A lot has changed in the private rented sector (PRS) this year. Throughout 2020 we have seen the introduction of new laws governing electrical safety certification, updates to existing regulation, new property licensing schemes popping up across the capital, and the end of the Tenant Fee Act’s grace period.
Given that we are all currently managing the implications of an ongoing pandemic, landlords could be forgiven for not keeping track of what’s new in the world of private housing regulation. Nevertheless, none of the new or existing legal obligations which landlords must meet have been suspended due to coronavirus (nor have the penalties associated with non-compliance). It is therefore essential to find ways to keep up to date with all of your responsibilities and liabilities as the complexity of running a fully compliant portfolio increases.
One way in which landlords can stay in the know is by joining a landlord accreditation scheme. Below, we explain what landlord accreditation schemes are, how they can benefit you as a landlord, and how they can help you make sense of the complicated tangle of regulation governing the PRS.
What is a landlord accreditation scheme?
Landlord accreditation schemes are voluntary arrangements under which landlords agree to meet a set of benchmark minimum standards relating to the condition of their private rental housing, property management, and the relationship between landlord and renter.
There are many different accreditation schemes, and these are generally run by a local authority in partnership with a college/university or one of the various professional landlord associations.
These schemes were designed to raise confidence in the PRS by ensuring that landlords are professionally trained and committed to certain codes of practice. Many of the issues that arise during a tenancy occur from a lack of awareness of the highly complex, obscure, and constantly evolving legal framework governing the PRS. Accreditation schemes help landlords to avoid common pitfalls by providing comprehensive training on private housing regulation and continuing professional development to make sure you stay up to date with any changes.
Generally speaking, accreditation will be assessed and awarded on the basis of some combination of the following:
Condition of portfolio
A scheme representative might attend your rental property (or a sample of your portfolio if you own multiple units) to inspect it against criteria established by the scheme managers. This is to ensure that private rental properties provide a safe and healthy environment for potential renters and meet the scheme’s minimum standards as set out in their code of practice.
In order to satisfy the criteria of most schemes, homes will need to meet all relevant legal requirements (for example, a smoke alarm fitted on every floor) and not contain any significant hazards under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System. Examples of hazards include:
- Damp or mould.
- Excess cold or heat.
- Fire hazards.
- Faulty appliances or other electrical equipment.
- Dangerous gas leaks.
- Lack of means to adequately secure the property (e.g broken locks, windows etc).
- Risk of injury due to building disrepair.
Property management standards
Almost all schemes require landlords to undertake mandatory training and continuing professional development to ensure that they understand all of their legal responsibilities and follow best practice when managing their portfolio.
Acceptance onto a scheme will normally follow adequate completion of a one-off intensive training session, after which regular continuing professional development is normally required as a condition of membership.
What are the benefits of landlord accreditation?
The single biggest benefit of seeking accreditation is that it will give you the tools you need to run your portfolio more efficiently. Your rental property is a business governed by a complex legal framework which is subject to frequent, and often poorly advertised, technical changes that can be difficult to keep track of. Membership of an accreditation scheme will help you keep up to date with the most recent legislation and best practice so that you never fall foul of your legal obligations.
Once you are accredited, most schemes will also provide you with a comprehensive training manual, access to regular top-up training courses, and access to member-only web forums and resources.
As well the direct benefits to be gained from the high quality professional training landlords receive, schemes offer numerous incentives to encourage local landlords to participate. These might include:
- Access to additional marketing channels via the scheme and use of scheme branding to advertise your property.
- Privileged access to local authority services - e.g access to grants for repairs and home improvements, reduced property licensing fees, guaranteed rent schemes.
- Discounts with local businesses who participate in referral initiatives with the accreditation scheme.
As landlord accreditation schemes become better known among renters their value to landlords will only continue to increase, as accredited landlords will gain a marketing advantage by using scheme branding to build trust with prospective tenants.
How do I become accredited?
Once you have found the appropriate local scheme for your property - which can be found using this directory - you will need to pay their course fee and complete the mandatory training and/or property inspection.
You will also need to meet your scheme’s ‘fit and proper person’ criteria and agree to adhere to their code of practice. A fit and proper person will normally be someone without any prior criminal convictions or civil penalties related to charges of violence, fraud, sexual abuse, unlawful discrimination on the basis of protected legal characteristics, or violation of housing law or landlord and tenant law.
Codes of practice establish minimum standards governing the physical condition of your property, full compliance with your legal obligations, minimum timescales for completing repairs and essential maintenance, and standards of conduct when dealing with renters.
Prices vary depending on the scheme and location but tend to fall between £90 - £150 for an accreditation lasting 3-5 years. Once your membership has expired there will usually be an additional, lower renewal fee if you wish to maintain your accredited status.
London Landlord Accreditation Scheme
The London Landlord Accreditation Scheme is one of the largest and most well-known schemes currently in operation. The scheme is run in partnership by all of London’s boroughs alongside several landlord associations and educational organisations.
To become accredited, landlords need to attend a one-day basic training course, satisfy their fit and proper person criteria and agree to subscribe to their code of conduct. The mandatory training covers all aspects of tenancy and property management, landlord responsibilities and liabilities, health and safety, and private housing regulation. In addition to the mandatory core course, accredited landlords also have access to additional training opportunities specialising in particular areas of interest. Accredited landlords gain access to the following benefits:
- Accredited status across the entire city, with LLAS accreditation acting as a ‘passport’ for landlords with properties in multiple boroughs.
- A regularly updated manual and news bulletins detailing the latest regulation, grants, and statutes introduced by London’s local authorities.
- Preferential access to council services and discounts on application fees and with insurance companies, banks, building societies and suppliers.
- Access to local authority and regional government grants to finance improvements to the condition and energy efficiency of your property.
- Well-regarded professional development courses delivered by expert trainers.
The training course costs £99.90 if booked online and accreditation lasts for five years without any membership fees, annual contracts or additional charges. All training is offered via remote learning for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19.
As we head into low season for residential lettings and learn to live with further restrictions aimed to minimise our social contact with one another, now is the perfect time to invest in your professional development by becoming an accredited landlord.