The Government has announced plans to increase fines against letting agents breaching rules, and will require them to publicly state the fees they charge.
The new rules are aimed at reducing complaints in the sector, after they increased by 23% in 2013, compared with the previous year. Strangely, it is not only renters who are fed up with rogue letting agents – half of complaints were from landlords.
Currently, letting agents are bound by the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority, which requires them to list compulsory charges. However, many additional hidden charges are often added, and it is these that the new rules aim to reveal. The new requirements will be for a full tariff to be shown both on websites, and “prominently” in offices. Warns the Government: “Anyone who does not comply with these new rules will face a fine – a much stricter penalty than currently exists.”
Minister Kris Hopkins said: “The vast majority of letting agents provide a good service to tenants and landlords. But we are determined to tackle the minority of rogue agents who offer a poor service. Ensuring full transparency and banning hidden fees is the best approach, giving consumers the information they want and supporting good letting agents.”
And in a hint that this approach is fundamentally different to the approach suggested by the Labour party, he added: “Short-term gimmicks like trying to ban any fee to tenants means higher rents by the back door. Excessive state regulation and waging war on the private rented sector would also destroy investment in new housing, push up prices and make it far harder for people to find a flat or house to rent.”