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Local authorities in London are failing to do their job stamping out rogue letting agents, according to a new investigation. Since the beginning of October letting agents and property managers have had to sign up to one of three government approved ombudsman or redress schemes. But an investigation by television channel London Live says it has found failings in the legislation which shows in its current state it just isn’t working. It also suggests that Londoners are unaware they now have more powers to hold rogue agents to account if they are ripped off. If a tenant is unhappy with the way they’re treated by an agent they can go to one of these schemes to complain. If an agent refuses to comply with decisions made by these schemes, they face fines and could be banned from trading, giving the ombudsman the legal teeth they previously lacked. It's now illegal for any agent to operate without registering with a government approved ombudsman to avoid tenants paying excess fees, having their deposits withheld, or being in fear of revenge evictions. London Live asked every local authority in London if they are enforcing this, and their response ranged from Havering admitting they're not keeping track and waiting for tenants to report rogue agents, to Merton and Richmond saying it's only when they are made aware that they seek compliance. It found that Kensington and Chelsea think the law is still going through the courts so it's not clear to them which department has to deal with this. Newham is the only local authority actively taking action. They’ve issued £5,000 fines to nine letting agents who have refused to register. London renter Alex Parsons says is long overdue. ‘Just as I was about to move into a property in Waltham Forest my flat mates and I were told to pay £300 on top of the £200 I already had to pay in admin fees,’ he explained. According to Rosie Walker from Renters Rights London the scheme isn’t working at the moment as tenants are worried that if they complain they could end up without a home. ‘The redress scheme is the final tier of the complaint process, what should be happening is that the agent should be dealing with the complaints directly with the tenant and the landlord to resolve it (the problem),’ said Sean Hooker, head of Ombudsman the Property Redress Scheme. All three redress scheme operators revealed that they haven’t received a single complaint from a London tenant or landlord because not enough is being done to let people know about their new legal powers. Continue reading →
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