On 28 May 2014 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, launched the London Rental Standard (LRS), a city-wide badge of accreditation, that will be awarded to landlords, managing agents and letting agents who meet a minimum set of commitments. These include:
- a written tenancy agreement;
- transparent fees;
- better property conditions;
- better communication between landlords and tenants;
- improved response times for repairs and maintenance; and
- compliance with deposit regulations.
The Standard unites the current seven landlord accreditation schemes, which will now operate under a single framework. If you're already accredited with one of the schemes, they will contact you to ask if you want to join the LRS. If you're not currently a member of one of the providers, you need to sign up before you can obtain a 'Boris Badge'.
To join any of the schemes, landlords and agents must attend a one-day course to learn about renting a property, sign a code of code of practice and declare they are a fit and proper person. Each scheme varies, but in the main, once accredited, you will only need to renew every five years. Once accredited, landlords and agents can benefit from savings on landlord insurance policies and tenancy deposit schemes.
With house prices recently reported to be ten times higher than the average full time worker's salary, and around a quarter of Londoners renting in the private sector, the Standard has been welcomed by many as recognition that the largely unregulated burgeoning private sector needs attention. However, the scheme has also attracted heavy criticism from many quarters.
In what could be argued is its fatal flaw, the standard is not mandatory. While Johnson says the aim is to raise professional standards, the fear is that only good landlords will sign up, leaving rogue landlords to continue to operate under the radar.
It is envisaged that tenants will ask whether a new landlord holds the badge, but this presupposes awareness of the scheme by tenants. In any event, it will not help vulnerable tenants on low incomes who do not have the luxury of choosing a landlord who is accredited. The supposed commercial advantage of holding a badge will therefore apply only to those at the higher end of the market, and will fail to act as an incentive for poor landlords to comply with their obligations. The cost of joining a scheme, between around £80 to £125, may also put landlords off whilst it remains voluntary.
Once accredited, continued compliance with the Standard is the responsibility of each accreditation scheme. Their ability to monitor such compliance is questionable. Further, the scheme offers no real protections against landlords evicting in retaliation for complaints of disrepair, or against big rent hikes, and fails to ban outrageous letting agent fees.
Whilst the Standard is a step in the right direction, it remains the case that much more needs to be done to protect tenants in the private sector.
For a full list of the providers visit http://london.gov.uk/priorities/housing-land/renting-home/london-rental-standard/for-landlords