CMA publishes consumer protection guidance for lettings industry

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published comprehensive guidance for letting professionals to help improve their understanding of, and compliance with, consumer protection law.

The guidance follows the publication in 2013 of a wide-ranging report into the lettings market by the CMA’s predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which raised concerns about a number of unsatisfactory practices affecting tenants, including unfair and ‘surprise’ fees and charges, poor service and delayed and substandard repairs. The OFT considered that greater compliance with existing legislation would improve the way the letting market works.

The result of constructive engagement with the letting industry and other stakeholders, including SAL and the CLA, this guidance will help letting professionals understand their responsibilities under consumer and business protection regulations. The CMA has worked closely with Trading Standards Services to agree how the law should be applied to the most problematic practices and to identify enforcement priorities, so that together they can tackle non-compliance and improve the way the market functions.

The guidance includes practical advice such as:
•    ensuring that tenants and the letting agent’s landlord clients know what charges and fees they will have to pay and what these are for.
•    avoiding using misleading advertising or statements, and ensuring that the tenant or landlord is given all the information they need, at the appropriate time.
•    providing clear information which the tenant needs to know before they move in (such as guarantor and deposit requirements, and the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement).
•    dealing fairly and professionally with tenants and landlords, and using fair contractual terms.
•    ensuring that services and repairs are carried out in a timely manner and with reasonable care and skill.
•    giving clear and full information to tenants about how to end a tenancy agreement.

The guidance is relevant to letting professionals throughout the UK and highlights national variations in legislation.

The guidance document can be found online here and we recommend that all CLA members familiarise themselves with the contents.