Following the recent findings in the Rugg Report, The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has welcomed discussions with Iain Wright MP – The Housing Minister responsible for the private rented sector in order to drive forward the better lettings agenda in line with Government policy and public need.
In an Industry Forum meeting held on the 11th November with a representative cross-section of NALS accredited firms (multi-site and SME single-site offices), discussions with the Minister centered on encouraging growth within the private rented sector, whilst at the same time securing the right level of protection for tenants and landlords.
The Rugg Report issued last month emphasized the need for added protection for both parties and called for independent regulation of lettings and management agents.
The NALS Forum reinforced that whilst there is unanimous support for mandatory licensing of lettings agents through an organization independent of the industry that in order to be effective, it is essential that the licensing criteria be strictly ‘policed’ with strong penalties applied to firms who do not comply.
Chair of the Forum, Caroline Pickering maintains:
“The licensing body needs to retain independence to provide a solution that commands respect and can deliver the necessary strength of purpose. A clear message that has come out of both the Rugg Report and our meeting with the Housing Minister is that NALS is the obvious candidate for this role. We have in place standards that are rigorous but achievable by all conscientious letting agents.
“These standards are under continual review to ensure they best meet the changing demands of the industry. It’s exactly what NALS was set up to achieve and we have the infrastructure, the independence and ability to deliver. Ultimately, we offer peace of mind to landlords and tenants who know that a firm bearing the NALS kite-mark is committed to delivering good and well-defined standards of service”.
“NALS requires all of its member firms to belong the Ombudsman for Estate Agents Scheme, which adjudicates on complaints against member firms. This scheme has proved enormously successful as the Forum has unanimously confirmed. Indeed it was the consensus of the Forum that all letting agents should be required to join an Ombudsman Scheme in line with the requirement set for estate agents under the Consumer Estate Agents Redress Act. In addition, all NALS agents are required to belong to a Client Money Protection Scheme ensuring that client monies are protected.
Our commitment to consumers and agents does not stop there. We also require NALS firms to take part in a customer service audit which is carried out by Nottingham Trent University to check that service levels are indeed being met”.
The Forum also described to the Minister, a number of Local Authority partnerships with letting agents that showed that such joint working can achieve very positive outcomes for local housing strategies and could ideally be developed to deliver consistent results across the country.
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 an Ombudsman customer complaints procedure. For more information visit www.nalscheme.co.uk