In good news for the London rentals sector, over the summer the London Mayor Boris Johnson launched the London Rental Standard, a badge of accreditation that is to be awarded to landlords and letting agents that meet certain commitments. The aim of the scheme is to raise the service levels in the renting sector in London by providing a consistent standard against which landlords and letting agents can be rated. It is voluntary so landlords and letting agents aren’t obliged to sign up but the Mayor is encouraging all tenants to check whether the landlords and letting agents they’re working with are accredited.
How can landlords sign up?
Landlords can get accredited by choosing a London Rental Standard provider (Residential Landlords Association, National Landlords Association or London Landlord Accreditation Scheme) and taking a one day course on renting property with that provider, which costs between £80-£125. Those who are already members can do a free course online.
How can letting agents sign up?
For letting agents to become part of the scheme all that is required is that the office sign up with one of the London Rental Standard providers – UK Association of Letting Agents, Association of Residential Letting Agents, National Approved Lettings Scheme or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. These schemes require at least one person in each office branch to have completed the basic foundations of a lettings course.
The benefits of the London Rental Standard
Clearly, the idea of having a consistent standard for the rental sector is a good one and in a market like London, where customer service is incredibly variable, it has been a long time coming. The scheme will give tenants the peace of mind of knowing a landlord has at least had some basic training and that a letting agent is a member of an industry body. Although each industry body differs, in general, this means that the agent will be subject to a code of conduct, require a minimum number of years experience, regular auditing and have certain insurances in place.
The disadvantages of the London Rental Standard
Although the London Rental Standard is a great start, many have highlighted that it doesn’t really go far enough. Firstly, it’s limited to London excluding the advantages for letting agents, landlords and tenants in other parts of the country. If you’re a landlord then you have to pay to take the required course to get accreditation and if you’re a letting agent then you have to pay to join one of the industry bodies.
The criteria for joining industry bodies are very variable, ranging from simply owning or managing a certain number of properties to having a specific number of years experience. However, few – if any – of these criteria are based on an appraisal of actual customer service, on consumer review or an objective assessment of whether a comprehensive service that is good value for money is being provided. The result is that there may well be a broad, and inconsistent, range of standards of service from organisations displaying the London Rental Standard badge. Finally, there is no rating or ranking system so the badge doesn’t offer any differentiation between the various agents or landlords, giving tenants no real clue as to who might be better in which areas and offering professionals no opportunity to set themselves apart as excellent.
Overall, the new London Rental Standard can only be a good thing for the sector. However, it lacks enough complexity to be a really good indicator of service or quality and so should probably be viewed as a start point rather than a comprehensive solution.