Letting agents and managing agents are to be required by law to join a government approved redress scheme later this year. The up-shot should be that many millions of tenants and leaseholders will receive stronger protection from unscrupulous letting and managing agents, under plans recently announced by Housing Minister Kris Hopkins.
There are to be three approved schemes that all letting and managing agents will be required to join later this year: The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property, and The Property Redress Scheme. All will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service. When a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could receive compensation.
The majority of letting agents are already signed up with one of the 3 organisations and in the meantime others will be encouraged to join ahead of the enforcement. That means around 3,000 agents, or 40% of the entire industry, not in any scheme at the moment.
The government aim, according to Minister Hopkins, is to strike the right balance between protecting tenants and not harming the industry with excessive red tape. He said that these are just one part of the government’s efforts to secure a better deal for tenants in the private rented sector.
Other tenant protecting measures to be introduced soon by the government include:
– a voluntary code of practice that will set standards for the management of property in the private rented sector, with a view to making it statutory to provide greater confidence for tenants in what they can expect
– a “help to rent” guide, which will help tenants understand what they should expect from their rental deal, and how they can take action if they are a victim of hidden fees or poor standards of accommodation
– the introduction of a model tenancy agreement, which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies (3 years, for example) which will provide extra security and stability for families
– extra guidance for local councils on how to tackle rogue landlords, protect tenants from illegal eviction and how best to push for harsher penalties before magistrates for housing offences where these have a real impact on peoples’ lives
An on-going review of Private Rented Sector (PRS) housing is considering other means of improving property conditions, and ways to tackle bad landlords without any negative impact on the majority of decent landlords who provide a good service to their tenants.
A discussion document inviting views on these issues was published earlier this year. The deadline for responses was 28 March and these are now being considered: