A number of local councils in Essex have announced they are backing the proposed accreditation of landlords, a move which they claim will improve the quality of housing in the private rental sector, providing security to tenants in addition to supporting landlords. Brentwood Borough Council is just one of many in favour of the Essex Landlord Accreditation Scheme (ELAS).
“This accreditation scheme ensures we can help them [landlords] to run a professional business while providing good quality and well managed accommodation and giving peace of mind to tenants,” says Brentwood Borough Council’s Chris Hossack.
Landlord accreditation is far from a new idea; it has been an offered feature of the National Landlord Association for no less than fifteen years. In theory, like so many things, accreditation is a good thing, in that it reduces risk for the prospective tenant and ensures sustainable business management for the landlord. But in practice, all it serves to do is incur unnecessary costs for private landlords, while erecting more and more hoops for them to jump through in order to be deemed ‘not a cowboy’.
Accreditation schemes are cropping up left and right at the moment, supposedly to bring mutual benefit to landlords and tenants. One or two unscrupulous landlords have got the entire private rental sector up in arms over ‘rip-off merchants’ who fleece poor renters, and it is true that these guys need dealing with. But wrapping the entire industry up in even more red tape will ultimately only serve to restrict accessibility in the buy-to-let market and subsequently limit available rentals even further.
Yes, the onus is on the landlord to be fair and transparent. Same goes for agents. But as the consumer, the tenant has both a right and a responsibility to understand what a tenancy agreement involves. All too often, letting agents capitalise on tenants’ ignorance in these matters, when in fact a body exists to offer free and fair advice; the Property Ombudsman. Agents can register with the Ombudsman if they are willing to comply with its strict standards of conduct for dealing with both tenants and agents, including duty of care and impartiality.
“The TPO Code of Practice requires agents to meet all their legal obligations when acting as agents, but it goes above and beyond that by requiring agents to adopt and follow ‘best practice’,” reads the official website. Yet surprisingly, a great many tenants have never heard of this service. Perhaps rather than forcing private landlords to capitulate to even more fees and tests, local councils can instead help to educate the hordes of flat-hunters in their area.
George Spencer is CEO at Rentify.