The Private Rented Sector Code of Practice
Here at Robert Oulsnam and Company we are members of various schemes and institutions – the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Association of Rental Letting Agents (ARLA), and the Surveyors Ombudsman Service. These schemes require that estate and letting agents meet certain quality standards before they can become members – so that members of the public looking for help in finding or selling a property can rest assured of the quality of service they will receive.
Not all landlords and agents are willing to join such schemes, and many provide a poor quality service to their tenants. A new set of measures introduced by the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis in September is designed to provide a fairer deal for tenants and aid landlords whilst establishing measures for the settlement of disputes between tenant and landlord.
The measures were developed by 17 industry bodies, including ARLA, NAEA, and the RICS. Research carried out by ARLA into the private rented sector showed that 22 per cent of all tenants had entered into a contract even though they held concerns over their landlord or letting agent. These worries included issues over payments, agents being ignorant about the property, failing to turn up to appointments, and seeming pushy.
Once clients had moved into a property 55 per cent experienced at least one problem, of which a third involved waiting for maintenance issues to be resolved. On average the research showed that tenants had had to wait 36 days to have the problem sorted out – one in seven tenants never had the problem fixed despite making a report of the fault. Of those tenants surveyed two-thirds did not check whether the letting agent or landlord was licensed or part of an officially accredited scheme – over half replied that it did not enter their mind to check.
The government measures are made up of three points. Landlords are now required to be part of one of three approved redress schemes so that in the event of a dispute there is an objective and independent arbitration system to settle the problem. Model tenancy agreements are also to be introduced enabling tenants to agree longer deals – this will also help landlords who will not have to pay to put the property back on the market.
The third measure is the new Code of Practice, a 30-page guide that lays out the legal requirements of tenant and landlord and the mutual responsibilities to one another. It details the required letting procedure, property management and repair and maintenance requirements, renewal schemes, and health and safety and risk assessments.
Together they form what we hope will be one step towards creating a fully-regulated private market sector, where exploitative practices and poor standards amongst agents and landlords can be highlighted and rooted out.