Staying safe in an unregulated market
Regulation of the lettings industry varies wildly across the UK.
Currently, anyone in England and Wales can set themselves up as a letting agent or be a landlord without holding a client money protection policy (this means rent and deposits are safeguarded by an insurance policy) or undertaking any training in either how to rent a property safely or the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. In contrast, all landlords and letting agents in Scotland have to be licensed and those in Northern Ireland need to be registered. In Wales, it is expected that, new rules will be implemented in 2015 for all landlords and properties to be registered and agents will have to be a member of a trade body such as ARLA.
While reputable agents already invest heavily in training – we ensure all our staff are ARLA licensed within 12 months of joining our lettings team – there are still too many agents and private landlords who are ignorant of lettings legislation and getting away with bad practice, putting both landlords and tenants at risk, personally and financially.
However, things are changing. Since 1st October 2014, all agents have to belong to a redress scheme so that tenants and landlords have access to a free complaints system in the event that a dispute with their agent cannot be resolved. All licensed ARLA agents, of which we are one, have been members of an Ombudsman Scheme for many years.
In London, to help create a ‘consistent standard’ of quality across the capital, The Mayor’s office has introduced a voluntary scheme called ‘The London Rental Standard’ (LRS). Both agents and landlords are encouraged to sign up. (As members of ARLA, we already abide by the recommendations, however we have also joined the scheme.)
What does the scheme do?
The scheme is to give tenants reassurance that if they rent from an LRS-accredited landlord or agent, they are dealing with someone who has committed to meeting the Mayor’s new standards for letting a property, such as only ever charging fair and justified fees and not evicting tenants unfairly.
How does it work?
To become an accredited landlord, you need to go on a course every five years, which costs £80-£125. If you are a member of the landlord associations RLA and NLA, courses are discounted or even free online.
As an accredited landlord, you sign up to a code of practice which clearly lays out how to ensure your home is safe to rent, explains how to protect tenants’ deposits and recommends how to deal with problems efficiently.
Why should landlords sign up?
Signing up to this scheme demonstrates you are a professional landlord, sets you apart from the ‘rogues’ and gives you peace of mind that you are complying with the law.
To find out more about ‘The London Rental Standard’ or email, call or visit our experts in your local office.