A new regulatory body has been set up ahead of the tenant fees ban on June 1.
Called the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, it will combine existing control over sales agents, but have an added remit in overseeing lettings firms’ compliance with the fees ban.
The new body will regulate estate agents throughout the UK, but letting agents only in England and apparently only where they charge illegal fees.
Its powers include overseeing compliance among both sales and letting agents, and overseeing redress schemes – for example the Property Ombudsman scheme.
Powys County Council will continue to be the lead enforcement authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979.
Powys has run, on a shoestring, the awkwardly named NTSEAT – the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team – since the former Office of Fair Trading regulator vanished.
However NTSEAT has not had lettings activity under its control, since letting agents do not fall under the remit of the Estate Agents Act.
Alongside Powys is now Bristol City Council, announced as the new national lead enforcement authority for the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
Bristol Trading Standards will be responsible for nationally enforcing the tenant fees ban that comes into play in England on June 1.
The new NTSELAT body – we’re guessing whether the even more awkward acronym will actually be used – says it may investigate cases where a local authority is unable to do so.
NTSEAT head James Munro will expand his role to head up the new body.
He said: “Bringing the two functions – lead enforcement authority for estate agency work and lead enforcement authority for lettings agency work – under one team will mean there is a single point of contact for enforcement work in this area.
“This single team approach will help us uphold consumers’ rights and enforce the law.”
Housing minister Heather Wheeler MP said: “We are determined to make the private rented sector a fairer, more accessible market that works for all and I am delighted that local authorities will now be able to access the best advice and information from this new team.
“There is no place for unfair fees – now, with this new enforcement authority, we will be able to stamp them out.”
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “We welcome today’s announcement of the lead enforcement authority, and hope this is a major step forward in improving enforcement in the private rented sector.
“At the moment, there is a severe lack of prosecution in the industry, allowing rogue agents to operate and thrive.
“We look forward to building a constructive working relationship with the lead enforcement authority to eliminate these agents from the sector once and for all.”