Boris launches London Rental Standard and tells agents to sign up

Boris launches London Rental Standard and tells agents to sign up

London Mayor Boris Johnson has published the final version of his London Rental Standard, which will mean a huge push of all landlords and all agents towards voluntary accreditation.

Agents who sign up to the Standard must have Client Money Protection insurance. They will also have to be transparent about their fees, but these will not be banned, and Johnson has turned down the idea of rent controls – despite considerable pressure.

Existing accredited landlords and agents – various accreditation schemes are run by individual boroughs across London – will be ‘passported’ into the London Rental Standard over the course of this year. A major marketing campaign to encourage many more to sign up will begin early next year.

 The Mayor’s target is to have 100,000 accredited landlords and agents by 2016.

The Standard aims to set a recognisable benchmark for tenants and landlords alike to measure quality of service in the private rental sector – meaning that tenants would be encouraged by all the publicity to choose only landlords signed up to the Standard, and landlords to select only agents who abide by it.

Publication follows what the Mayor’s office describes as an “unprecedented response” at consultation and close working with industry and accreditation bodies since the draft document was launched in December 2012. More than 80 organisations responded, while 5,000 tenants filled in a survey via Shelter – which has been campaigning to ban letting agent fees to tenants.

More than a quarter of Londoners now live in private rented accommodation, and this is expected to rise to a third by the mid-2020s. The sector also accounts for more than two-thirds of new housing supply in London.
The Mayor’s London Rental Standard details 12 core commitments to empower tenants in their dealings with landlords, and both tenants and landlords in their dealings with letting agents.

It recognises and promotes good standards in the industry from transparency of fees and protection of deposits to emergency and urgent repairs response times, as well as landlord and letting agent training and development through professional training courses.  
Part of the Mayor’s Rental Standard is his support for the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, the largest of its type in the country and a unique example of all 33 boroughs working together to improve the private rented sector. The Mayor will invest £100,000 to improve the website, systems and products of this voluntary accreditation scheme.  
Johnson said: “With more and more of this city’s workforce living in rented accommodation, London’s growing private rented sector is essential to London’s economy.

“While most landlords provide a highly professional service, this more co-ordinated and transparent approach will create a more competitive market, empowering tenants and incentivising landlords to expect and provide a consistent high-quality service.
“Better standards and boosting supply is the key to taking the pressure off London’s rental market, not burdensome rent controls which deter investment and remove the incentive for good service.”
Carolyn Uphill, chairman of the National Landlords Association, said: “The NLA welcomes the Mayor’s commitment to building a partnership with the private rented sector through the London Rental Standard, rather than imposing additional regulation, and we will encourage our members to seek accreditation under the standard. 

“Landlords should see this as an opportunity to demonstrate their competence, experience and professionalism.”
Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: “Rogue landlords, sky-high lettings fees and poor conditions can make finding a home in the capital’s overheated rental market an expensive gamble, so it is welcome news that the Mayor has listened to the thousands of Londoners who joined Shelter’s campaign to tell him that renting in the capital just wasn’t good enough.

“With private renting now the only option for many Londoners, this is a step towards ensuring that landlords and letting agents all offer a fair, professional service to the capital’s growing population of renters.”
Both sets of ombudsmen also welcomed the approach.

Ombudsman Services chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “We support the Mayor’s announcement. Private renting is the first accommodation choice for many people who move to and live in London. As the lettings and leasehold management sector grows any focus on improving the quality of homes available to rent is good news for all tenants.”
Christopher Hamer, of The Property Ombudsman scheme, said: “Alongside the Government’s forthcoming mandatory redress scheme arrangements, the London Rental Standard will seek to add further measures such as client money protection and regular training which will raise the bar and further professionalise the industry.

“I hope that letting agents will embrace these initiatives as part of a concerted effort to drive out the so-called ‘rogue letting agents’ and, in doing so, make the private rented sector in London a much safer place for consumers to transact in.”