Compulsory redress schemes for UK letting and property management agents confirmed

All letting and property management agents in the UK will be required to join an approved redress scheme later this year under new plans announced by Housing Minister Kris Hopkins.

Millions of tenants and lease holders will receive stronger protection from unscrupulous letting agents under the three approved redress schemes which Hopkins said will ensure they have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account.

The three schemes are The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme. They will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service. Where a complaint is upheld, tenants and lease holders could receive compensation.

Many letting agents are already signed up with one of the three organisations and Hopkins explained that the remaining 3,000 agents, some 40% of the entire industry, will now be encouraged to join one of the schemes ahead of the legal requirement.

Hopkins said the new rules would strike the right balance between protecting tenants and not harming the industry with excessive red tape, and were just one part of the government’s efforts to secure a better deal for tenants in the private rented sector.

‘All tenants and lease holders have a right to fair and transparent treatment from their letting agent. Most are happy with the service they receive, but a small minority of agents are ripping people off, and giving the whole industry a bad name,’ he pointed out.

That’s why we will require all agents to belong to one of the official redress schemes. They will ensure tenants have a straightforward route to take action if they get a poor deal, while avoiding excessive red tape that would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants,’ he added.

Other measures that are being introduced by the government to protect tenants include a new 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.

There will be a new 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 the victim of hidden fees or poor standards of accommodation.

It is planned that the introduction of a model tenancy agreement, which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies, for example three years, which will provide extra security and stability for families.

There will also be 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.

On top of this an ongoing review is considering what else can be done to improve property conditions in the private rented sector, and tackle bad landlords without any negative impact on the majority of landlords who provide a good service to their tenants.

McCarthy & Stone, Britain’s largest builder of retirement housing, has welcomed the announcement. ‘While the retirement housing sector has seen dramatic improvements in the quality and standard of its management services, we recognise that there are still operators out there who are abusing their position,’ said Mark Riddington, managing director of McCarthy & Stone Management Services.

‘We would actually go further than the Government’s announcement and support the registration of managing agents, recognition of minimum standards and the introduction an industry-wide accreditation scheme and adjudication process. We believe this would give greater transparency and consistency across the industry and would help with the communication of service standards and delivery in the sector,’ he added.

Article courtesy of Property Wire

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