October round up of the private rented sector

Regulation

Proposed regulation of the private rented sector has been ongoing this month.  Building on announcements at the Conservative Party conference, Eric Pickles “plans include forcing letting agents to join a redress scheme allowing complaints about poor service or hidden fees to be independently examined.”  As well as publishing a new tenant’s charter that will set out details of a new code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rented sector, with a view to making it statutory.

These announcements though have not be welcomed as a move in the right direction.  John Healey, former Labour housing minister attacked the tenants’ charter claiming that it will not stop the “scandal” of “rip-off fees” charged to tenants, and will continue to give “free rein to rogue letting and managing agents”.  Landlord Assist believes that the tenant charter “will work against landlords in many areas and potentially force rents beyond record levels and result in a reduction of quality accommodation.”

Fees

Last month the Committee of Advertising Practice published its guidance to letting agents on how they should include tenants’ fees in their property advertisements, and from the 1st of November this will be compulsory.  This month the Office of Fair Trading launched a new consultation on draft guidance aimed at getting letting agents and landlords to comply with the law, with the centre of its subject being on fees.  The OFT’s draft guidance identifies trading practices that could breach legislation, such as not giving sufficient information to tenants about what fees they will have to pay, or making misleading statements about a property.

The OFT said it welcomes comment from lettings professionals, tenants and other interested parties on the draft guidance. The consultation will close on December 10.

A copy of the draft guidance can be downloaded from:

OFT consults on draft guidance for letting agents and landlords 

The OFT guidance, when finalised, will take precedence over the guidance to letting agents as to how they must disclose fees on their adverts, following a test case earlier this year when the Advertising Standards Authority banned an advert by Your Move. This new guidance is set to kick in on November 1 and agents have been warned that their advertising will be closely monitored.

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