Tenants Charter a Force for GOOD?

Under a new tenants’ charter, announced on Wednesday, tenants will be able to ask for longer tenancies and demand transparency on letting agents’ fees.

Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, also announced that the new rules will force letting and property management agents to join a compulsory redress scheme.

He also said the Government will publish a code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rented sector along with guidance setting out the role of public bodies in protecting tenants from illegal eviction.

Mr Pickles said: “This government is on the side of hardworking people and the last thing we want to do is hurt tenants and kill investment by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape.

“But tenants deserve better value for money, and dodgy landlords should be under no illusion they can provide a shoddy service with impunity.”

Although generally welcoming the charter, experts say the Government has missed an opportunity to require greater professionalism of letting agents.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said the announcement was a definite step in the right direction, albeit long overdue.

“The lettings sector has for far too long been the Wild West of the property industry, with many tenants having absolutely nowhere to go should they wish to complain about shoddy service,” he said, “The introduction of a code of practice specifically covering those managing rented property should certainly improve standards.”

Caroline Kenny, UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) executive, said she would like to see the Government go further by building on the experience and expertise of those industry bodies which already require higher standards of their members.

“Responsible agents who choose to belong to professional bodies which require client money protection insurance, impartial redress and an adherence to a strict Code of Practice are forced to compete with those who show little regard to professional standards or the needs of their clients,” she said, “We believe that this package of proposals represents a missed opportunity for the Government to make mandatory the kind of comprehensive protections offered by UKALA and others, which are called for by industry and needed by hardworking consumers unable to differentiate between good and bad letting agents.”

Richard Lambert, National Landlords Association (NLA) chief executive officer, said: “The NLA has long argued that private renting can be far more flexible than commonly perceived, and we need to tap into this potential to meet the changing needs and expectations of those who rent. We look forward to working with government to make a success of these proposals.

“However, we believe that the Government has missed an opportunity to require greater professionalism of letting agents. While the requirement to belong to an approved redress scheme is a step in the right direction, it does little to protect the financial interest of landlords and tenants working with unregulated agents.”