Tower Hamlets Council has issued six letting agents with notices they will face a £5,000 fine if they do not begin displaying their fees after research by TH Renters revealed 34 were failing to do so.
Since April 2015 letting agents are legally obliged to display their fees prominently online and in their offices, but research carried out by TH Renters and Generation Rent showed 34 of around 170 agents operating in the borough were failing to do so.
Dave Tolley, head of environmental health and trading standards, said an officer was dispatched to check on 11 of the agents and found six still failing to display their fees and subsequently issued them with a ‘notice of intent’. He said his officers would check another eight in the coming days.
While forcing agents to display their fees is unlikely to bring their extortionate rates down it sends a message that they should at least abide by the law and that there are concerned renters who will pursue them if they do not.
Recently an agent was reported to the police and council after a member of his team allegedly assaulted a tenant in his own home following years of the agent letting themselves into their home unannounced.
After initial attempts to dismiss the report TH cabinet members for housing were contacted and the case is being investigated by both the police and the housing department.
Plans are currently afoot to set up an ethical letting agent that will charge minimum fees and offer longer tenancies, however, the new London Mayor has made similar proposals and so local efforts may be unnecessary.
A previous attempt by Hackney Council has so far proved unsuccessful with little take up by landlords suggesting a higher profile marketing and engagement campaign may be necessary to make it work.
Pro-active councils could also look at taking over sub-standard and empty properties in their boroughs, doing them up with government funding and manage them for a minimum five years to help get ball rolling.