It’s the new law that's supposed to protect tenants from rogue letting agents.
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.
This is the chance to hold agents to account without having to go through the courts, something London renter Alex Parsons says is long overdue.
He says; “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.”
A a London Live investigation has found failings in the legislation which shows in its current state it just isn’t working.
Since 1st October this year, letting agents and property managers have had to sign up to 1 of 3 government approved ombudsman or redress schemes.
So, 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.
However, this law needs to be enforced, something local authorities have to do as those who haven’t signed up are affectively trading illegally.
London Live asked every local authority in London if they are enforcing this, and their response ranged from the likes of Havering admitting they're not keeping track, waiting for tenants to report rogue agents, to Merton and Richmond saying it's only when they are made aware that they seek compliance.
Astonishingly 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 £5000 fines to 9 letting agents who have refused to register.
But that’s not all, after speaking to the redress scheme operators all three revealed 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.
So with local authorities failing to do their job stamping out rogue letting agents and Londoners not even aware they now have more powers to hold rip-off agents to account, it’s clear that more still needs to be done to protect those renting in the capital.
Investigating the story, Claudia-Liza Armah has some advice for tenants.
Rosie Walker from Renters Rights London says that the scheme isn’t working at the moment, as it gives tenants the feeling of accountability, but the danger is too high to act on it, because landlords could threaten to evict them. “You can complain all you like, but you’ll end up without a flat” - Rosie Walker, of Renter’s Rights.
Sean Hooker who's the head of Ombudsman the Property Redress Scheme, joined headline London. He says that redress scheme is the last tier of the process, the aim is to get tenants and landlords to work together on a solution, with the ombudsman acting as the final step.
Property expert Marta de Sousa said that there is ‘not enough leverage for tenants’ and that the process is too long and arduous, They join Headline London to debate this issue.