London renters urged to report rogue landlords and letting agents

PRIVATE renters across London are being urged to use a reporting tool which could see illegal fees charged by landlords and letting agents returned to their pockets.

London Trading Standards, working with the London Mayor’s Private Rented Sector (PRS) team, is launching a new project which aims to empower London’s 2.7 million private renters to know, and use, their rights.

By using the “Report a Rogue Landlord or Agent” tool, renters can inform Trading Standards teams across London about breaches of the Tenant Fees Act, made law in 2019 – from paying more than five weeks rent as a deposit, to administration fees or even fees to view a property.

Speaking more about the project launch is Nishi Patel, Chair of London Trading Standards. She said, “The cost-of-living crisis, coupled with the dramatic increase in new rents across London, is fuelling a threat to the welfare of so many people who are seeing their incomes squeezed.

“But the launch of our project with the London Mayor’s team should provide private renters with support in their time of need.”

The Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley, said: “This collaborative effort, uniting London Trading Services and the Mayor’s ‘Report a Rogue’ tool, will enable London’s 2.7 million renters to report rogue landlords and letting agents more easily and potentially have any illegally-obtained tenancy fees repaid.

“When the Mayor launched his flagship Rogue Landlord Checker and Report a Rogue tool in 2017, he made it clear that unscrupulous landlords and agents would have nowhere to hide. Since then this tool has been used over 6000 times, helping thousands of Londoners to feel safe renting in our city. This new initiative builds on the Mayor’s promise to protect the capital’s renters and create a better, fairer and safer London for everyone.”

The announcement is part of LTS Week 2023, which is an annual event where the achievements of all 33 authorities in London tackling the five regional priorities is promoted at the halfway stage in the financial year.

London’s five regional priorities are the launch of Private Rental project, the latest work on tackling illegal vapes, the launch of a Cost of Living project, and the continued efforts tackling illegal tobacco and Doorstep Crime while promoting Fair Trading.

Trading Standards teams around the capital continue to clamp down on the Illegal Vapes being sold in shops.

Over 200,000 non-compliant products have been removed from sale since the start of this year.

Many boroughs are also working to raise businesses understanding of the law and protect children from being sold vapes – as test purchases around London reveal a failure rate of about 30%*.

Graeme Preston, London’s lead officer for Age Restricted Products, added: “London’s collective action to target non-compliant vapes is equally impressive as it is important. But not only is our focus on protecting consumers from unsafe and illegal products but we’ve also prioritised engaging businesses.

“If they understand the importance of complying with the law, then we can all protect children from the harms that vapes pose.”

Another project like the Private Rental project, aimed at protecting consumers and their money, is also underway.

The Cost of Living project aims to address confusing offers and special pricing displays in shops and supermarkets with many members of LTS currently investigating poor practices.

Findings from this project will be shared at the end of March next year, but visits conducted around London have already unveiled a number of problems – including inaccurate scales in shops and poor product displays that could confuse consumers.

An innovative partnership between LTS and the London Tobacco Alliance (LTA) this year is reaping rewards as both organisations work together to better understand more about illegal and illicit tobacco market – and what can be done to combat it.

Tracy Parr, Programme Director, London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London said:
“Through our partnership with London Trading Standards, the London Tobacco Alliance is helping to stamp out illegal and illicit tobacco activity across London’s boroughs. Together, we are developing new insights and strategies to combat this issue.
“The supply of illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of less affluent communities and helps fund organised crime. We hope that the result of our work together will be to ensure a healthier and more transparent future for Londoners.”

So far in the first half of 2023, authorities seized nearly 300,000 sticks (with a street value of about £150,000) and nearly 16kg of hand-rolling tobacco (street value of about £10,000) as part of Operation CeCe which have all be recovered from hides and secret storage areas in shops and locations all around London trying to profit from this illegal trade.

Finally, a collaborative approach in tackling and preventing Doorstep Crime and promoting Fair Trading continues to reap rewards.

Around the capital more residents gain an understanding of the tale-tale signs that a trader may not be all they claim to be thanks to the expert advice on offer in a free best-practice guide that can be read and downloaded from the LTS website.