ARLA have been long time supporters of the Landlord Law Conference – indeed they have been with us from the very first conference in 2013. So we are delighted that they are going to be with us again on 12 May in Manchester.
ARLA work tirelessly for agents, and to improve the law in letting for all. I asked them if they could let us have an update on what they are doing at the moment, and am grateful to them for providing the following information about their current campaigns.
Right to rent and USAF
ARLA recently worked to resolve an issue affecting letting agents in parts of the country where there are US Air Force bases. US Military are routinely advised not to allow anyone to photocopy any of their identification for security reasons. This left letting agents with the prospect of either disregarding the legislation and in theory risking civil penalties or refusing to agree tenancies for an important segment of the local market.
ARLA took the issue to the Home Office bill team with whom ARLA have been working throughout implementation of Immigration Act 2014. This is a good example of an issue that only really emerges in practical application of the measures across large areas and a longer period of time.
The Home Office bill team talked through some practical options with ARLA. The enforcement team put forward the practical reminder that because enforcement is intelligence led rather than via routine inspections of letting agent’s paperwork, agents would never incur a fine but – for ARLA – this would have left deeply unsatisfying, unfinished business and so Home Office lawyers started to work with USAF lawyers and came up with an agreement.
USAF will now produce a letter for the sole purpose of meeting Right to Rent checks for USAF personnel and qualifying family. The result: these tenants can present ID which will be checked but not copied and retained, along with the letter which can be copied and or retained.
Client Money Protection
ARLA has long campaigned for mandatory regulation of the industry in the interests of landlords, tenants and agents. The proposed CMP amendment to the Housing Bill is a very important aspect of this and indeed had previously been brought as an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill.
Qualifying ARLA members belong to the NFOPP Client Money Protection scheme. ARLA believes that all letting agents should belong to a similar scheme as the many agents who do not sign up represent a greater risk to landlords and tenants than those that do sign up. The scheme represents no cost to the government and the greater the take up, the more the cost to individual agents is reduced.
The consensus of opinion is that £2.7billion is held by letting agents at any one time including rents and monies to cover maintenance. Of this it is thought £700 million is not protected, leaving tenants and landlords vulnerable to agents who go bust or abscond.
Tenants are particularly vulnerable as since 27 May 2015 agents have had to display their membership or non-membership of a CMP scheme. Meaning that landlords can choose an agent depending on whether and which scheme they belong to but tenants, particularly those in areas with hugely oversubscribed demand for PRS housing, have no such choice.
ARLA has worked with ministers and peers who support the amendment while the government have so far refused to proceed on the basis that:
“We want to ensure that we have a strong and thriving private rented sector, one that is not tied up in excessive regulation.”
“Requiring agents to pay to sign up to a client money protection scheme would force honest agents to buy insurance against the risk that they themselves are fraudulent when as the hon lady said, the vast majority of them are not. Introducing a mandatory client money protection scheme at this point would be a step too far and would overburden a market that is perfectly capable of self regulation.”
Lord Foster of Bath (LD) described this as “bizarre” given that the industry itself is pressing the government for this regulation. ARLA have engaged a small but significant number of members to take time out to write individual hard copy letters to Conservative peers outlining the benefits of mandatory CMP. As I write the amendment has been withdrawn again but Baroness Hayter has vowed to reintroduce it during the report stage of the bill.
Rent Smart Wales, Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill, Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 (2014 Act).
We are working with Rent Smart Wales to try to persuade Cardiff Council that licensing fees should be lowered for agents who represent lower risk. ARLA, along with letting agents across Wales, has been frustrated with the immediate timescales with which display of fees and licensing regulation were rolled out.
We are doing a lot of work with the Scottish Government to represent the best interests of the sector in Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill including training requirements.
ARLA at the Landlord Law Conference
On the ARLA stand will be Daryl Mcintosh, ARLA Business Development Executive, Daryl gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on the LBTT (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill and has been instrumental in ensuring that the Scottish Government understand the implications of measures outlined in the Code of Practice along with Tim Douglas, Policy and Campaigns Officer who is behind many of ARLA’s recent ARLA consultation responses. Richard Locke will also be attending.
ARAL have kindly agreed to give a 50% discount to Conference Delegates who sign up to ARLA at the Conference – an excellent opportunity to all agents who are not already ARLA members.
To find out more about ARLA click here
To find out more about the Landlord Law Conference click here.
Note that I will be doing a webinar with David Cox, the ARLA MD, on 4 May. Click here for the registration page.