October 30 2014 Latest news:
Kay Atwal, Chief Reporter
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
An initiative that aims to stop private tenants and landlords being exploited has resulted in several lettings agents being prosecuted and a further 32 being investigated.
The Fair Lettings Project was introduced by Newham Council to ensure letting agents in the borough comply with legislation to stop tenants from being exploited. The project also aims raise standards in the industry to benefit landlords.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham said: “Forty per cent of all Newham households rent privately and many depend on a largely unregulated industry. It is encouraging that so many of the letting agents are now complying with the law and we will support those who need help and assistance. The project complements our private sector licensing scheme which has already raised standards across the private sector. We will continue to work hard to ensure Newham residents who rent privately are not exploited and get a decent roof over their head.”
Since November 2013, officers have visited 197 known letting agents in the borough to check their conditions. From these visits, 113 notices for corrective actions have been issued. Most are now either fully or broadly compliant with current consumer protection and housing legislation. The council has also been able to recover thousands of pounds of tenants’ deposit money, illegally retained by letting agents.
Four agents stopped trading after the first visit, two letting agents have been prosecuted and another five will have legal action taken against them.
As a result of the project, there are a further 32 letting agents under investigation. Ten penalty charge notices (PCN) of £1,000 have also been issued to letting agents who are also acting as estate agents but do not belong to an approved redress scheme.
The council is working with national professional bodies including the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS) and the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) to set the standards expected of all agents operating in Newham. All letting agents in Newham are expected to:
*Provide full information and clarity on all fees and charges to all parties
*Provide tenants with a copy of any property licence and information on the licensing conditions
*Ensure all third party deposits are registered in an approved tenancy deposit scheme
*Correctly returning all holding deposits without illegal deductions
*Always providing accurate information to landlords and tenants
*Membership of reputable trade bodies and professional associations.