Trading Standards enforcement of agency obligations may be about to change!
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Enforcement Team (NTSEAT), the body that took over from the Office of Fair Trading last year, has recently provided all Trading Standards Officers with an enforcement toolkit to advise them on simple effective ways to enforce legislation.
The basic concept of the toolkit is to outline how to enforce using fixed penalty notices. The use of fixed penalties is commonplace in areas of enforcement; speeding and parking being the issues we have all had experience of. More recently it moved into areas such as littering; dog fouling, etc., but agents should now be aware that its use has moved into estate agency and letting agency.
Fixed penalties for breaches of agents obligations is a simple, efficient and cost effective method of enforcement for Trading Standards. It avoids the need for lengthy and costly court action and in my view the attraction for local authorities will be that the proceeds of fixed penalties goes straight back into the coffers of the local authority. Fines imposed by the courts never did, they went into central government coffers. Given the squeeze on local government finances the benefits for them in enforcing in this new way are obvious.
All new legislation obligations will no doubt contain fixed penalty fines and changes can be envisaged to allow the use of them for current obligation.
Fixed Penalty Figures
Failure to obtain an EPC within prescribed time scales - £200/property
Failure to be a member of a Sales Ombudsman Scheme - £1,000
Failure to register under Money Laundering Regulations - up to £1,000
Breaches Money Laundering Obligations - numerous penalties
Failure to be a member of a Lettings Ombudsman Scheme - up to £5,000
Failure to display Lettings fees within each branch - up to £5,000/branch
Failure to display Lettings fees on your website - up to £5,000
*Failure to comply with smoke alarm obligation - up to £5,000/property
*Failure to comply with carbon monoxide alarm obligation - up to £5,000/property
*These are landlord penalties; however, landlords subject to a penalty can go to the Ombudsman, if they feel they were not adequately and correctly advised by their agent on their legal obligations.