A local authority has fined its own sales and letting agency, so that it now appears on an official blacklist.
Westminster Council’s CityWest Residential has been fined £15,000 for three breaches under the Consumer Rights Act.
Its failures included not advertising fees charged to tenants.
The fines were imposed after Westminster Trading Standards took action when CityWest Residential failed to publish these fees, and also details of its Client Money Protection scheme, plus information as to redress.
CityWest Residential is now listed on the Mayor of London’s register of ‘rogue’ letting agents and landlords – available across London as part of an initiative by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.
The agency, a subsidiary of City West Homes which manages the borough’s 21,000-unit housing stock, was originally set up with a brief to handle ex-council homes that had been bought by tenants under ‘right to buy’, with a number of original tenants becoming buy-to-let landlords.
Launched in 2009, it now manages some 1,000 tenancies across Westminster, and was the first agency of its kind. It also handles sales, describing itself as one of Westminster’s most successful estate agencies.
Labour Group leader Cllr Adam Hug said: “This story is just another example of the broken culture at Westminster Council and the deep problems at CityWest Homes.
“According to Labour, CityWest Residential charges high fees to tenants. Labour said the organisation should be converted into an ‘ethical housing company’ that would work to improve standards in the local private rented sector.
“If Labour wins Westminster in May we will make sure the council uses its full range of powers and services to improve conditions for private renters in our city. We will create a Westminster that works for the many private renters, not the few organisations that seek to exploit them.”
A Westminster Council spokesperson told EYE: “We fined CityWest Residential for not publishing relevant information on their website, which they simply should have done.
“Although these technical breaches have been remedied we feel it is very important that people have the right information, in this case details of agent’s fees amongst other things, so they can make the best choices for themselves when trying to rent a home.
“The council holds CityWest Residential to the same high standard it holds all letting agents operating in Westminster, ensuring their customers receive the service they deserve, and we will always act in the best interests of local people and consumers.”
The blacklist was launched in December by Sadiq Khan, and Westminster is one of ten authorities that support it.