London’s first ever private rental standard scheme launched

The Mayor of London has launched the first ever rental standard, a city wide badge of accreditation, to help millions of Londoners rent with confidence, and to give the city's 300,000 landlords peace of mind.

The London Rental Standard brings together seven landlord accreditation schemes, which will operate under a single framework. The badge will be awarded to all landlords and letting agents who meet a set of significant core commitments set by the Mayor. These outline a minimum level of service that renters should expect including transparent fees, better property conditions, better communication between landlords and tenants, improved response times for repairs and maintenance, and protected deposits.

After two years of extensive consultation and preparation, the Mayor presented the first London Rental Standard certificate of accreditation to private landlord Rob Hunter at his property in Haringey which is shared by a group of professionals and final year students.

More than a quarter of London's households now live in rented homes, predicted to rise to around 40% by the middle of the 2020s. In the last 10 years the number of families with children renting in London has risen 10% to almost a third. Yet 85% of landlords are not aware of core legislation that protects renters and 61% have no professional management training.

The standard is the latest part of the Mayor's comprehensive strategy for the private rented sector, which includes a new target to build US style purpose built rented homes, as part of efforts to increase supply and boost quality.

This is the first time professional standards have been set for the whole sector in London, and will help more landlords and agents understand their responsibilities to their tenants and to equip them with the knowledge they need to protect themselves from mistakes which can incur hefty costs and leave tenants disgruntled.

‘With more of London's workforce and young families living in rented homes, this growing sector is vital to meeting this capital's housing needs and must not be overlooked. This standard aims to improve the experience of everyone involved, from landlord to tenant, with a clear set of good practice rules,’ said the Mayor Boris Johnson.

‘Alongside this we are investing huge sums in more homes specifically to rent, and helping Londoners who want to buy into low cost home ownership, as well as a raft of other measures to help provide the homes hard working Londoners need,’ he added.

Hunter, who is currently accredited by the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme and the National Landlords Association, said he felt honoured to have been selected as the first landlord to receive the badge.

‘This is a significant step forward in raising the standard of rental accommodation in the capital. It will encourage more tenants to choose an accredited landlord over one that is not, make landlords more accountable, help them understand their responsibilities and recognise best practice,’ he added.

Cameron Baverstock, one of his tenants in Haringey, said that he previously rented with a non-accredited landlord and this turned out to be a huge mistake. ‘My house mates and I would sometimes spend weeks without hot water with the landlord responding slowly and poorly to complaints. With nobody to hold the landlord to account there was very little we could do. Living in one of Rob's houses for the last two years or so, I've received a dramatically different level of service,’ he explained.

‘With an accredited landlord I feel reassured that they will adhere to best practice set by a governing body, making life as a tenant much easier and hassle free. I will definitely be making sure the next landlord I use has the London Rental Standard so that I can be confident I'll be receiving the service I expect,’ he added.

David Cox, managing director designate of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) described it as a ‘bold move’ for consumers. ‘ARLA believes in maintaining the highest professional standards in the sector and therefore fully supports the aims of the LRS. We have long campaigned for regulation of the private rented sector, and it is crucial we eliminate the small minority of unscrupulous landlords and agents who neglect their responsibilities and bring our industry into disrepute. We are proud to be working with the Mayor on this first step towards a more regulated industry,’ he said.

‘While the LRS is an important starting point in London, private rented sector standards are a UK wide issue, and we will continue our campaign for industry regulation at a national level,’ he added.

The Mayor has partnered with two organisations to offer financial incentives to landlords to sign up to the London Rental Standard. Endsleigh Insurance Services Limited will offer free emergency home cover worth £59.50 of up to £500 when you buy your buildings insurance through Endsleigh, and My Deposits will offer half price membership to the My Deposit protection scheme.

‘With over 25 years' experience in the private rental market Endsleigh is proud to be working with the Mayor to raise standards for the one in four Londoners renting their property privately,’ said Endsleigh's lettings and landlords manager Marcus Latchford.

‘Knowing they are renting from an accredited landlord or letting agent gives tenants the peace of mind and reassurance that best practice is being followed. We want to reward landlords accredited through the London Rental Standard scheme and are pleased to offer FREE Home Emergency cover when they buy buildings insurance through Endsleigh, a must have piece of cover for landlords,’ he added.

A significant public awareness campaign has also been launched to encourage landlords and letting agents to sign up to the London Rental Standard, and the Mayor has set a target to accredit 100,000 landlords and agents by 2016.

The standard is one of a raft of measures the Mayor is pioneering to increase supply and reduce pressure on London's private rented sector. The Mayor is supporting thousands of new high quality, purpose built homes to rent with large scale schemes in Elephant and Castle and Stratford supported by long term institutional investment.
The Mayor has also created a search engine where Londoners can compare average market rents, secured vast sums from the government to help provide greater enforcement against criminal landlords including those who offer beds in sheds, and has successfully lobbied for an independent consumer complaints service to help protect tenants and landlords.

Peter Girling, chairman of Girlings Retirement Rentals, welcome the launch of the scheme. ‘The private rental sector is in need of reform and this voluntary code of practice is an important step towards raising standards in the sector and affording greater protection the growing number of tenants living in London,’ he said.

‘Let’s hope this scheme is embraced by landlords and letting agents in the capital and then rolled out across the UK. The scheme could help to weed out rogue landlords and make it easier for Londoners to find the decent, high quality rented accommodation they deserve,’ he added.

‘Whilst we see all the measures being introduced as highly positive, we would also like to see landlords and letting agencies commit to providing longer tenancies which would really give tenants more long term security in their homes. We offer assured (lifetime) tenancy agreements for the over 55s and time and time again find the length of the tenure is an essential factor both in people’s decision to rent and how happy they are doing so,’ he pointed out.

According to Derek Gorman, chief executive of Get Living London, the residential owner and management company behind the Athletes’ Village from London 2012, said that improving the private rental offer in London is vital to the capital’s economy.

‘The Mayor’s scheme is exactly the kind of thing we want to see more of; helping to give hard working Londoners renting in the capital, who have long been let down by absent or unfair landlords, a fairer deal,’ he said.