The Guild of Property Professionals is reminding agents to check information on their websites and to make sure all required information is included. This is according to Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, who adds that websites can often be viewed by trading standards teams remotely, and the first an agent could realise something is wrong is when the penalty notice arrives in their inbox.
Offley says that there was a case recently where an agent failed to have a valid Client Money Protection (CMP) certificate on display, they clearly included the name of the CMP provider within the landlord and tenant information pages and did have a valid CMP membership, but it was the actual certificate that was missing, resulting in a £5,000 penalty notice.
“These sorts of cases highlight the importance of having a control testing procedure in place to ensure that your website meets the required compliance criteria. The website should be reviewed at least once a year to ensure that is contains the necessary information and that the information is up to date,” Offley advises.
He adds that as part of the review, agents should consider the following aspects:
Companies Act 2006 – Limited Company status
For Limited businesses in England and Wales, the website should include the registered name, registered address, company registration number and place of registration. Offley adds that it is also important to check the information held on the business at Companies House – the information should match identically to the information on your website. Pay attention to minor details such as Ltd and Limited.
Companies Act 2006 – Partnerships or Individuals
Offley says that if you have under 20 Partners, each Partner’s name should be included on the website. There should also be an address where documents can be served for each Partner. This can be one central address.
Consumer Estate Agents Redress Act
The redress scheme logo must be clearly shown on the website and the logo should link to the redress website. Alternately, the website address should be provided separately.
According to Offley, the Complaint policy must also be available on an agent’s website.
Consumers must have access information regarding the current EPC rating on each individual property displayed on the website.
Consumer Protection from unfair trading regulations 2008
Properties on the website should include information on price, tenure and council tax band or rates payable in Northern Ireland.
Consumer Rights Act 2015 & Tenant Fee information
If applicable the website should provide information on the fees and charges which could apply to both landlords and tenants. Also, the Landlord notice and Tenant notice, must clearly state fees inclusive of VAT, name your redress provider and your client money protection scheme. In addition, all rental properties displayed on the website should provide a link to information on tenant fees and charges.
In England, lettings agents would need to have a copy of their Client Money Protection scheme available on the website. In Wales, a lettings agent would need to display their Rent Smart Wales logo, and in Scotland, lettings agents are required to display their Letting Agent Registration number.
“Agents should have a checklist in place that helps them methodically go through and check that they are meeting the legislative requirements. A control testing procedure will ensure that an agent’s website remains compliant, and they avoid the unnecessary cost of a hefty penalty,” Offley concludes.