An agent who says a number of letting businesses have broken the law by not signing up to a redress scheme has been told that no local authority in his region has issued a fixed penalty notice.
By virtue of some quick googling, the agent says he found five local agents in the north-east which apparently do not belong to a redress scheme. He says he also found two national firms not listed as members of any of the three redress schemes.
The agent, Ajay Jagota of KIS, originally sought figures from the Ministry of Justice after Citizens Advice estimated in March that 20% of letting agents had not signed up, despite it being made a mandatory requirement last October.
The Ministry of Justice told KIS that the information was held by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The Department said it did not hold the information and referred KIS to local authorities. Jagota then made Freedom of Information requests.
One north east authority initially claimed that it was not their responsibility to collect the information, says KIS.
KIS asked the five Tyne and Wear councils the following question: “How many fixed penalty notices have been issued since 1 October 2014 to letting agents who are not members of an approved redress scheme under the provisions of SI. 2014 No.2359 Redress Schemes for Letting Agency Work and Property Management Work (Requirement to Belong to a Scheme etc.) (England) Order 2014”.
Gateshead, Newcastle, North Shields, South Shields and Sunderland all replied saying they had not issued any notices.
Local councils can issue fines of up to £5,000 to agencies which have not signed up.
KIS founder Ajay Jagota said: “It would be nice to think that the absence of any fines for letting agents not joining a mandatory redress scheme means every single agent has signed up to one – but with Citizen’s Advice estimating that one in five agents haven’t, that seems to be a little fanciful.
“My concern with the law has always been that it isn’t clear who exactly is enforcing it. What’s alarming about our research is that at least one of the enforcers didn’t seem to know either.
“We found agents who don’t seem to be members of any of the schemes within five minutes of googling. The authorities don’t even seem to be doing that.”
Earlier this week, Eye reported having seen a letter which suggested that cash-strapped Trading Standards would not be rushing to enforce the law requiring letting agents to display their fees to both tenants and to landlords, with the name of the redress scheme they belong to, and whether or not they offer Client Money Protection insurance.
Yesterday, one agent tweeted: “Spent today on competitors’ websites checking lettings fees. Well I would have, had any had them on display. Now shopping to trading standards.”
Eye reported it here