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Would you pass a spot check? 90% of lettings agents fall foul of the law

Trading Standards Officers carry out high street spot checks(Click to zoom)
Trading Standards Officers carry out high street spot checks

Next month will mark the Consumer Rights Act’s one year ‘anniversary’, which saw a new raft of legal requirements come into force for letting agents to better safeguard consumers.

However, new research is emerging from a range of sources which suggests many letting agents are breaching the legislation by failing to fully disclose details of their fees and charges.

The introduction of the Consumer Rights Act last year made it a legal requirement for every lettings agent to disclose their fees and charges on their websites and prominently in all their offices where they deal face to face with customers.

For any letting agents carrying out a last-minute spring clean in their branches, there has never been a better time to review your online and printed literature as one Council in Berkshire recently revealed 90 per cent of the letting agents operating in its area were breaking the law by failing to disclose fees and charges properly, and were at risk of hefty fines.

Many agents have been caught out by disclosing their fees but failing to publish the VAT, or failing to make it clear where other fees may apply (and how those fees are calculated).

Reading Trading Standards Officers carried out spot checks on their local high street as the enforcement powers of this legislation sits with them, and as such they can impose fines of up to &5,000 for any firm that falls short of the fee disclosure requirements.

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The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) issued new guidance on this topic at the end of last year to supplement a range of materials on their website to help agents comply with the law.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) document, ‘Consumer protection law guidance for lettings professionals’, is a must-read for every agent and covers this topic in detail, while their simple two-page ‘Key principles’ document is a great tool to train branch staff and marketing teams.

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