Dozens of local letting agents have been fined by the council’s Trading Standards Department after failing to stick to new transparency guidelines.
The team contacted letting agents across the borough, following new legislation in 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act, which requires letting agents to be more transparent about the fees they charge tenants.
Many people had complained that they were not made aware of fees they would be charged - and therefore comparing one agent to another for the best deal was difficult.
Throughout 2016, Trading Standards officers carried out research to see if agents in the borough were displaying the required information.
They discovered that many of the agents were not aware of the new legislation and what it meant for them.
As a result, the Trading Standards team wrote to them, with a detailed explanation of their responsibilities and a warning of financial penalties should they fail to comply.
Two months later officers followed up the letters with visits to the letting agents – but unfortunately, whilst most (75) of them had heeded the advice and displayed their fees correctly, 30 agents had not and were breaching the Consumer Rights Act.
Councillor Mick Legg said: “In these days of very high mortgage costs, many people are renting – and many of them really are in the hands of letting agents.
“It is important that information about fees is absolutely transparent from the start and our Trading Standards team tried to work with local agents when the Consumer Rights Act came into force, to ensure that they were aware of their responsibilities to enable would-be tenants to receive the information they are entitled to when choosing which agent to use.
“It’s disappointing that, despite warnings from our Trading Standards team, some letting agents still failed to comply with the new Consumer Rights legislation.
“However, we hope these fines will send a strong message to letting agents across the borough to get their house in order.”