Council shuts down "rip-off" letting agents

A London council has closed four letting agents following a crackdown intended to “stop tenants being exploited.”

Newham Council has visited 197 letting agents since November 2013 as part of its Fair Lettings Project. As a result of those visits, the Council issued 113 “notices for corrective action”. Newham says “most” of those visited are now operating within the law.

But four agents have closed following the Council’s first visit, while two have been prosecuted. Legal proceedings are pending against a further five. Newham says it has also recovered “thousands of pounds” of tenants’ deposit money that had been “illegally retained” by agents.

Some 32 additional agents are under investigation by the Council, which has also issued ten penalty charge notices to letting agents that were also operating as estate agents without belonging to an approved redress scheme.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: “The Fair Lettings Project has been a great success, with the majority of letting agents now operating within the law. We have already seen the prosecution of one letting agent who continued to work illegally which is to the detriment of both tenants and landlords.

“Forty per cent of all Newham households rent privately, and many depend on a largely unregulated industry. It is encouraging that so many of the letting agents are now complying with the law and we will support those who need help and assistance. The project complements our private sector licensing scheme, which has already raised standards across the private sector. We will continue to work hard to ensure Newham residents who rent privately are not exploited and get a decent roof over their heads.”

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