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Over 145 rules and laws for lettings sector – yet enforcement ‘limited’

A new report identifies in detail over 145 laws and regulations governing the private lettings sector, varying across the four countries of the UK, yet finds enforcement of this blizzard of red tape is extremely limited.

In a new 49-page report for the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Foundation, buy to let expert Kate Faulkner itemises each of the regulations and laws as they apply to letting agents and landlords in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

They show wide disparities and Faulkner notes that, in theory, landlords and agents can work across more than one of these countries, so therefore can face varying regulations to keep track of.

“It’s not just the laws which are different but the enforcement of those laws can be carried out by different organisations in different countries, too” says Faulkner – and those different enforcement bodies are in addition to UK-wide bodies such as Trading Standards, the Home Office, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority, along with UK-wide rules applying to letting agent redress schemes, third party management of tenants’ deposits and HMRC tax rules for agents and landlords.

“The complexity of rules, regulations and their enforcement is clearly vast and can be different from one local authority to another, too. So for the ‘average landlord’ who works full time, let alone the letting agents and their respective trade bodies, it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible for enforcing each regulation and the penalties breaches would incur” notes Faulkner.

In the conclusion to her report, Faulkner says that the absence of effective uniform enforcement of rules is bad news for good lettings sector agents, who have to turn down business from landlords who clearly do not comply with the law and/or local council initiatives such as licensing schemes for the private rental sector.

She says the absence of effective enforcement means that “despite a dramatic increase in the protection of tenants through vast amounts of legislation, unfortunately, it appears to be having little impact.”

She says that to deliver safe and legally let properties, there needs to be a much more co-ordinated and properly funded campaign to raise awareness of the existence of rules and regulations and enforcement not just to landlords and tenants, but to the enforcement bodies and the industry as a whole.

“Without a co-ordinated approach, the rules and regulations could just increase the cost of letting property without delivering any of the benefits to tenants and the lettings sector.”

It’s a fascinating report which sets out exactly what laws and regulations apply in which country, demonstrating the huge differences. You can see the report, one of three prepared by Faulkner and her team for the TDS Foundation, here.

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