More landlords breaching the law as complaints rise
Tuesday 15th May 2012
A letting agent has discovered that private landlords across its region are increasingly in breach of the law. It is also calling for its competitors to sign up to the SAFEagent scheme.
Linley & Simpson carried out research across Yorkshire, and found that in some council areas, the number of complaints being investigated against landlords is over five times higher than it was just a decade ago. (However, also see the next story.)
Prosecutions and legal notices across Yorkshire are also at an all-time high – with some landlords ordered to pay more than £20,000 after being convicted of serious breaches of the law which were judged to put their tenants’ lives at risk.
Using Freedom of Information requests, Linley & Simpson asked councils across the areas of Yorkshire in which it operates – including those in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Harrogate and York – to reveal both the number and nature of prosecutions brought over the past ten years.
The company also asked the authorities for details about how many court actions were against individual landlords, and how many were brought against professional letting agents.
Director Will Linley said: “Our research shows that the spiralling rise in demand for rental properties over the last decade is matched by an upsurge in complaints and prosecutions.
“This trend is in part down to the increasingly litigious society in which we live, and in part down to the increasing burden of red tape associated with being a landlord.
“The lesson to be learned from our research is that landlords should employ only an accredited agent – or make sure they are armed with all the necessary knowledge needed to let a property without exposing themselves to legal action and big fines.
“Nobody books a holiday with a travel agent who is not properly accredited and registered – but, as ever-increasing numbers are finding to their cost, this isn’t always the case in the rental market where the stakes are far higher.”
Linley said tenants and landlords wanting peace of mind should rent properties through agents belonging to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
He added that the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) also offered reassurance as did initiatives such as Wakefield Council’s Responsible Landlords’ Scheme.
The key findings of Linley & Simpson’s research revealed:
• Leeds has mounted the most prosecutions, with more than 135 in the last two years alone. A total of 132 cases were against private landlords, with just three against letting agents. In Bradford, all but one of the 19 prosecutions brought in the last two years were against private landlords.
• Bradford has witnessed the biggest increase in complaints – rocketing from 263 in 2000 to more than 1,313 in 2010. A total of 1,130 of these complaints were against individual property owners, and 183 against letting agents.
• The biggest reported fines included £20,000 plus costs for a case brought by Bradford District Council; £17,000 for breaching rules concerning Houses in Multiple Occupation in a prosecution made on behalf of Leeds City Council; and £10,000 plus costs resulting from action taken by York Council.
• The most common breaches which lead to legal action involved the failure to license HMOs; not meeting strict health and safety regulations; financial mismanagement of tenants’ deposits; and harassment and illegal eviction by landlords.
Linley also urged the local residential letting sector to back the recent launch and roll-out of the SAFEagent client money protection scheme.
He said: “The SAFEagent kitemark now makes it far easier for landlords and tenants to differentiate between the good, the bad and the plain ugly among letting agents.
“Only those agencies which are guaranteed to safeguard client money will be able to display it. Those who are not, and who continue to tarnish the reputation of the sector, will be exposed.”
* Are you an agent or landlord that has done similar research in your area? If so, please contact the editor.
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