Letting agents across the West Midlands who do not comply with laws on protecting tenants’ and landlords’ money, or other legal requirements, could face fines of up to £30,000 following a region-wide project across 14 local Trading Standards authorities. The action is targeted towards improving letting agent compliance.
The Central England Trading Standards Authorities [CEnTSA] group, which represents the region’s 14 authorities has successfully bid for funding to carry out a project to check how compliant letting agents are in the region. The project will involve working jointly with housing officers in their respective authority areas, including district councils in two tier areas, with support from the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team [NTSELAT].
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. In the West Midlands there are hundreds of letting agents handling client money every day, so any significant level of non-compliance with the law could leave considerable sums of tenant and/or landlord money at risk. 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 non-compliant with these requirements. Significant non-compliances resulted in fines of up to £30,000 issues by trading standards authorities in this London-wide enforcement operation.
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 recognizes 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.”
This West Midland-wide crackdown will be supported by NTSELAT, which provides specialist advice, guidance and support to local authorities across the United Kingdom.
James Munro, Head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, 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.