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Agents, landlords and tenants must work together to expose rogue operators

Letting agents are being urged to do more to raise consumer awareness about rogue operators in the industry by demonstrating their own compliance, according to PayProp.

The letting payment automation provider wants to see more agents help raise industry standards by offering consumers a better understanding of the tell-tale signs to look out for in order to clampdown on non-compliant agencies.

Recent research by London Trading Standards reveals how a significant number of agencies in the capital have broken the law.

In the 15 months to June 2019, almost half - 46% - of the 1,922 firms inspected failed to comply with either the Consumer Rights Act or their obligation to join a redress scheme.

This led to £1.2m in fines being issued as well as 14 criminal prosecutions for a range of offences.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp UK, said: "The number of London agencies that have failed to comply with their obligations is a cause for concern as the industry’s proportion of law-breakers is often described as a 'minority'. 

"It's positive to see that Trading Standards is taking a proactive approach to enforcement. However, following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act and compulsory Client Money Protection scheme membership earlier this year, there is now more regulation for them to police."

"If everyone associated with the industry was equipped with the knowledge of what is required, we could avoid non-compliant agencies and improve industry standards as a whole.”

Although it only focused on London, Trading Standards' compliance research could have negative implications for the reputation of letting agencies across the country.

Cobbold continued: "These statistics should act as a wakeup call for the industry to get their house in order and distance themselves from wrongdoing - more agencies are operating outside of the law than many people may have previously thought. 

"At a time when the lettings sector is in the spotlight due to its growing size, the huge number of private renters and its political importance, agents must do everything they can to protect their public reputation."

"This can be done by improving consumer knowledge of what agencies do and what is required of them, as well as operating professionally and transparently at all times. 

"This year's new legislation combined with Trading Standards' increased commitment to enforcement, can help to identify and punish more rogue operators.

"This will leave the compliant agencies who prioritise customer service to reap the benefits of a growing and increasingly regulated market.”

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