The Property Ombudsman reveals the latest results from its nationwide campaign to crack down on letting agents breaking the law by not displaying their fees and confirms which two new locations it will be targeting next…
Phase one of a national campaign between The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) to tackle letting agents breaking the law by not displaying their fees, is complete. The Property Ombudsman has confirmed that 99% of TPO letting agents in Swansea and Dorset are now compliant. Phase two of the campaign is due to launch in the week commencing 27th March.
Despite the government announcing plans to ban agents from charging tenants upfront lettings fees, a period of consultation to draft and pass new regulations is yet to commence. In the meantime, the obligations on English and Welsh letting agents to display fees – along with redress and Client Money Protection (CMP)* scheme membership details – remain.
Furthermore, any future ban of tenant fees will not prevent letting agents from charging fees to landlords. Therefore, TPO and CTSI’s joint campaign to ensure agents display their fees in accordance with the law will continue.
During phase one, 266 TPO letting agents across Swansea and Dorset were asked to provide photographic evidence to demonstrate compliance with the law by displaying their fees in both the branch and on their company website. Any agents found to be displaying the required information incorrectly were then given the opportunity to amend and re-submit.
Just two agents have failed to comply (by either not responding or not addressing flagged inaccuracies), and will now be referred to the scheme’s Disciplinary & Standards Committee (DSC) for further investigation. The DSC is independent to the industry and has the powers to fine, suspend or expel an agent from TPO, as well as refer them to Trading Standards Officers, who can impose fines of up to £5,000.
Adrian Simpson, the CTSI’s business education and consumer codes expert, said: “We are extremely pleased by the response to the campaign. It clearly demonstrates that TPO agents are aware of their responsibilities, willing to make improvements where necessary and committed to the highest levels of consumer protection.”
Following the success of Phase One, The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO) has announced Reading, Basingstoke and surrounding areas as the next locations for its campaign, which will target 179 letting agents.
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, said: “TPO has seen an increase in the number of enquiries about fees from tenants in recent weeks. It is essential that agents provide clarity and transparency about what fees are being charged for what service so that all parties understand the commitments they are entering into.”