No buy to let regulation, says minister

Ministers are steadfastly refusing to regulate letting agents and landlords because the market is already policed by several voluntary organisations.

Their standpoint was reiterated in response to a written question tabled in Parliament.

Lord Browne of Ladyton asked: “Will the government regulate landlords and letting agents, in the light of the increase in the number of young people unable to afford a deposit to buy a home; and, if so, how.”

Communities and Local Government minister Baroness Hanham explained the government felt that self-regulation and available legal remedies already provided enough redress for landlords and tenants.

“Letting and managing agents are already subject to consumer protection legislation,” she said.

“Consumer protection legislation covers issues such as giving false or misleading information, not acting with the standard of care and skill that is in accordance with honest market practice and claiming falsely to be a member of a professional body or approved redress scheme.

“For tenants or landlords who are charged unfair or unreasonable fees by an agent, this means that they are able to report this to their local trading standards officer or to the Office of Fair Trading which has both civil and criminal enforcement powers.”

According to the minister, up to half of letting agents already belong to voluntary regulatory bodies.

“These set standards and offer redress if things go wrong. In the light of these existing schemes, we have no current plans to introduce further statutory regulation. Disproportionate regulation on the private rented sector would push up rents and reduce the choice and availability of accommodation on offer to tenants.”

The coalition has declined to regulate the private rental sector despite letting agents regularly going out of business owing landlords and tenants thousands of pounds.

Industry groups, like the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and SafeAgent, offer client money protection schemes through member agents.