News & Blog

Sean's blog: October 2015

Could you be risking a fine?

 

There are a number of fairly recent or new regulations that you need to comply with as an agent.

 

One of them, now just over a year old, is that you need to be a member of a property redress scheme. Another one is that letting agents must clearly display your fees and also to state clearly whether or NOT they have client money protection in place. This means putting up a notice to that effect. All of these also apply to your website, where this information should be easily found and seen by your customers and potential customers.

I decided to do a little exercise and browsed a variety of agent websites to see if they had complied with the law in accordance with the guidance provided by the government. I was shocked to find that, be they large or small, members of trade bodies or not, the number of sites that were complying as prescribed was tiny. Few showed their fees as required, many failed to show which redress scheme they belonged to and as for client money protection, no site where the agent did not have the cover made the required statement that they did not have it.  

Whether or not this is also reflected in their offices, I cannot say, but these agents need to make sure they start complying with the law or else they could be in for a hefty fine.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the legislation is not being taken seriously is the perception that the law is not being enforced. Most local authorities were slow off the mark, and it was only when a number of large councils started enforcing and fining, that agents started realising that this could cost them a lot of money or even their livelihood. Also, the fines are virtually unappealable.

At this point I think it is also worth mentioning that I am not a regulator and will not take any role in enforcing this legislation. But if I as Head of Redress get a complaint regarding fees and the agent cannot prove that they have displayed these transparently and openly to their customers, I will award the amount charged back to them. Similarly, if the agent does not display that they are a member of our scheme both in the office and on the website, this could result in us taking disciplinary action and the agent having to compensate their customers.

So what does this mean for you? In order to avoid a fine, check that you are already following the advice below or make the relevant changes to do so

 

 

  1. Ensure that all of your offices clearly display your fees. ARLA have prepared a template for their members, which you can look at as an example of best practice.
  2. Update your website: even if you do not do a great deal of trade over this medium, remember that if it was easy for me to check those sites that do not comply, it will be easy for the authorities to do so. If you are not sure of what to display, then take a look at our leaflet and the guidance from the Department of Business Innovations and Skills, which can be found on our website. 
  3. Make sure that if you do not have client money protection that you clearly inform your customers of the fact. Alternatively, why not get the cover in place? It is available through various trade bodies but can also be purchased as a standalone product from companies such as Client Money Protect (www.cmprotect.co.uk ). It costs around £300 a year and can be activated within a week of your application.  They also will provide you with a logo for your office and website.

 

 

Finally why not take advantage of this legislation to promote your business and give you a competitive edge? Show customers that they can trust you and that they are in safe hands with you. 

 

Back

News & Blog

“Sound and Fury” The conference season comes to a close

Head of Redress, Sean Hooker gives his opinions on the political party conference season and how th...

Read More »

What to do when tenancies go wrong

When tenancies go wrong the agent is most likely to get the blame. Find out what can be done to pre...

Read More »
View All

View All

Authorised by


Property Redress Scheme is approved by Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015