Blog: From Postcards to Postings – dodgy digital ‘To Rent’ ads are here

Bryan Powell
Bryan Powell

By Bryan Powell, private landlord support officer at Shelter Scotland

The days of the sun faded postcard advertisement in newsagent’s windows luring passers-by to rent a property, stating no DSS or pets, are fast disappearing. This is the digital age and for landlords advertising property it is no different.

Replacing the tired curled up cards are now high definition on-line classifieds websites and social media platforms. The advantages to both the prospective tenants and landlords are clear. Tenants can look for a home whenever and wherever they want using the search engine to refine their choices. Landlords can post ads often for free and include far more details to convince the reader the property is the one for them.

Be it a beautiful log cabin, one small pet considered or next to a bus stop (a quiet one), the list of possibly attractive features of properties I see on line seem endless and do serve a useful purpose. However amongst the wish list there are often one or two important pieces of information missing.

Since 2013 it has been a legal requirement for the landlord to display their landlord registration number and energy efficiency rating for the property in each written advertisement. Despite three years passing since this requirement came into effect and failure to do so resulting in removal from the register and a £500 fine respectively, the word doesn’t seem to be out there. In defence of the on-line classifieds websites and social media platforms on which the non-compliant ads are seen, there are posting rules and a disclaimer in the small print stating what must be included. Clearly the small print isn’t being read though. I see between ten and fifteen non-compliant on-line advertisements a week in Highlands, by far the majority of ads on the platforms where this commonly occurs.

I respond to every non-compliant advert I see reminding the landlord of the requirements and asking politely for the ad to be amended or removed. I am happy to say most landlords do so or get in touch for further help to become legally compliant. Generally my approach is well received. I do receive some challenges, one landlord wanting to know is trawling the internet looking at property ads what I do. My answer was yes alongside offering good quality information and assistance to the landlords who want it and hosting a local good practice forum. Hopefully as time goes on I will see less of non-compliant ads in Highland as the word gets out there.

Landlords have to comply with what must seem like an endless screed of legislation as new regulations come in and amendments are made. I encourage landlords to think about the advantages compliance has for them and not just about avoiding unnecessary and costly action. By displaying the registration number the registered landlord is demonstrating to the tenant that they have been found to be a fit and proper person to let a property and the tenant can check. The energy efficiency rating helps the tenant make an informed choice about the properties overall affordability reducing the risk of rent arrears at a later date.

So come on landlords you really do want to include your registration number and energy efficiency rating alongside all the other desirable features, it just makes so much sense. That said I’m off to take a walk down the virtual High Street to peer into the newsagents window to see what this week’s postings are saying.

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