As of 1st October 2014, it is a legal requirement for all letting and estate agents to register with one of three approved redress schemes to ensure that tenants and leaseholders can hold their agents to account, and request compensation, should anything go wrong. This is only one of several new measures to have been introduced by the government, and it is one that has been welcomed by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) as a means to help regulate the property industry.
The introduction of these new measures means letting agents will now have to sign up to one of three property redress schemes from The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, or the Property Redress Scheme, in order to meet a requirement that was previously voluntary. The new scheme has been brought in to protect tenants, allowing those who feel they were treated unfairly by their letting agent to take their complaint to the regulatory body and have it addressed quickly and efficiently, with the possibility of compensation should they be entitled to it.
The government have also outlined regulations that letting agents will be required to implement in order to provide a fairer service to their tenants. These include a new ‘Help to Rent’ guide informing tenants of what they should expect from their rental agreement and how they can take action if their accommodation is of poor standard. Moreover, the introduction of a model tenancy agreement for long-term tenancies will be available to both tenants and landlords to provide extra security and stability for families in rented accommodation. Also announced is a new service that will provide extra guidance for local councils on how to administer harsher penalties for housing offences and tackle rogue landlords and illegal evictions.
The new legal requirements have been introduced by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, who argues that, whilst tenants and landlords are mostly happy with their agent’s service, the measures are being put in place to allow the small number of complaints that do exist to be dealt with quickly and fairly by a third party regulatory body. Despite this, ARLA’s Managing Director, David Cox, insists that more needs to be done to ensure that tenants are not left out of pocket, saying:
“As a matter of course, letting agents hold money on behalf of the tenant and landlord but depending on the agent you choose, you could stand to lose your money as not all are covered by client money protection.”
This means that should a letting agent go into administration, go bust, or embezzle funds, the money given by both landlords and tenants is not protected, and there is no guarantee that their losses can be recovered. There have already been reports of ‘rogue lettings agents’ in cities such as London, who are now illegally operating following their failure to register with any one of the three schemes by the deadline at the beginning of this month, despite the government’s warning that a fine of up to £5,000 will be enforced on any agent who has not signed up to the scheme.
At CPS Homes, we have gained accreditations and memberships with regulatory bodies such as ARLA and The Property Ombudsman since we established the company in 2000. We are an experienced lettings agent and we always have our customers’ best interests at heart, so if you’re looking to rent or to let a property in the Cardiff area, we can help! Contact us at any of three Cardiff branches if you have any questions or queries, or visit us at any one of our Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages.