their respective authority areas, including district councils in two tier areas.
Since April 2019 letting agents have been required by law to belong to an approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme to ensure 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 important information on their websites and in their offices.
A similar project began in London in 2020 and found hundreds of letting agents were non-compliant with these requirements. Significant breaches resulted in fines of up to £30,000 being issued by Trading Standards.
Officers in the West Midlands are giving advance notice so they can ensure that they are compliant. Advice will be available should agents have any queries.
Cllr Andy Crump, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Fire and Rescue, said: “This is a really important campaign from our Trading Standards Service to ensure that all Warwickshire Letting agents are members of both a Client Money Protection Scheme and a Redress scheme.
“This is the law and any letting agents found to not be complying with this could face legal action and large fines. We would also like to encourage tenants to be aware of their rights in relation to this and ask that they report any non-compliance from Letting Agents via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”
Simon Wilkes, Chair of CEnTSA and Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services said: “West Midland letting agents are handling huge amounts of tenants’ and landlords’ money every year, so it’s vital that this is protected in the event of business failure.
“Tenants are often some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it important that the business sector recognises this and acts accordingly. We realise that many businesses will already have these protections in place, and those who are unsure should use this opportunity to check they are doing what is necessary. This regional operation will enable us to step up our efforts, particularly by working with our housing officer colleagues to identify the real rogues in this market. So, we’d ask anyone who operates in this area to get their affairs in order without delay and to seek assistance if you are unsure.”
James Munro, Head of NTSELAT, said: “Our officers are providing advice and guidance to support this enforcement initiative, helping to safeguard up to a billion 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.”