Newham council has approved plans to rate all of the borough’s letting agents from zero to five stars (where five is the best), and then publish the list in full on the council’s website so that it is available to the public.
The council suggests that the list will provide potential tenants and landlords with all the information they need to pick the best and most professional agents. The list will also include details about agents who have in the past failed to refund deposits, pass on rental income, charged unjustified or high fees or failed to address complaints.
The five-star rating system will be based on the results of the Newham council Fair Lettings Project, which is a project that saw all letting agents in the borough audited by the council over a 2-year period. The council considered performance, compliance with the law, delivery of best practice, and customer feedback which then resulted in the award of a star rating.
The council suggests that the Fair Lettings Project has seen businesses ‘up their game’ with 71 per cent, or 109 businesses, achieve 3 stars or above, while 29%, or 43 agents, remain uncompliant and have only achieved below 3 stars. Agents will be permitted to appeal a rating for up to 21 days.
On the expiry of the appeal period, a table of all letting agents and their star rating will be published in full on the council’s website. The council will be encouraging residents and landlords to avoid any agents rated below 3 stars.
The letting agents rating scheme is designed to run alongside Newham council’s selective licensing scheme, which we will discuss in a further post.
It remains to be seen how this will work. There are likely to be legal challenges from agents rated at the lower end of the scale. The scheme may also only succeed if tenants and landlords respond to the star rating and actually select agents based on the basis of the ratings.