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Seven letting agencies back so-called 'ethical lettings charter'

An ‘ethical lettings charter’ set up over a year ago by a pressure group for improved private rental sector housing has attracted the support of what appears to be only a small number of letting agencies.

The Bristol section of ACORN, a campaign group operating in some British cities, set up the charter in a flurry of publicity in spring 2015, apparently after consultations with agents, landlords and tenants. The same group has this year called for tenants to 'rate' agents in different parts of the country.

The standard - which has been backed by some Bristol MPs and other local politicians -  is free to join and would ‘award’ letting agencies that joined with Gold, Silver or Bronze accreditation. 

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.” It 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.” Agents must not charge any tenant fees and must agree to “educate potential landlord clients about property investment from the perspective of gaining ethical and sustainable returns.”

When Letting Agent Today checked the ACORN website this week - over a year since our first story on the system - it appeared to have the support of one Bristol letting agency and one from Yorkshire. However, ACORN says there are seven agencies on board, four from Bristol and three from Newcastle.

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    Looks like someone didn't think through the gold membership requirements very deeply. Putting aside the more obvious potential for creating an HMO, why would any agent agree to such a bizarre arrangement?

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    I wouldn't sign up to it because to achieve even Bronze status I would have to agree to use recurring ASTs rather than periodic unless the tenant requested otherwise and to take no more than six weeks deposit.

    I have no legal right to do this because its not my property, it is the landlord's property. I am legally required to act on the landlord's instructions and if he tells me he wants 8 weeks deposit, or wants the tenancy to go periodic because he might want to sell it then this is what I have to do.

    Saying "I'm sorry Mr Landlord but I've signed up to this scheme, so I can't follow your instructions" isn't an option that's available to me.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    ACORN should check out The Tenants Voice and direct all of their Tenants/members there. There are DCLG approved online courses for Tenants to do, to help them understand both their rights AND their responsibilities. This is also not a site that vilifies agents but recognises their role in a truly professional PRS. There are already an array of agents who have joined the site and are happy to abide by the reasonable but comprehensive qualifying terms set out.

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