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Controversial anti-agent group's ethical charter adopted by council

A so-called 'ethical lettings charter' established by a group that has campaigned against some letting agencies, is set to be adopted by a city council.

Bristol's mayor, George Ferguson, says the council fully supports the charter put forward by Acorn, a campaigning organisation that in the past 18 months has held protests outside individual agency branches in the city.

Ferguson says: “Acorn’s Ethical Lettings Charter aims to set out good standards for landlords and agents to work to, which can only be a good thing in a housing sector where practice is not always as professional as it should be. In addition where minimum legal standards are not met the council’s private housing team have powers to take action, and will not hesitate to do so."

The council has not yet formally voted on the charter, but Ferguson - who is believed to have consulted senior councillors before lending his support - says the authority will shortly adopt the measure.

Acorn's charter, outlined in the spring, was apparently the result of consultations with agents, landlords and tenants, and involves the awarding of Gold, Silver or Bronze status for letting agents. 

To reach Bronze status agents have to agree to use “recurring ASTs as default in place of periodic tenancies (except where the tenant request a periodic tenancy)” and conduct repairs according to legal requirements. No more than six weeks’ deposits will be taken and tenancy deposit schemes will be used and mandatory national and/or local authority health and safety inspections, paperwork and licensing will be respected.

To win Silver status the letting agent must commit to promoting the benefits of longer ASTs of 12 months or longer and commit to a six month trial period during which tenancy fees will not be charged. Acorn also wants a minimum EPC rating of E to be encouraged by letting agents. 

Finally the Gold status involves a specific requirement: “To ensure the security of each tenant in the event that a property is shared by people unknown to each other, we will encourage landlord client to provide each household with an individual AST to avoid responsibility for an entire property falling on the shoulders of a single person.”

Bristol council has already committed to work with other nearby authorities to implement a separate South West Rental Standard. 

It is not clear how the standard and the charter will work together.

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    In my experience tenants do not want to continually sign new 6 month contracts and like the flexibility that a periodic tenancy gives. Also in my experience when a landlord requests a new contract to be signed after 6 months it puts the question in the tenants mind of whether they want to stay on and invariably they start to look for another property. I have many tenants on periodic tenancies that have been in the property for more than 3 years. As for minimum 12 month contracts again we find that tenants do not want to be tied to a property for that long. Landlords like the security of longer tenancies but forget that there circumstances may change as well. On the one occasion that we have done a 3 year tenancy agreement (against our advice) one of the parties needed to come out early which kind of proves the point.

    There is nothing wrong with the current system as the vast majority of landlords want the tenants to stay in long term. Tenants are usually asked to leave for a reason and that reason is not for paying the rent on time and keeping the property clean and tidy!

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    "commit to a six month trial period during which tenancy fees will not be charged."

    Do these people work for nothing as well?

    If we don't charge a small application fee to the tenants we will have to charge the landlords more. The landlord will then put the rent up to cover the additional cost. Just like they will if licensing or any other costly and unnecessary legislation comes in.

    The tenants will end up paying more. Get it!

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