Action must be taken to tackle sharp practice and abuse by letting agents, according to a Parliamentary committee chaired by a Sheffield MP.
The Communities and Local Government Committee has published a report today, which proposes bringing regulation for letting agents up to the level of that for estate agents.
The change would give the Office of Fair Trading the power to ban agents who act improperly and would also put in place new rules to ensure the safe treatment of landlords’ and tenants’ money.
Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East and committee chairman, said: “Amazingly, letting agents are subject to less control than estate agents. This lack of regulation is giving rise to sharp practice and abuse by some letting agents.
“We were told the letting sector was the property industry’s ‘Wild West’.
“‘Cowboy agents who rip off landlords and tenants have to be stopped.
“They need to play by new rules or get out of the sector.”
The report also demands action to crack down on ‘hidden and unreasonable fees and charges’ imposed by letting agents.
MPs say agents should be required to tell tenants about fees before they start the letting process.
The committee calls for all property listings and advertisements to list in full the fees a tenant would have to pay.
Mr Betts said: “Unreasonable fees and opaque charges are not confined to a few rogue agents. Many well-known high street agents are just as guilty. Agents must make tenants aware from the outset of the fees they intend to charge.
“All property listings – on websites, in print or in agents’ windows – must be accompanied by a full breakdown of fees.”