As part of the Government’s plans to enforce the upcoming lettings fee ban, a new lead enforcement authority will be established for the private rental sector.
According to the draft Tenant Fees Bill, which is currently moving through the House of Lords, Trading Standards will be responsible for enforcing the ban, while local authorities will be able to retain money raised through fines for non-compliance.
New laws however as proven in the past are only as good as their enforcement dictates. So, what are the challenges and opportunities for enforcing the lettings fee ban?
With thousands of letting agents operating across the country, it may seem difficult for authorities to fully enforce the lettings fee ban and make sure that all companies are compliant.
Enforcement of existing legislation, such as the requirement for all agents to display their fees, has been, at times, problematic. Due to our transparency at Abode, our fees are clearly laid out to landlords and tenants alike.
According to research in 2017 by the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), 93% of local authorities had failed to issue a single financial penalty for non-compliance with compulsory fee disclosure rules.
Almost two-thirds of councils surveyed admitted that they did not consider displaying letting agent fees a high priority. Furthermore, a third of councils said that they hadn’t allocated staffing resources to this work in 2016/17.
At the same time, 64% of local authorities said that they were yet to assess the impact that the fees ban could have on enforcement.
But how seriously will the enforcement be carried out?
In September, it was found that funding for the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) has been doubled. The team, which aims to protect consumers from rogue estate agents, has had its funding raised to £500,000 per year.
Cobbold points out that increased funds for regulating the sales sector may be a sign that more money could be made available to enforce the lettings fee ban over the next few years.
And what is the likelihood it will be delivered to any realistic time frame?
The Government has stated that the fees ban will be introduced in spring 2019 at the earliest, but, since its introduction to Parliament in May 2018, there have been no further announcements regarding the date of implementation.
There are still several steps however that need to occur before any implementation can be deployed. The report stage, a third reading and amendment stage are amongst the hurdles the ban has to overcome.
At Abode, we keep all our landlords and tenants up to date with any changes to fees and services, of which we offer unrivalled property management to ensure all parties receive the most transparent and best service.