Swindon Advertiser supports SHAC investigation
This is a Swindon Advertiser Comment (their version of an editorial) on our investigation of Swindon lettings agencies and ‘transparency of fees’.
Swindon Housing Action Campaign deserves all available help in its investigation of letting agencies. New legislation mandates that agencies to make full details of their charges available at their premises and on their websites.
The need for such legislation is abundant. The spiralling cost of joining the property ladder, coupled with the scarcity of local authority and housing association accommodation, mean the private rental sector has seldom been in a stonger position.
This means letting agencies, which many private landlords choose to represent their interests, also have a great deal of power. The bulk of agencies do not abuse their position, but others cynically take any opportunity to parasitise would-be tenants with welters of unwarranted fees.
Of the 15 agencies so far visited by Swindon Housing Action Campaign, only two were found to be complying with the new regulations and displaying charges in the appropriate manner.
No law is of any use at all unless it is enforced vigorously and unpleasant sanctions imposed on wrongdoers. It is imperative that the next people to inspect local letting agencies are Trading Standards officials, and those officials are fully aware of their powers and not hesitant about using them.
Non-compliant agencies should first be given the benefit of the doubt in the form of stern warnings. The next step should be enforcement through the courts, with no excuses acceptable.
An agency which is unaware of the law is at best unsatisfactory. An agency which flouts the law may well be a cowboy operation which preys upon the vulnerable