Ask whether your letting agent belongs to a client money protection scheme. These schemes protect any money you pay to the agent as deposit and rent - even if the agent closes down.
You should be very careful about scams. Always make sure that anyone claiming to be a landlord or an agent is genuine. Unfortunately there have been many scams – for example when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property that in reality either does not exist, has already been rented out, or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time.
Find out more from Action Fraud about rental fraud.
There are many examples of agents who declared themselves bankrupt or simply closed down and ‘disappeared’, keeping money that they should have returned to tenants or to people who are looking for a home. With Client Money Protection Schemes, your money is insured.
Ask your agent whether they belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme. These schemes protect any money you pay as rent or deposit against theft or fraud by your letting agent. All good agents belong to a Client Money Protection scheme and display one of the scheme’s logos.
SAFE – Safe Agent Fully Endorsed – is a mark denoting firms that protect landlords and tenants money through ne of the client money protection schemes.
Client money protection schemes include:
- ARLA’s Propertymark CMP Scheme
- Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Safe Agent
Unfortunately the law is not very clear on this issue. At present, the law says that agents must make it clear in their offices and on their websites whether or not they are part of a money protection scheme. If they are, they must display the logo of the scheme they belong to. The council can fine agents £5,000 if they do not.
Along with other organisations signed up to the Tower Hamlets Private Renters’ Charter, we believe that all agents should belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme. It looks likely that the law will change in the future to force all agents to belong to a scheme.
For further information on client money protection schemes, please see
What if an agent is not making it clear whether they belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme?
The council’s Trading Standards service will take action against any agent who does not make it clear whether they belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme.
If your agent will not tell you, or if they say they belong to a scheme but are not displaying the logo, please report them to Trading Standards. The council can fine agents £5,000 for not complying with the law.
To report an agent to Trading Standards, you just call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline and tell them you want to report a letting agent to Tower Hamlets Trading Standards. The consumer helpline will assess your problem and pass it on to Trading Standards if it's appropriate.
Citizens Advice consumer helpline
Telephone: 03454 04 05 06
Textphone: 18001 03454 04 05 06
Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Closed on bank holidays.
Calls to the helpline cost up to 9p per minute from a landline. If you're calling from a mobile, it'll cost between 3p and 40p per minute - if you have inclusive minutes, it's the same as calling a landline. Find out more about call charges.
An adviser will answer your call as soon as possible, usually within a few minutes. Once you're speaking to an adviser your call should take an average of 8 to 10 minutes.
Be prepared to tell the adviser details of the problem and the company’s name and address.
You can also use an online form or write to the consumer helpline - make sure you mention that you want to report a trader to Trading Standards.
Trading Standards might contact you for more information and evidence. Depending on what we find out, we might take action to stop the agent from acting unfairly. For example we might educate the agent about the law or take legal action against them to stop them from trading completely. We may also fine them: the Council has powers to fine letting agents up to £5,000 for failing to display their fees correctly.
The council’s Trading Standards service will take action against any agent who does not make it clear whether they belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme. We promise that within 28 days of receiving a report we will let you know what action we are taking.
If you want advice or help at any stage you can contact any of the organisations signed up to the Charter. We all promise to find the best way to improve your situation - and the most effective action to take against landlords or agents who break the rules.