Tenant are Consumers:
The UK Consumer Protection law applies to letting agents and landlords alike when they advertise a property to let or create a new tenancy. It also applies to most private landlords when they deal with letting agents, unless they operate as a company. The provisions in consumer protection law under the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also include business practices when managing a property, or when renewing or terminating a tenancy.
New Guidance from the CMA for landlords and agents sets out their obligations under the law. Agents should make sure that the property is available at a time and at the rent and deposit level agreed with the tenant, that any promised work has been carried out and any contents such as furniture or appliances agreed with the tenant, are present.
The tenants must be supplied with all relevant information including (and this is also a tenancy law legal requirement) copies of a gas safety certificate, EPC, and the government’s How to Rent Guide, as well as a tenancy agreement, and when appropriate a guarantor agreement and rent book (rent paid weekly). Tenants should also have information explaining who to contact for serving notices, or in case of any problems with the tenancy.
The guidance also stresses the importance of giving a tenant sufficient opportunity to review the inventory and challenge any points of disagreement. Failing to do this or to provide the tenant with an incorrect inventory could be a misleading action and a breach of consumer protection law.
Agents and landlords must ensure that the services they provide to tenants are carried out with reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable time. This is particularly relevant where agents are carrying out repairs on behalf of the landlord. Again, this is also a legal point under the tenancy laws relating to the requirement to respond to written requests for repairs with a plan of action within 14 days.
The CMA guidance states that requests for repairs “should be prioritised according to urgency, risk, seriousness and completed to a satisfactory standard and within a reasonable time”. The unavailability of an agents’ or landlord’s usual tradesperson is not a valid excuse for delay and the guidance clearly states that a different tradesperson should be sourced.
The CMA takes a dim view of attempts to introduce new charges for the renewal of a tenancy agreement, or where fees were not set out in the original information brought to a potential tenant’s attention.
Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law says:
“There is a lot of misunderstanding about the consumer legislation and its applicability in the private rented sector.”
She is making available David Smiths’ Consumer Law talk video from the Landlord Law Conference given on 19 May 2017, shortly before the 2017 general election.
It is recommended that all landlords and letting agents watch this short video on Consumer Law as it applied to them.
If anyone would like more information on this and other landlord and tenant legal issues, there is the upcoming Landlord Law (Easy law Training) Consumer Law Legal Workshop on 7th June 2018 given by David Smith in Norwich.
Get a 20% discount off the workshop cost with the voucher code Jan2018ConLaw if booked before 1st February (only available for online payments).
Other Landlord Law (Easy Law Training) workshops include:
8th March 2018 in London, Ending Tenancies by Tessa Shepperson – Tessa takes a look at all the different ways that tenancies can end, the notices that need to be served and gives an introduction to tenant eviction.
30th October 2018 in Cambridge, Leaseholder Landlord by Robert Brown – Barrister Robert Brown looks at the laws which apply when a landlord is also a long leaseholder.