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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Draft Office for Fair Trading guidance for the lettings market

The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has just launched a consultation on draft guidance which aims to help letting agents and landlords comply with existing consumer legislation.

The UK wide consultation exercise seeks to clarify how the law applies to the lettings market. It also sets out the OFT's views about how the legislation might apply at each step of the lettings process. Dealings relating to business tenants are not covered. 

The OFT is keen to receive comments on the draft guidance from lettings professionals, tenants and other interested parties. A copy is available for download and the deadline for responses is 10 December 2013. The local Trading Standards Office is holding a stakeholder event in Belfast on 7th November at 176 Newtownbreda Road, BT8 6QS from 10am -12pm. If you would like to attend this event please contact Hannah Frodsham at OFT.

Consumer issues

The OFT previously produced a report on the lettings market in February 2013 which identified a number of problems relating to how the lettings market was working for consumers. The OFT found that the main areas of concern for tenants were:

  • unexpected and high charges,
  • confusion in relation to holding deposits,
  • misleading advertising,
  • repairs not being carried out on the property and
  • the non-return of security deposits.

Landlord concerns

Landlords’ concerns mainly involved difficulties with letting agents not doing what they agreed in the contract and not passing on rents collected. In light of these concerns, the OFT agreed to produce follow up guidance on the key consumer laws which apply to lettings professionals.

Draft guidance

The focus of the draft guidance is mainly on the application of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Sale of Goods and Services Act 1982 to the activities of lettings professionals.

Housing Rights Service has also produced evidence highlighting the hidden costs of private renting in April 2013 and has brought to the attention of local Trading Standards Officers examples of poor practice.

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Legal

This article was written on 18 October 2013. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.