The Carsberg Review final Report, led by Sir Bryan Carsberg, former Director of the Office of Fair Trading, has called for an approved code of standards for all letting agents. There is precisely such a scheme in existence – namely, The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), which has been established since 1999.
Approved and funded by Government, NALS was set up by RICS, NAEA and ARLA together with the Empty Homes Agency as an entry level standard for all lettings and management agents operating in the private rented sector. It offers peace of mind to landlords and tenants who know that a firm bearing the NALS kite-mark is committed to providing clearly defined standards of customer service.
With the number of accredited firms growing and with some 1600 lettings agents in the UK currently signed up voluntarily, NALS provides the consumer with the security Sir Bryan is calling for.
As an open access scheme it is there to cover all letting agents and enabling those without RICS/NAEA/ARLA qualifications to meet an industry standard for customer service. It has a clearly defined code of standards and processes. And, with the protection of tenants and landlords very much at the heart of its agenda, these standards are underpinned by independent redress in the form of adjudication on complaints against NALS members by The Ombudsman for Estate Agents, whose remit also covers lettings and whose residential Code has OFT approval. In addition all NALS firms are required to belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme ensuring that all client monies are protected.
According to Chair, Caroline Pickering, it would be an unnecessary waste of public funds for the Government to put in place another scheme when one already exists that has the infra-structure, processes and credibility to protect the consumer with the form of light touch regulation advocated by Sir Bryan.
“Why reinvent the wheel..?” she asks. “We already have the solution in place for letting agents. NALS is a low cost regulatory option, it can and should be a fundamental (and aspirational) badge required of all lettings agents and we would urge Sir Bryan to recognize and commend the NALS scheme in his Review.
‘What is needed now is Government and industry promotion of the NALS kite-mark to raise public awareness so that consumers will seek to use only NALS accredited lettings firms”.
“I would also like to remind Sir Bryan of the Government’s words in the Housing Green Paper in 2000* on the PRS (Private Rented Sector) in the 21st century when it said: “Small landlords often need help with the letting of their property but do not know how to get hold of a good agent that guarantees professional standards of operation or where to go if they get their fingers burnt when they employ an unsound one. We have therefore supported the development by the relevant trade bodies of NALS which aims to establish a single “kite-mark” for professional reliable agents, recognized by industry and public alike”.
This comment was echoed recently by Iain Wright MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in an address to industry figures at the launch of the NALS/OEA partnership in the House of Lords when he highlighted the benefits of accreditation to the sector.
The DNA of NALS is aimed to establish a single kite-mark for professional, reliable agents – a badge which will be recognized by industry and public alike. I would urge Sir Bryan to consider the Scheme’s role and value in more depth”.
*Reference: Quality and Choice A Decent Home for All – The Housing Green Paper 2000
NALS is backed by the Government and the professional bodies in the lettings sector. NALS offers a reliable benchmark for landlords and tenants to compare the standards of service they receive from residential letting agents. All accredited firms commit to providing clearly defined levels of customer service, have client money protection cover, maintain professional indemnity insurance and operate a customer complaints procedure. For more information visit www.nalscheme.co.uk
The National Letting Scheme Board comprises:
Caroline Pickering (Chair), representatives from Communities and Local Government (CLG), British Property Federation, RICS, ARLA, NAEA, the Guild of Letting and Management, Sanctuary Shaftesbury Housing, and the National Landlords Association.