In response to the report from the Communities and Local Government Committee on the private rented sector,Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“We’ve been calling for lettings agents to come under the same regulations as estate agents since we uncovered an alarming lack of consumer protection and wide scale poor practice in this market. We hope the Government puts these plans into action as soon as possible. We also want the Office of Fair Trading to crackdown on hidden charges so that people know what they are signing up to and can more easily shop around.”
1. Following an investigation this year Which? believes that major letting agents are acting unlawfully by not being upfront about the fees charged to clients. We wrote to these agents asking them to be more transparent in order to comply with the law and although some of these agents have made changes, we still believe fees should be explicitly set out in all property adverts, on websites or at the first point of contact with an agent.
2. In March, Which? gave oral evidence to the Committee and has since submitted two separate pieces of supplementary written evidence calling for legislation relating to estate agents to be applied to letting agents, and for agent fees to be shown in adverts.
3. Which? first campaigned for improved protection and redress in the lettings market in 2007 when we called for an amendment to the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 to require letting agents to join an approved complaints scheme, as sales agents are. While we are pleased the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to be implemented in 2014,is going to give landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme, we also want to see the OFT have the powers to ban or reprimand letting agents in the same way they can estate agents, and agents required to follow a code of conduct.
4. Later this year, the OFT is expected to publish guidance for agents on how consumer protection regulations apply to them.