Tenants and landlords in Croydon are finding that dealing with letting agents is a lot easier because trading standards officers are taking a tough line against agents that flout the law.
Day two of London Trading Standards Week is focused on how trading standards can help to stop private tenants being ripped off by rogue agents in London.
Letting agents are legally required to display their fees and charges at their branches and on their websites, so there are no hidden costs or unwelcome surprises for prospective tenants and landlords.
Agents who fail to display their fees and other relevant information may be fined up to £5,000 per offence. Since October 2014, it has also been a requirement for all letting and property management agents to be members of one of three redress schemes – failure to comply will incur a similar penalty.
Proactive work by the council’s trading standards team has seen a drop in the number of rogue agents operating in the borough. A case in 2013 sent an effective warning message.
A disreputable Purley-based letting agent was found guilty of renting a house to a tenant, without the owner’s permission, and then pocketing the deposit. Thirugnanaselvam Damayantharan, often known as Mr Damo, denied three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act, having pleaded guilty to two Companies Act 2006 offences at an earlier hearing.
At the end of his trial he was fined £3,000, and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,000. Two witnesses for the prosecution were awarded compensation of £3,235 and £1,100 respectively, plus £15 victim surcharge.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“Letting agents have had more than enough time to ensure that their business complies with regulations that have been in force for a number of years.
“Our trading standards officers won’t allow letting agents who are flouting the law to get away with it, as it’s simply not fair to the vast majority of lettings agents that go out of their way to do the right thing.
“If you know an agent who isn’t publicising their fees or who is not complying with the law, be sure to report it.”
Anybody with information about agents who are not observing the regulations should call 03454 040506.
The aim of London Trading Standards Week is to promote and raise awareness about the wide range of work carried out by Trading Standards Services across London.
Further details about the rest of the campaign can be found on the website, www.londontradingstandards.org.uk. #LTS Week
Consumers can report London-related information on trading standards issues to London Trading Standards, via www.londontradingstandards.org.uk/report-consumer-crime/ The information will be passed on to the relevant authority or organisation. Please note it is a confidential no-reply service.
If you need advice or guidance, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/
For information about government-approved redress schemes, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/lettings-agents-and-property-managers-redress-schemes