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Strict licensing system for UK lettings agents launched

The Association of Residential Letting Agents has set up the new scheme for its members in direct response to consumer demand after a survey found that 95% of tenants said they believed it was a good idea.

The survey also found that it was a shock for many to learn that there was no such scheme in place.

ARLA said that a growing number of and landlords are losing out to cowboy agents who offer no protection for clients' money, have professional indemnity insurance and who offer poor advice.

Also cowboy operators have offer no protection for serious errors and have poor commitment to best practice any form of independent redress scheme for when things go wrong.

ARLA said that its Licensing Scheme for its members will establish the highest standards for letting agents in the UK.

'For too long the rental sector has been seen as the black sheep of the property market with a lack of regulation of and a requirement for redress to protect the consumer when the agent's failings are to the financial detriment of that consumer,' said Ruth Lilley, Head of Membership and Professional Development of ARLA.

'The ARLA Licensing Scheme will create the gold standard for letting agents in the UK, offering consumers best practice service and advice as well as a commitment to the protection of their money,' she added.

To qualify all ARLA members will need to hold a gold standard professional qualification relating to lettings, undertake continuing professional development, ensure they have client money protection schemes in place to protect all tenant and landlord funds held by their office and have an annual independent audit.

They must also have professional indemnity insurance in place, must sign up to an independent redress scheme and must abide by a strict code of practice.

ARLA's sister organisation, the National Association of Estate Agents is expected to follow suit with the launch of its own licensing scheme later this year.