Boris launches new lettings scheme for agents and landlords

London mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans for a major new voluntary accreditation scheme for landlords and agents, the ‘London Rental Standard’.

The proposals, which do not include rent controls but do suggest that all letting agents become members of an ombudsman scheme and offer client money protection, are now out for consultation, with a launch due next year.

The aim is to increase the number of accredited landlords and letting agents to 100,000 by 2016. Eventually, tenants would have access to a register to check whether a landlord or agent is accredited.

Approximately one quarter of all Londoners – equating to 800,000 households – live in private rented accommodation, with the proportion predicted to grow to 30% by 2025.

Johnson has steered away from any form of mandatory licensing, saying that the private rented sector has not yet exhausted its capacity for self-regulation.

The document details 12 core commitments, including minimum expectations around protection of deposits, provision of contact details, emergency and urgent repairs response times, property conditions, complaints handling, fee transparency, as well as courses for landlords and letting agents offering training and development.

Although 68% of Londoners say they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their landlord, the Mayor said he wants to establish a set of universal standards that tenants should expect from any accreditation scheme.

He is also proposing incentives for landlords to join, which could include discounts on services, and is planning to support the establishment of private sector tenant groups who can hold their landlords to account.

Landlords will be invited to take part in a pilot to test how they can offer tenants longer contracts and greater certainty over rent increases. Johnson will also seek funding from the Government’s £200m fund for new ‘build-to-let’ private rental homes, and launch a competition for the best-designed purpose-built private rented accommodation.

Where letting agents are concerned, Johnson expresses concerns, saying there are currently limited avenues for redress when things go wrong. He is also concerned about the charges and fees levied, and says that because agents are not transparent about these, tenants and landlords are not able to shop around. He wants agents to agree to publish their charges on their websites as part of their accreditation.

A future aim would be to insist that agency staff undergo training as a prerequisite to accreditation.

Johnson also makes it clear that he would listen to other proposals, including making all agents belong to ARLA.

Letting agents should, says the document, be transparent about their fees and charges; belong to an ombudsman scheme;
Article courtesy of Landlord Today
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