UK’s first letting agents scheme to protect residents and landlords launched by Newham Council

PUBLISHED: 15:50 19 October 2017

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, with Chris Baker of McDowall’s and other staff

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, with Chris Baker of McDowall’s and other staff

Andrew Baker

Newham Council has launched the UK’s first letting agents rating scheme to stop rogue businesses exploiting residents and landlords.

Members of the public can view an online list of borough registered letting agents to see how they score from zero - the worst - to a “gold standard” five stars.

The scheme launched in the same week the government introduced proposals for an independent watchdog “to protect consumers from unfair costs and overpriced service charges”.

The results of the Newham rating system have been compiled from a two-year audit undertaken by the council, which aims to protect 70,000 households living in private-rented accommodation.

They show only one letting agent out of 154 has so far being awarded the full five stars.

In comparison, 40 businesses received four stars, 30 received three stars, eight received two stars and 25 received one star.

No business were awarded a zero rating, while the council said its audit had encouraged the number of compliant agents by 44 per cent, from 35pc to almost 79pc.

The new star system accounts for performance, compliance with the law, delivery of best practice, and customer feedback in its results.

It identifies which agents have failed to refund deposits, pass on rental income, charged unjustified and astronomical fees or not address complaints.

Newham Council was the first local authority to introduce mandatory borough-wide licensing for all private property rentals and was responsible for 70 per cent of prosecutions in London last year against criminal landlords.

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said: “We are stepping in to help protect residents from businesses and individuals who exploit extreme demand in the property market to rip off and overcharge.

“Alongside our private rented sector licensing scheme, this initiative aims to drive up the quality of homes for rent in the borough, and increase the professionalism of those who work in the industry.”

Campaign group Generation Rent, housing charity Shelter and housing association Peabody have all backed the idea.

John Bibby, senior policy officer at Shelter, said: “Newham’s rating system will provide landlords with credible, independent reviews to help them pick a decent letting agency to market or manage their property, which should have a positive knock-on effect for tenants.”

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