Robert Brown, Principal Solicitor at Powys County Council, recalls joining the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) and explains how the team can help legal officers in enforcing their council's statutory duties.
As an officer in the legal department within local government I, much like you, have had a varied caseload. From the threats of being sued by a primary school pupil from removing their beehive from above the entrance of a public library to the more serious criminal offending. We all have stories of the weird and wonderful, it’s all in a days’ work in the public sector.
Since the abolition of the Office of Fair Trading on 1st April 2014 Powys County Council became the appointed lead enforcement authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979. Unique in local authority terms, a team was formed which had national oversight in respect of property sales through agents – the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team or, if you have a shining to acronyms, NTSEAT.
But then, on 1st June 2019, our colleagues at Bristol City Council became the corresponding lead enforcement authority for lettings work in England. The team expanded and we collectively became the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team or, NTSELAT. Our acronym grew the letter ‘L’ and superintendence of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and related lettings legislation was added to the remit of the team.
Some of you may, while reading this article, think this is Trading Standards stuff – it’s not my area. The simple answer is NTSELAT is not exclusively for Trading Standards departments, we are here for any department who enforces the Tenant Fees Act 2019. That may be the Housing Department or Environmental Health – in fact, it could be any department within your Council as enforcement is attributed to the authority, and not a department within the authority.
Before these strange times of Covid-19 and lockdowns the team provided training sessions to enforcement authorities. These sessions were well attended with trading standards, housing and environmental health officers. Some legal officers were present, but not many.
NTSELAT is here to help all enforcement authorities enforce their statutory duty under the Estate Agents Act 1979 and also under Section 6 (or power, where applicable, under Section 7) of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. We have produced standard documents for enforcement authorities – from model cabinet reports, enforcement policies, penalty policies, Notices of Intent and Final Notices, together with appropriate forms of Guidance. And, to make ourselves movie stars we have also recorded webinars – but alas, no Oscars.
You are invited, as legal officers, to reach out to us in this niche area of law. This is our day-to-day work. We are here to help.
We don’t bite and we certainly don’t sting…unlike the contents of the schoolchild’s beehive.
Principal Solicitor, Powys County Council
National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team
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