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Client money protection: six months on

On 1 April 2019, it became a legal requirement for all letting agents in England to be signed up to a Government-backed client money protection scheme, as well as display which scheme they belong to. Six months on, with an estimated 20 per cent of agents still not registered with one of the six approved schemes, National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) are cracking down on non-compliance.

As one of the largest schemes with 3,300 members, Client Money Protect, part of Hamilton Fraser, is working with Trading Standards to identify those agents whose memberships have lapsed, not been renewed and/or are failing to display their CMP membership.

Eddie Hooker, CEO, Hamilton Fraser, says: “The requirement for all letting and property management agents in the private rented sector in England to join a client money protection scheme has been heavily publicised, agents cannot hide behind ignorance as an excuse for non-compliance.  Those who are not complying with their legal obligations under the Act could face a fine of up to £30,000, so we urge all agents to check that they are covered as a matter of urgency.  Client Money Protect are currently turning applications around in 48 hours.

“If you already have membership, please ensure you are displaying your membership both in branch and on your website as you may also be liable for a £5,000 fine if you fail to do this. We have already taken a phone call from an agent just this week who advised us that he had received a letter from NTSELAT. He is a member of Client Money Protect, but had not displayed his logo.”

James Munro, Head of National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, added: “We act as the lead enforcement authority for the Tenant Fees Act. The team is working with the approved CMP schemes and local authorities to ensure that agents who are required to belong to a scheme are correctly registered with one of the six approved schemes. We have arrangements with local authorities to refer cases for enforcement, and a backstop arrangement where we will take action in cases where a local authority cannot. With the support of the schemes, we are also proactively monitoring websites to ensure agents are clearly displaying their membership.”

The reputation of the private rented sector, and letting agents in particular, is undermined by a small minority of unscrupulous agents, who misappropriate money from their clients. The industry is relying on reputable agents to educate their clients on the fact that they have CMP, why it is important to use an agent which has CMP, and how this might help them identify a rogue from a good guy.

Further information on the requirement to join a scheme is available from https://www.gov.uk/client-money-protection-scheme-property-agents and advice is available on the NTSELAT website www.ntselat.uk and at www.clientmoneyprotect.co.uk

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