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New guidance published to protect tenants

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published voluntary guidance in a bid to raise standards of landlords, property professionals and agents in an as yet unregulated market.

A report published in February 2013 from the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading raised substantial concerns about poor treatment of tenants, including unfair and ‘surprise’ fees and charges, poor service and delayed and substandard repairs.

The guidance offers clear standards over issues like fees, property management and clarity over contract terms and is a bid to ‘help lettings professionals understand their responsibilities.’

The CMA has worked closely with trading standards services to agree how the law should be applied to the most problematic practices and to identify enforcement priorities, so that together they can tackle non-compliance and improve the way the market functions.

Key areas of guidance include:

• ensuring that tenants and the lettings agent’s landlord clients know what charges and fees they will have to pay and what these are for
• avoiding using misleading advertising or statements, and ensuring that the tenant or landlord is given all the information they need, at the appropriate time
• providing clear information before occupation such as guarantor and deposit requirements, and the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement
• dealing fairly and professionally with tenants and landlords, and using fair contractual terms
• ensuring that services and repairs are carried out in a timely manner and with reasonable care and skill
• giving clear and full information to tenants about how to end a tenancy agreement

The guidance is relevant to lettings professionals in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, highlighting national variations in legislation.

Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, consumer, said: “Renting a property is a big financial commitment, and it is important that tenants can be confident that their landlord or letting agent will treat them fairly. This guidance will help lettings professionals understand how to comply with the law and should ultimately improve overall standards in the market.”

Maeanwhile the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced a checklist to successful renting for tenants.

DCLG is also working with the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to develop a code for the management of residential property in the private rented sector.

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