Letting Agents keeping tenants deposits are not agents THEY’RE THIEVES
A Newsbeat investigation has found that a minority of letting agents are fraudulently taking thousands of pounds from tenants as holding deposits, not letting them move in and then keeping that money.
From January 2011 to September 2013 Trading Standards authorities in England reported 487 such cases and a Freedom of Information request found that 71 of the 200 trading standards teams in England had received at least one complaint about this issue.
Out of these 113 responses in some cases the landlords didn’t even exist, while in other cases the agents were stealing money from the landlords too.
75% of the teams that had received complaints admitted they had not taken any action, with some stating that they could not intervene because it was a civil matter – which is what some victims had said the police had told them too. Furthermore, the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) said that the way information was currently being recorded meant that the real number of victims could be much higher and that cases involving rogue letting agents were becoming a national priority.
Currently in Scotland it is illegal for letting agents to charge holding deposits to tenants, the Welsh government are planning new laws to crack down on rogue agents, while there is no regulation in Northern Ireland at all.
Shelter have been leading the campaign for more regulation so that letting agents in England have to follow the same rules as estate agents, explaining the problem was that “pretty much anybody can set up a letting agency and that the government is just not taking those nine million people in the PRS seriously enough.”
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins had this to say on the issue: “Such activities are already illegal and I would urge anyone facing such unacceptable practices to contact their council’s trading standards department.
“Councils have powers to prosecute such illegal behaviour.”
LRS want to make it clear that these fraudsters are not letting agents but thieves. For example, one tenant handed over £2,000 in a cafe to a “letting agent” as a holding deposit…!!
What is needed here is for tenants to be a lot more vigilant in researching letting agents before using their services, being made aware of the trade bodies and associations that they should look out for to provide peace of mind that the agent is legitimate and be more careful with their money.
Would you buy a car from a man selling it in a lay-by?! … Would you buy a “real rolex” from a guy you met in a pub?!
This is not about bringing in more regulation to protect good people, it is about people not having to rely on others to be their eyes, ears and sensibility and having the foresight to protect and manage their own money correctly.
At LandlordReferencing.co.uk we believe that regulation and legislation should work both ways for all those involved in the private rented sector – landlords, letting agents and tenants.
IS IT FAIR that a tenant can fail to pay the rent and damage a property and a landlord can only take this as a civil offence, but if a landlord throws the tenant out it is an illegal eviction?
IS IT FAIR that we have an independent civil contract between two parties yet one party is supported by the criminal justice system and the other by the civil courts?
IS IT FAIR that one side is able to claim legal aid /paid for by the tax payer and the other forced to pay out of their own pocket even if the fault lies solely with the tenant?
Landlord Referencing Services DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS IS FAIR OR EQUAL, and if you follow the OFT’s principle guideline – ‘A contract between two parties should be fair and equal in balance’ – then you will also agree that this is anything but equal.
Therefore LRS believe that this is should not be about adding more regulations onto agents in England – it should be about giving the police more resources to prosecute those that are committing these frauds and thefts and address them, rather than penalising the majority of compliant letting agents.
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