Councils must crack down on rogue letting agents
Local authorities must take much firmer action against rogue letting agents that tarnish the image of the private rented sector, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has said.
New research by the NLA found that more than half of local authorities did not prosecute a single letting agent in the four-year period from 2014/15 to 2017/18.
In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 20 local authorities, the NLA discovered that 53 per cent of local authorities did not prosecute any letting agents.
A further 32 per cent prosecuted three or fewer.
Liverpool City Council was the outlier, prosecuting 13 letting agents. By contrast, Hammersmith and Fulham Council did not even bother to respond to the FOI. Of the 20 councils questioned, 13 had already introduced landlord licensing schemes.
The NLA expressed concern at the fact that some letting agents make unauthorised alterations to a landlord’s property, leading to a breakdown of trust between the tenant and the landlord.
In addition, they sometimes let out a landlord’s property to multiple tenants, effectively creating an illegal “house in multiple occupation” (HMO).
Given that the licensing laws on an HMO are stricter than those for a single occupancy property, this can leave the landlord liable to fines of up to £30,000 or even criminal charges.
Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, said: “It is clear that too many local authorities to failing in their duty to prosecute rogue letting agents.
“These bad ones can really poison the relationship between landlords and tenants. We want to see local authorities take much firmer action.
“We were shocked to find that so few letting agents are being prosecuted by local authorities. While many local authorities have introduced licensing schemes to crack down on rogue landlords, they seem to be allowing letting agents to get off scot-free. This must stop.
“In the meantime, landlords should make sure their chosen agent is reputable and is a member of a client money protection scheme that will safeguard their assets — rental money, deposit or other funds — if they misappropriate them or go bust.”