Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation - Dos and Don'ts
This guide summarises the responsibilities of landlords and agents (both letting and managing agents) towards tenants and prospective tenants under European Union Consumer Protection and allied Legislation as it applies in the United Kingdom. It is based on Guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who have taken over from the Office of Fair Trading. This guide sets out the outcomes that need to be achieved to minimise the risk of enforcement action being taken. No guarantees are given but hopefully so long as you comply with this guide you should keep within the law.
CMA take the view that all private landlords as well as agents are to be treated as traders. Therefore, so far as tenants are concerned both landlords and agents are regarded as bound by the obligations referred to in this guide.
Tenants as Consumers
Tenants are generally regarded as consumers but if they are not, e.g. a company, then different responsibilities operate instead.
Responsibilities where the tenant is in business
Where the tenant is in business (and not a consumer) you must not make representations, statements, advertise or market your service to tenants that may mislead them if this affects their economic behaviour or alternatively which may injure a competitor.
A representations, statement or advertisement can be misleading if -
- It is false.
- It conceals or leaves out important facts.
- It promises to do something when there is no intention of doing it.
- It creates a false impression.
There is also a breach if it makes unfair comparisons with competitors.
Agent's responsibilities to landlords
As well as having responsibilities towards tenants, agents can also have responsibilities to landlords/their clients under the Regulations. The extent of these again depends on whether or not the landlord is a consumer or is in business.
IMPORTANT: Your attention is drawn to the RLA Guide to agent's obligations to Landlords under Consumer Protection Legislation - Dos and Don'ts.
When must you take action in order to comply?
Material information (see page 6 of guide for Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation: Dos and Don'ts) must be given at the outset, i.e. as soon as the prospective tenant shows interest in renting a property and before a viewing. This information should be included in the property particulars or provided separately. For those landlords who use the RLA standard tenancy agreements, to help with this, we provide a summary of the main terms of the agreement - click here to download a copy. Additionally you should supply details of any of your own terms that you want to add in. A copy of the tenancy agreement should also be provided at the same time. Any fees or charges payable prior to the letting should be explained (see page 7 of guide for Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation: Dos and Don'ts)
Any fees and charges which may arise during the course of the tenancy (e.g. if you have to send reminder letters) must be spelt out in the tenancy agreement itself.
If you undertake pre-tenancy checks (credit checks etc.) you must give the tenant pre-tenancy check information (see page 9 of guide for Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation: Dos and Don'ts). It should be noted that you need the tenant's written agreement to make a credit check. Alternatively, use the RLA's Tenant Application Form which includes the necessary consent.
If you require a guarantee then guarantee information must be given to the prospective tenant and guarantor (see page 10 of guide for Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation: Dos and Don'ts). Tenants must be given information about deposits (security deposits) taken. This should be done before the deposit is paid (see page 15 of guide for Landlord and Agent Duties to Tenants under Consumer Protection Legislation: Dos and Don'ts).
The RLA publishes information sheets to help those who let under the RLA Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement or use other RLA services. We have also published a guide to Landlords/Agents marketing and advertising properties to let - information to be given to tenants..
Breach of requirements
If you breach these obligations you could be liable to criminal prosecution or other enforcement action. The regulations criminalise those who break the rules.
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