New enforcement team for lettings standards announced

A new enforcement team, led by National Trading Standards, has been set up to provide greater protection for tenants in England from letting agents who charge illegal tenant fees.

It will be responsible for regulating the private rental sector in England, protecting tenants and safeguarding compliant letting agents and will provide a single combined enforcement function to protect consumers and legitimate businesses in the property sector.

It brings together new letting agency enforcement work with the existing regulation of estate agents, which has previously been operated by the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team.

Funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team will act as the lead enforcement authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

Letting agency regulation for England will be led by Bristol City Council and estate agency enforcement across the UK will continue to be operated from Powys County Council. The team will work closely with local authorities who have local enforcement responsibilities.

The Tenant Fees Act 2019, will ban most fees charged to tenants in England from 01 June 2019, gives authority to the Secretary of State to assign a Trading Standards office in England to be the Lead Enforcement Authority for relevant letting agency legislation.

The new team will have the power to issue guidance and advice for the public, businesses and enforcement authorities on estate agency work in the UK and relevant letting agency work in England.

David Cox, chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) welcomed the move, describing it as 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,’ 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,’ said James Munro, head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.

Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler, said it will lead to a fairer lettings market. ‘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,’ she added.