The idea of a simple way to rate your letting agent is something that would appeal to many I’m sure, but asking tenants and landlords to swipe right or left to rate their agent would surely create more problems than it would solve – which is probably why it hasn’t yet taken off.
However, not to be put off by this Newham Council has instead introduced their own rating system to name and shame rogue letting agencies.
Yep, plans are afoot for to create the UK’s first public rating system for letting agents, from zero to five stars (where five is the best), which will include information about agents such as whether they have failed to refund deposits, pass on rental income, charge unjustified fees, or been shoddy at addressing customer complaints.
The star rating will be public for all to see!
Is this for real?
Completely. In fact, there was even a 21 day consultation on the idea, titled ‘A better deal for private renters’ in July.
The council says the scheme will allow tenants and landlords to make more informed choices and encourage increased professionalism in the private rented sector.
How will it work?
The ratings are based on the results of Newham’s Fair Lettings Project, which saw all letting agents in the borough audited by the council over a two year period. The audit looked at things like: overall performance, compliance with the law, whether they meet current best practice, and, of course, customer feedback.
Once star ratings have been determined by the council, each agency will be informed and invited to appeal if they think the information is wrong.
Commenting on the scheme, Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: “The extreme demand in the private rented property sector is being exploited by some unscrupulous letting agents, who rip off landlords and tenants. We have seen tenants charged outrageous fees and had deposits withheld, and landlords who never see the rent that is due to them.
“The law gives us limited powers to act against these cowboys, but by scrutinising their activity, and sharing information with our residents and landlords, the ratings should see the unscrupulous agents pushed out of business, while professional and hard working agents are rewarded.”
Why should I care?
Well, Newham has a reputation as a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to private rented sector standards and enforcement, having been the first council to introduce borough-wide licensing in 2013. It seems that where Newham boldly goes first, other councils tend to sit for a bit, wait and watch for a while, and then duly follow.
Well, kind of…
Of course, not all councils have introduced borough-wide or city-wide licensing, and certainly not all intend to do so. Likewise, we can’t imagine that every council will take forward plans for a rating system even if Newham’s pilot proves successful. That, in part, will be down to the sheer amount of work involved in first ‘auditing’ agents in any given area.
However, for the time being the fact of the matter is that Newham is up to it again, so expect to see more and more about this scheme over the next few years and remember: you heard it here first (unless you heard it somewhere else).