The purpose of the ‘redress schemes’ is to provide tenants with greater protection from unscrupulous agents, securing them a better deal going forward.
Each of the services – The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme – will independently carry out investigations into complaints about hidden fees or poor service.
Tenants and leaseholders could be entitled to compensation in cases where complaints are upheld after an inquiry.
While the majority of letting agents nationwide are already signed up with one of the three organisations, around 3,000 agents, or 40% of the entire industry, are yet to put pen to paper on a deal.
They will now be encouraged to join one of the schemes ahead of the legal requirement, which will be introduced later this year.
Veronica Carnegy, Head of Tenancy Services at Strutt & Parker, comments: “We very much welcome the introduction of this scheme. As members of Ombudsman Services Property and ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents), we already have a strict code of conduct to adhere to with all staff members trained to a very high level. It is critical that our industry is regulated to ensure that there is consistency within the market place, bad practice is eliminated and training levels are improved and maintained. We advise all landlords to carefully think about their choice of agent, based on membership of a professional regulatory body with a code of practice to which the agent must adhere. These changes are most definitely a step in the right direction for ridding the market of slap dash agents with little or no training.”
Housing Minister Kris Hopkins believes the new rules will strike the right balance between protecting tenants and not harming the industry with excessive red tape.
“All tenants and leaseholders have a right to fair and transparent treatment from their letting agent,” he said.
“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.”
The services are part of a package of measures being introduced by the government to protect tenants in the private rented sector.
Other efforts include a new voluntary code of practice that will set standards for the management of property in the sector, as well as a new help to rent guide that helps tenants understand what they should expect from their rental deal.
The guide will also outline how tenants can take action if they are the victim of hidden fees or poor accommodation.
A model tenancy agreement, which landlords and tenants can use for longer tenancies, will provide extra security and stability for families, while guidance will be given to local councils on how to tackle rogue landlords, protect tenants from illegal eviction and push for harsher penalties for a number of housing offences.