Mayor sets out next steps to improve rental standards for Londoners

26 July 2013

Plans to achieve a fairer deal for London’s tenants and landlords moved a step closer today, as the 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 blue print 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 thirty three boroughs working together to improve the private rented sector. The Mayor will invest £100,000 to improve the website, systems and products of this voluntary accreditation scheme.

A significant public awareness campaign will also run next year to encourage landlords and letting agents to sign up to the London Rental Standard, and tenants to enquire about accreditation, helping to meet the Mayor’s target of 100,000 accredited landlords and agents by 2016.

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 of London, Boris Johnson, 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. The Mayor is making significant investments to increase the number of new properties to let in the capital, as well as helping thousands of Londoners out of rented accommodation and into home ownership, to take the pressure off London’s rental market.

Among the many new private rented sector success stories in the capital are Fizzy Living in Canning Town, the Genesis Stratford Halo scheme, and QDD’s £577m investment in the East Village.

Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the National Landlords Association said: “The NLA welcomes the Mayor’s commitment to building a partnership with the private-rented sector through the London Rental Standard, rather than imposing additional regulation, and we will encourage our members to seek accreditation under the standard. Landlords should see this as an opportunity to demonstrate their competence, experience and professionalism. By showing our commitment to quality and standards, we can give tenants confidence in the knowledge and credibility of those who provide their home.”

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.”

Ombudsman Services welcomes the approach being taken by the Mayor of London to drive up standards in London’s private rented housing stock.

Chief Ombudsman, Lewis Shand Smith said: “We support the Mayor’s announcement today. Private renting is the first accommodation choice for many people who move to and live in London. As the lettings and leasehold management sector grows any focus on improving the quality of homes available to rent is good news for all tenants. When looking for a rental property, tenants and landlords can protect themselves by renting through a letting agency that belongs to a redress scheme, like Ombudsman Services. We provide an independent complaint resolution service that is free to the consumer. This means that should anything go wrong for either a tenant or landlord they have additional protection.”

The UK's largest property ombudsman scheme, The Property Ombudsman, which has more than 22,000 sales and lettings branches registered, also lent its full support to the initiative.

Christopher Hamer, The Ombudsman, said: “Given the increasing importance of the private rented sector in London, I welcome the Mayor’s initiative and its aim to improve standards for tenants and landlords alike. Alongside the Government’s forthcoming mandatory redress scheme arrangements, the London Rental Standard will seek to add further measures such as client money protection and regular training which will raise the bar and further professionalise the industry.

“I hope that letting agents will embrace these initiatives as part of a concerted effort to drive out the so called ‘rogue letting agents’ and, in doing so, make the private rented sector in London a much safer place for consumers to transact in”.

The London Landlord Accreditation Scheme is hosted by Camden Council. 

Notes to editors

• For the London Rental Standard please visit: www.london.gov.uk/priorities/housing-land/renting-home/london-rental-sta....

• The Mayor has no statutory powers in this area but has taken a lead in developing better practice with his London Rental Standard. The consultation published in late 2012 was the first ever City Hall blueprint for the sector.

• The level of engagement in the public consultation was unprecedented. As well as responses from around 80 organisations, more than 5,000 private tenants completed a survey organised by Shelter – and most of these were supportive of efforts to promote good standards in the PRS.

• There is a great deal of support for the London Rental Standard across the industry, including: London Landlord Accreditation Scheme; National Landlords Association; Residential Landlords Association; Southern Landlords Association; National Approved Lettings Scheme; Association of Residential Letting Agency; The Property Ombudsman Scheme; Ombudsman Services; Accreditation Network UK.

• The Greater London Authority has been working with key industry and accreditation bodies for over two years. Their cooperation and support has been key to the success of the project so far.

• To improve public awareness of the accreditation scheme the Mayor has confirmed a significant marketing campaign in partnership with the industry. This will help persuade landlords and agents to sign up with the London Rental Standard, and encourage tenants to ask about accreditation when they look for properties. The campaign is expected to begin in early 2014.

• Existing accredited landlords and agents will be passported into the London Rental Standard over the course of this year, while the marketing campaign to encourage more to sign up will begin in early 2014.

• A cross-party committee of MPs recently agreed that: “Rent control… would serve only to reduce investment in the sector at a time when it is most needed... [and] the most effective way to make rents more affordable would be to increase supply, particularly in those areas where demand is highest” (p 44, http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-sele...)

• The Mayor is investing up to £100,000 in the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS), the largest of its type in the country and a unique example of all thirty three boroughs working together to improve the private rented sector. The money will be used to improve the LLAS website, systems and products and help it to meet the Mayor’s target of 100,000 accredited landlords and agents by 2016.

• The National Landlords Association (NLA) is the UK’s leading organisation for private-residential landlords. It works with 39,000 landlords, of which 21,500 are paying members, ranging from full-time landlords with large property portfolios to those with just a single letting. NLA membership helps landlords make a success of their lettings business by providing a wide range of information, advice and services. The NLA campaigns for the legitimate interests of landlords by seeking to influence decision-makers at all levels of government and by making landlords’ collective voice heard in the media. It seeks to raise standards in the private-rented sector while aiming to ensure that landlords are aware of their statutory rights and responsibilities. Based at its head office in Central London, the NLA currently employs over 40 full-time staff and has a network of more than 50 regional representatives and branches throughout the UK.