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The Property Redress Scheme (PRS) has issued further guidance on unfair fees being charged by letting agents in the UK. The PRS is one of three consumer redress schemes authorised by the government whose role it is to provide fair and reasonable resolutions to complaints between members of the public and property agents and professionals. In England and Wales, letting agents are able to charge prospective and existing tenants for services and administration in addition to any rent or deposit paid. Such practices are illegal in Scotland where tenant fees have been outlawed since 1984. In a report issued by the PRS last month, it was revealed that of the complaints about agent members raised with the scheme, the most common grievance involved unfair or excessive fees being charged to the consumer. This has been reinforced by figures recently issued by Citizens’ Advice, who have hit out at agent’s ‘inexplicable fees’. In order to aid fee transparency and educate Member Agents, the Property Redress Scheme has issued two guides, one for agents and their landlords and another for agents and their tenants. It is not the role of redress schemes to prescribe or prohibit any fee in general. However, agents must be able to provide evidence to support the fees that they charge. A PRS Ombudsman may choose to make an award to the consumer if it is decided that the Member’s fees are unfair or have not been presented in a clear and transparent way. The guides have been summarised from the Competitions and Markets Authority Guidance (CMA) for lettings professionals on consumer protection law and are designed to help each party understand what may be deemed as an obscure or unjustifiable fee. ‘As a scheme, we felt that the subject of agent fees needed to be looked at in an objective and reasoned way and that agents should be provided with guidance on what they can and can’t charge. Tenants and landlords also need help understanding what they can complain about and which practices are legitimate and legal,’ said Sean Hooker, head of redress for the PRS. ‘Given the importance of this area and the fact that the redress schemes are now a major part of the mainstream lettings industry, it would have been remiss of the scheme to duck the issue and not make our agent members fully aware of their obligations,’ he added. The main purposes of the Property Redress Scheme are to allow agents to comply with their legal requirement to be a member of a government authorised consumer redress scheme and to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers against members. It is authorised by the Department for Communities and Local Government to offer redress to lettings and property management agents and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (formally the OFT) to… Continue reading →
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