Trading Standards officers have been given the powers to crackdown on landlords that surprise tenants with hidden costs.
Any landlord or letting agent that fails to comply with the law on protecting tenants and their money face a fine of up to £30,000.
Cabinet members have approved to give Trading Standards the powers to enforce the legislation following North East Lincolnshire Council’s adoption of the Lettings Legislation Penalty Notice policy, which aims to target rogue elements within the renting sector.
Since April 2019, letting agents who hold client money 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. 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. This means that landlords and tenants can be confident their money is safe once they pay it to the agent. If, for example, the agent goes into administration, the CMP scheme will compensate clients.
Under the Tenants Fees Act 2019, the law requires that tenants may only be charged certain fees and these must be upfront and displayed to clients.
Landlords and letting agents must also be a member of an approved redress scheme. This gives tenants and landlords in the private rented sector a way to escalate a complaint, if they’re unhappy with how it’s been dealt with it.
Councillor Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities, said: “The law aims to make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants. It is vital that their money is protected and that they are treated fairly.
“With the private rented sector increasing, so have concerns over safety, standards and unfair practices. Providing safe homes is paramount and we hope to improve the health and wellbeing of tenants so they feel more safe and secure in their homes.
“We will target rogue letting agents and landlords who take advantage of their tenants, for example, charging unpermitted fees or keeping their deposits unnecessarily. Our Trading Standards officers want to educate and explain, with enforcement being a last resort. But they will not hesitate to take action if it is needed.”
This policy mirrors the policy developed by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) who are the national lead authority for this work and have given permission for other local authorities to adopt their policy to provide national consistency.