ASA ACTION ON LETTING AGENTS / Opposing views on ‘improving rental standards for Londoners’

MOVES AIMED at ensuring letting agents are more ‘up front’ about the fees they charge are being made by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA move follows a report by the communities and local government committee which highlights concerns about unclear or misleading fees and charges, particularly those that are added on after tenants have signed contracts.
“This will mean prospective tenants can make an informed choice, are not misled and ultimately not left out of pocket. “Earlier this year we published a landmark ruling which requires all letting agents to include all compulsory fees and charges upfront in the price quoted.
“This is a big change for the sector, so now that we’ve set the new standard we are working to make sure all operators in the sector follow our ruling.  “It’s an on-going process and we’re co-ordinating with the Office of Fair Trading so that letting agents fully understand the requirements of the Ad Codes.
“As part of that, our colleagues in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) are working on new guidance due to be published this autumn.  “In the meantime, we’ll continue to respond to consumer concerns about misleading ads and take action to have those that break the rules withdrawn. (Source: ASA website)
From the Mayor’s Office:
“Plans to achieve a fairer deal for London’s tenants and landlords moved a step closer today (July 26th) as Mayor of London Boris Johnson published the final version of his London Rental Standard.
“The Mayor has achieved industry-wide support for his scheme,  which sets a benchmark for tenants and landlords alike to measure quality of service in the private rental sector.  It follows an unprecedented response at consultation and close working with industry and accreditation bodies since the blueprint was launched in December 2012.  “This is the first attempt to persuade all existing accreditation schemes to work together to raise standards across London’s growing private rental sector.  
“More than a quarter of Londoners now live in private rented accommodation, expected to rise to a third by the mid-2020s, making the sector increasingly important for many working Londoners who contribute to the city’s economic success. “The sector also accounts for more than two-thirds of new housing supply as London’s growing population demands at least 40,000 new homes a year.
“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.  “In time, the London Rental Standard will become an instantly recognisable feature of London’s lettings industry, helping Londoners to pick between the huge array of landlords and agents on offer in the capital.
“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 London Rental Standards sits alongside support from the Mayor to stimulate high-quality, purpose-built rented housing, piloting stable rental contracts, and greater enforcement against criminal landlords, including those who offer ‘beds in sheds’, under existing legislation.
“The Mayor 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 coordinated 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. ‘This is why I am helping more people into intermediate accommodation with part-buy, part-rent schemes and investing record sums in building new homes’.
“The widespread industry support for the Mayor’s London Rental Standard validates his position against rent controls which would only reduce investment in the sector at a time when our priority must be new supply – a position recently endorsed by a cross-party group of MPs.
“As part of the London Rental Standard consultation around 5,000 private tenants completed a survey organised by housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
“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’s 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’.”
• For the London Rental Standard please visit:
• The Mayor has no statutory powers in this area but has taken a lead in developing better practice with his London Rental Standard. 
London Labour Assembly statement
“Mayor of London Boris Johnson today published his voluntary London Rental Standard which outlines 12 minimum criteria regarding fees and protection of deposits.
“The Mayor aims to get 100,000 landlords and letting agents signed up to the scheme by 2016.
“Shelter estimates private renting will grow to 41 pc of all households by 2025 – becoming bigger than the owner occupied sector in London for the first time since the mid-1960s.  “Moreover, Shelter reports that the number of complaints made about London’s private rented sector have increased by 47 pcin the last five years. “Citizen Advice records that in the year before April 2012 its London bureau dealt with 18,539 enquiries about the ‘private rented sector’ – issues such as disrepair; possession actions; security of tenure; harassment; problems with letting agents; and deposits.
“London Assembly Labour group housing spokesman Tom Copley AM said: “Complaints against landlords have increased by 47pc in the last five years and Boris’s only answer is for more voluntary regulation.
“Bad landlords – let alone rogue landlords – will not sign up to the Mayor’s voluntary London Rental Standard and will continue to abuse their tenants. “This is an inadequate response that is unlikely to improve conditions and bring stability to a dysfunctional sector that 800,000 Londoners, and increasingly families, call home. 
“This scheme also does not deal with London’s double digit rent inflation – high rents and bad landlords is something that affects a huge number of Londoners. “Those who oppose greater regulation of this sector say it would force landlords to leave the market – taking their homes with them.
“But this just doesn’t stand up against the evidence from other western economies like Germany and Switzerland where the rented sector is much larger and more affordable.”

The London Assembly today (July 24th) called on Mayor Boris Johnson to bring in measures to reform London’s private rented sector. The motion reaffirms the Assembly’s desire that the Mayor accepts the recommendations in the Assembly’s report Rent Reforms and lobbies Government for a new settlement for tenants and landlords.

The motion also supports the demands made by Let Down – a campaign organised by a coalition of private tenants groups from across London – calling for a better deal for tenants, including bringing down rents and ending fees for tenants

Darren Johnson who proposed the motion, said: “Private rents in London rose nine per cent last year while wages only increased by two per cent putting a whole sector of the housing market increasingly beyond the reach of poorer workers.

“We are calling on the Mayor and Government to reform the sector for the benefit of tenants and responsible landlords by accepting our recommendations for improving renting in the capital. This rent reform package – including rent stabilisation, registration of all landlords and ensuring longer more-secure tenancies are in place – is needed to ensure those renting in London are not victim to unfair rent rises and evictions.”  

The full text of the motion agreed at the meeting reads as follows: 

This Assembly notes the housing committee’s recent report, Rent Reform: making London’s private rented sector fit for purpose, which found evidence of significant problems with London’s private rented housing, and reaffirms its desire that the Mayor accepts the recommendations and lobbies Government for a new settlement for tenants and landlords.

Further to the report, the Assembly supports the demands made by the Let Down campaign, namely:

•          An end to fees for tenants, bringing English policy in line with Scotland

•          Proper regulation of letting agents

•          No discrimination by landlords, letting agents, mortgage lenders and insurers that disadvantages people on housing benefit

•          Action to bring down rents and keep them under control

•          Longer secure tenancies for all tenants

This Assembly calls on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to implement these reforms, and on the Mayor of London to incorporate these policies into his forthcoming Housing Strategy and his London Rental Standard.” 

The motion was passed by 13 votes in favour to five votes against at a meeting of the full Assembly today.

Rent Reforms, published in June 2013, called for a tough package of changes to the capital’s rental market, including rent stabilisation, enforcing landlord registration and issuing longer tenancies. (Source: London Assembly press release).


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