Third of agents in town fined for failing to show fees – and this was after Trading Standards warning

Thirty letting agents across one of Britain’s major towns have been fined by the council’s Trading Standards department after failing to stick to new transparency guidelines.

The agents – almost one third of all those in Milton Keynes – had not been displaying their fees as required by law.

Their collective fines add up to £36,000.

All of the agents in the town were initially contacted and reminded of their legal duty to display fees – but worryingly, many did not know they had to.

Rightmove lists 108 sales and lettings agents in Milton Keynes, the figure broadly in line with the 105 contacted by Trading Standards.

Trading Standards acted after new legislation in 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act, which requires letting agents to be transparent about the fees they charge tenants.

Throughout last year, Trading Standards officers carried out research to see if agents in the borough were displaying the required information.

They discovered that many of the agents were not aware of the new legislation and what it meant for them.

Trading Standards then wrote to all of them, with an explanation of their responsibilities and a warning of financial penalties should they fail to comply.

Two months later officers followed up the letters with visits to the letting agents.

While most – 75 – had heeded the advice and displayed their fees correctly, 30 agents had not and were breaching the Consumer Rights Act.

Cllr Mick Legg, the cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “In these days of very high mortgage costs, many people are renting – and many of them really are in the hands of letting agents.

“It is important that information about fees is absolutely transparent from the start and our Trading Standards team tried to work with local agents when the Consumer Rights Act came into force, to ensure that they were aware of their responsibilities to enable would-be tenants to receive the information they are entitled to when choosing which agent to use.

“It’s disappointing that, despite warnings from our Trading Standards team, some letting agents still failed to comply with the new Consumer Rights legislation.

“However, we hope these fines will send a strong message to letting agents across the borough to get their house in order.”

All 30 agents received fines from Trading Standards for their continued failure to comply with the legislation, two of whom appealed to the First Tier Tribunal, but were dismissed earlier this month (Feb 3) by the hearing judge.

The judge also ordered them to immediately start complying with the law, which also requires agents to display which redress scheme they are signed up to, and whether they offer Client Money Protection.

Last month, EYE reported on a similar crackdown by Trading Standards in Thurrock, Essex.

 

Letting agents hit with fines after council crackdown on display of fees

 

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8 Comments

  1. GlennAckroyd

    Congratulations to Milton Keynes trading standards for following through with this.

    If only other councils were as effective it would do a lot to improve standards throughout the industry.

    The same should also apply to portal juggling.

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    1. ARC

      well said Glenn though the standard of letting and as it goes sales agents in Milton Keynes is pretty poor having experienced it first hand not too long ago. Someone could come along and do a very nice turn if they know what they are doing.

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      1. MKCTS15

        Hi ARC, if you would like to make a complaint about the agents you used you could call the national consumer helpline on 03454 040506. They will be able to give you advice on your statutory rights and assess whether or not the company has breached any of the laws that apply to them. This information will then be passed through to the relevant Trading Standards team.

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  2. jeremy1960

    It does beg the question about the professional status of such agents and also where they have been for the past few years? Clearly they chose to plough their own furrows and are blinkered to anything beyond their own 4 walls. As an agent I want to learn what’s happening in my industry and I take a pride in keeping abreast of changes that not only affect me but my landlords and tenants. It would probably be an interesting exercise to go back to the agents that failed this basic requirement to display fees and check whether they process deposits correctly; also should be fun when tenant fees are ruled upon to see how long it takes them to “catch up” & conform.

    I work for a training company and just last week on a training course with private landlords there were 2 “experienced” landlords in the room that allegedly knew nothing about deposit legislation and both had tenant’s deposits sitting in their private bank accounts with no protection in place!

    If more local authorities became as pro-active as Milton Keynes and acted within the legislation that currently exists then there would be no need for further regulation as really, all bases are covered as it stands!

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  3. PeeBee

    “The agents – almost one third of all those in Milton Keynes – had not been displaying their fees as required by law.”

    Anyone know where these Agents hadn’t been displaying their fees?

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    1. PeeBee

      I’m sorry – what’s to ‘dislike’ about this question?

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    2. MKCTS15

      The full requirements are given in Section 83 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – you can view this for free at http://www.legislation.gov.uk

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  4. A_J42

    We are still waiting to hear about the situation with regard to fees here in Swansea after TPO requested proof of compliance in October/November last year. We received an email from them advising that our displays were compliant, but they didn’t answer when we asked about the general picture for the city, or what the next steps would be.

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