New Government legislation came into force on 1st October 2014 that is set to have an important impact on the residential lettings market as all Lettings and Property Management Agents follow Estate Agents in joining a Government authorised Consumer Redress Scheme. It is now a criminal offence for agents not to belong to a consumer redress scheme and failure to do so could result in a £5,000 fine for agents.
There are currently three redress schemes available to join, the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme.
We also have a new voluntary code of practice that has been developed and issued by leading industry bodies including the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and The National approved Lettings Scheme (NALS), all of which Ryder and Dutton are members of.
Having been issued by such leading industry experts and agreed by the major stakeholders as a code that represents good practice, it is expected that members of all professional organisations will accept and adhere to the voluntary code. The introduction of such a code is designed not only to drive up standards within the industry, but also reduce consumer complains by ensuring agents have clear standards and guidelines to adhere to.
If agents do fail to deal with complaints in a professional and timely manner, then the compulsory redress schemes will now provide the consumer with an escalated complaints procedure. Complaints can be submitted to the redress schemes if the consumer does not accept an agents final response to their complaint, or an agent has failed to respond to a complaint within eight weeks.
Richard Powell FRICS, Director of Ryder and Dutton comments ‘Having specialised in Lettings for many years Ryder and Dutton welcome the introduction of such redress schemes that will protect consumers and raise standards and particularly welcome the new Private Sector Code of Practice published by the RICS which provides a model for best practice. Landlords and Tenants should ensure they choose and Agent who has signed up to this code’’.
Lettings fees have also been in the spotlight recently as charities such as Shelter, The Housing and Homeless charity, have expressed their concerns over excessive application fees. Here at Ryder and Dutton we take this issue very seriously and have taken steps to become more socially responsible in how we deal with our tenants by offering all of our tenants a free pre application credit check. By offering this service tenants are able to obtain an initial pass of the necessary financial checks. We can therefore establish if they will be likely to be able to proceed with their application before they incur any costs, meaning we are not leaving tenants out of pocket unnecessarily.
All agents had until 1st October 2014 to join a relevant scheme and the Governments advice is that you should check with your letting agent which scheme they belong to.
The Government (The Department for Communities and Local Government) has issued a new ‘How to Rent’ guide aimed at people who are looking for a house or flat to rent. This is recommended by Ryder & Dutton as it provides a good and clear explanation of the process and the responsibilities of both the Landlord and Tenant. A copy of the web link or a printed copy is available on request from any Ryder & Dutton office.
To speak to our lettings team contact us on 0161 626 6800.