Letting Agencies in breach of law on ‘transparency of fees’
Swindon Housing Action Campaign has begun investigating letting agencies in Swindon. Since May 2015 agencies have had a legal obligation to operate complete transparency of fees charged to tenants and landlords. They are supposed to display them in their offices and on their websites. SHAC has visited 15 of them.
Only 2 of the agencies we visited had tenant and landlord fees on their website and on view in their office.
Only 4 of the 15 had their fees on display in their offices.
4 agencies had no information on fees either on their website or displayed in their office.
11 had no landlord fees on their website
5 had no tenant fees
One of them even told us they don’t put landlord fees on their website which is a clear breach of the law.
The introduction of legal obligations on ‘transparency of fees’ was supposed to enable tenants and landlords to compare the fees and service of the different agencies. This is impossible to do if these organisations do not comply with the law.
Swindon Council’s Trading Standards department is responsible for enforcing the law on agency fees. SHAC has met with one of their officers and drawn these breaches to their attention as well as the Council Leader and the Lead Member responsible for the private rented sector.
Martin Wicks said:
“The law on transparency of fees is supposed to enable tenants and landlords to compare fees and service provided by different agencies and make an informed choice. They can’t do that unless the agencies comply with the law. It’s now nearly a year since the law was introduced and some of them appear to have simply ignored it.
SHAC is writing to local agencies calling on them not only to comply with the law, if they are in breach, but to make the necessary information more easily viewable by showing links to it on the home page of their websites.
The information that is available is very patchy. Tenants and landlords should be able to easily see the full costs which each agency charges for their service. They should be able to the see the full up-front costs which have to be paid before you can rent a property.
Tenants and landlords should be able to see what each are charged to be sure that there is no ‘double charging’.”
For further comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786394593
The “Guidance on Consumer Rights Bill 2015: Duty of Letting Agents to Publicise Fees” says:
“The agent must display a list of the fees at each of their premises at which the agent deals face-to-face with persons using or proposing to use services to which the fees relate. The list must also be such that it is likely to be seen by customers. Ideally someone walking into an agent’s office should be able to see the list without having to ask for it and if someone does ask it should be clearly on view and not hidden for example in a drawer.
If an agent has a website the agent must publish a list of fees on their website. ”
The Private Rented Sector Code of Practice, which the government supports, also
“Agents must provide clearly defined details of their fees and expenses which may become
payable. All fees, charges and penalties applicable to both landlords and tenants need to be displayed inclusive of VAT. This is in accordance with the Advertising Standards Authority, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 requirements. Agents must prominently display these on their website and at each office where they deal face-to-face with those using or proposing to use their services. ”