One of the most ludicrous things I've ever read is a statement on Mayor Boris Johnson's website that declares a new scheme he launched in July for private landlords will "trigger a massive increase in accreditation and standards in the capital". Steady on, Boris — I think you're getting a little carried away.
For those of you who haven't heard of the Mayor's new London Rental Standard (who has?), it is a voluntary scheme for landlords and letting agents that lays out best practice for both, including transparency on agency fees, maximum response times for carrying out emergency repairs and deposit protection.
All very worthy and much-needed in the capital, but note the word "voluntary". Letting agents and landlords can join the scheme if they like, but I think the majority of landlords will give a collective shrug of their shoulders and ignore it.
It seems that to join you have to become an accredited member of one of four existing schemes, the largest of which is the UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership, and you are required to complete a one-day development course — probably at an inconvenient location — at a minimum cost of £79.80, agree to comply with a code of conduct and certify you are a "fit and proper person".
The National Landlords Association runs a similar accreditation scheme, as does the Residential Landlords Association. I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons to sign up to any one of these organisations — they provide heaps of useful advice and support for landlords. But those of us who have managed without them so far aren't going to join now unless someone, be it Boris or the Government, makes membership compulsory.
To try to encourage landlords to get on board his bandwagon without the need for legislation, Boris's website says: "If you sign up, you will be part of the Mayor's campaign to promote good standards in London's private rental market." Well, whoopdee-doo!
Landlords who comply with the London Rental Standard by becoming an accredited member of one of the above schemes will be given a kitemark for quality, already being dubbed the "Boris Badge", and the Mayor's office reckons it won't be long before tenants will start looking out for this sign when renting.
I think they're wrong. Tenants will continue to look out for affordable, quality accommodation and they won't give a stuff about whether the landlord happens to be sporting a shiny new badge.
Maybe this will change if, as promised, Boris goes ahead with a major public awareness campaign; maybe then tenants will select landlords with the kitemark, but I still rather doubt it. Even if they do, I can't see how this will raise standards.
The only landlords who will bother to go along with this scheme will be the decent sorts who already provide good-quality accommodation and do the right thing by their tenants. These aren't the landlords who are creating problems.
This scheme will do nothing to rid the city of all the slumlords, who will continue to let out fleapits and cram illegal immigrants into sheds. I don't think they'll be rushing to sign up to any "development" courses and I don't think many of their tenants care about kitemarks of quality. Most of them probably think they're lucky just to have a roof over their heads.
In my book, this scheme won't lead to even a minuscule increase in the quality of rental accommodation, let alone a "massive" one. So you can keep your badges, Boris — I'd rather have Blue Peter's.
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