Local authorities have been accused of failing in their duty, to ensure the prosecution of “rogue” letting agents, according to the National Landlords Association (NLA).
The NLA voiced its concerns on the matter, as it believed the failure of local authorities to address the issue undermines efforts to improve the image of the private rented sector.
According to the NLA, rogue letting agents were making unauthorised modifications to the properties of their landlords, breaking down the trust shared between landlord and letting agent. The NLA also referred to some letting agents letting out the properties of landlords to multiple tenants, creating illegal houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
In the event of authorities finding out about the existence of such HMOs, strict licensing laws would mean landlords risked being liable for fines of up to £30,000 or even criminal charges.
This news comes just days after the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) urged Tory leadership contenders, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, to ensure that they were able to show more consideration to those in the private rented sector, upon becoming Prime Minister.
Failure to act
The NLA’s criticism of local authorities was explained, when they revealed that more than 50 per cent of local authorities had not prosecuted a single letting agent in the period between 2014-15 and 2017-18.
The association made the discovery, after carrying out a Freedom of Information (FOI) request of 20 local authorities. They added that as few as 32 per cent of local authorities were recorded as having prosecuted three or fewer letting agents during the aforementioned period.
Liverpool City Council was presented as an outlier by the NLA. They claimed that the local authority in question had prosecuted as many as 13 letting agents. The Hammersmith and Fulham Council neglected to even respond to the NLA’s FOI requests.
Request for firmer action
Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, called for greater action from local authorities, to tackle the issue of rogue letting agents. He said: “It is clear that too many local authorities are failing in their duty to prosecute rogue letting agents. These bad ones can really poison the relationship between landlords and tenants.”
Mr Lambert added that the NLA was shocked to see so few prosecutions, despite the fact that as many as 13 of the 20 councils they approached with FOI requests admitted to having already introduced landlord licensing schemes.
He concluded: “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.”