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Regulation of agents – is NALS leading the way?
After the success of the first National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) Licensing Consultative Forum, a second event, held on 9th June, was another opportunity for delegates from across the sector to review the future of private rentals, licensing and regulation. The first forum, held back in March, proved to be a decisive move in determining wider industry attitudes. However, representatives at the second forum (chaired once again by Lord Richard Best) had a significant development as a point of reference: the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Department’s official response to the Rugg Report – issued on 13th May.
With Government recommendations in mind, including the need for the independent regulation of lettings and management agents, delegates were able to continue assessment of policy areas and establish their overall relevance to NALS proposals. The advice offered by these key industry influencers proved to be of enormous benefit, enabling NALS to further define its licensing framework.
Caroline Pickering, NALS Independent Chair, explained more about the forums’ importance. “The Consultative Forums are part of an ongoing programme to raise standards in the private rented sector, which began last year with our Industry Forums,” she asserts. “Following the CLG response and more recent announcements made in the Government’s Regulatory Impact Assessment on lettings, we are very pleased that there are overwhelming similarities with our own findings, which we continue to refine in line with continued recommendations.”
Moving forward, NALS’s aim is to hold additional workshops on specific framework items that were raised, such as the Code of Practice, before material is re-circulated to those that participated in last year’s NALS Industry Forum for final comment. Once all areas have been addressed, NALS will formally present policy recommendations to Cabinet representatives.
“As a Government-backed initiative, NALS is the clear choice to carry out independent agent regulation,” explains Caroline Pickering. “We’re confident that we can provide what’s really needed. Our overall aim is to introduce a simple, inclusive, low-cost lettings scheme that delivers a level of protection for consumers, and is also achievable by all well-managed agents. There can be no doubt that the mandatory regulation of lettings agents will propel the sector forward in achieving best practice, enhancing consumer protection and implementing increased provision and security for both tenants and landlords.”
Over the past ten years, NALS has highlighted the need for tighter regulation and accountability among lettings and management agents, remaining committed to promoting accreditation.
EPC HELPING ENERGY AWARENESS
New research conducted by the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes (EEPH), shows Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) have become a vital part of the decision making process for landlords and tenants alike. With 32 per cent of tenants who moved after October 2008, claiming they used one when selecting a new property to rent. Fifty-eight per cent of landlords confirmed they are concerned about the energy efficiency of their rental properties, and 22 per cent claimed to be very concerned. Over half of all landlords are planning to make improvements based on their EPC.
Looking ahead to future purchases, 44 per cent of landlords stated that they would now consider energy efficiency before buying a property, further indicating that energy performance has become a major influencer for both tenants and landlords. EEPH Partnership Director, Mark Brown explains, “If we look back to last years’ survey of tenants we saw energy efficiency beginning to register as a key consideration, and as our most recent report shows this trend looks set to continue.”
NALS is represented on the EEPH Private Rented Sector Group, Caroline Pickering said, “We endeavour to support and advise on optimising energy efficiency within private rentals,” she says. “We have produced a free leaflet, detailing simple and effective tips on how to reduce energy consumption including information on logos to look out for on energy efficient appliances, and replacing boilers over 15 years-old.”