Millions of tenants and leaseholders will receive stronger protection from unscrupulous letting agents, under plans announced by Housing Minister Kris Hopkins today (15 April 2014).
The minister revealed 3 approved ‘redress schemes’ that all letting and property management agents will be required to join later this year, and will ensure tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account.
The 3 compulsory redress schemes – The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme – will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service. Where a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could receive compensation.
The majority of letting agents are already signed up with one of the 3 organisations. The remaining 3,000 agents, 40% of the entire industry, will now be encouraged to join one of the schemes ahead of the legal requirement.
Mr 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.
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said:
All tenants and leaseholders 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.
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
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
- 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
- the introduction of a model tenancy agreement, which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies (3 years, for example) which will provide extra security and stability for families
- 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
- an on-going review is considering how else we can 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. A discussion document inviting views on these issues was published earlier this year. The deadline for responses was 28 March and these are now being considered