The final report on the findings of LACORS’ and ANUK’s accreditation survey has been published by LGA Research and we are pleased to make it available via our website. To read the full report click here.
The survey was conducted at the behest of Communities and Local Government (CLG), who last year asked LACORS and ANUK to investigate the scope of landlord accreditation schemes around the country. In January 2008 the Housing Minister announced that Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes from the Centre for Housing Policy at York University would conduct an independent review of the private rented sector, looking at its characteristics, pressure on supply and demand and issues around the quality of management and property conditions. Our survey on accreditation would form a key element of this review.
The survey – which only included local councils - ran from March to end April this year and the findings were passed to Julie Rugg for her July interim report to Ministers. The review’s final report will be launched on 23 October 2008 at an event in York.
We were delighted with the survey response rate of 66%, which was much better than expected. The survey revealed that over 40% of local councils in England now have accreditation schemes – a big improvement on figures released by ANUK two years ago showing that only 20% of councils had schemes. [For further information on ANUK’s survey visit www.eastmidlandsdash.org.uk/docs/BPLLAccred.pdf.]
The LACORS/ANUK survey found that metropolitan and unitary council areas had the highest concentration of schemes, with a lower number in the smaller shire districts areas - thus demonstrating the correlation between council type and availability of resources for the sector. The survey also revealed that less than 5% of landlords in England have been accredited – so there is more work to be done to encourage them. Just over 25% of councils reported schemes had been in place for 3 years whilst 9% had schemes that were more than 10 years old. The survey did not judge how good these older schemes are, but we would expect the organisers to constantly refresh them by examining their internal systems and consulting with landlords and tenants. 78% of respondents said they accredit properties as part of their scheme, whilst 33% accredit landlords and 40% letting/managing agents. There is growing interest in accrediting letting/managing agents to increase their awareness of the need to raise standards in the sector.
Resourcing of the private rented sector is a key issue - about 32% of councils had less than a quarter of a full-time equivalent staff member working on accreditation. Some councils are already demonstrating – successfully - that regional or sub-regional working is the best way to achieve long term sustainability of accreditation schemes. The survey showed that many councils are operating accreditation schemes “free of charge” which, in the long term, cannot be justified. We believe that offering benefits and incentives may make schemes more financially viable by encouraging landlords to pay a ‘reasonable’ fee. Happily 64% of schemes have members who are happy to pay a fee on renewal as well as on initial application.
ANUK has recently developed four core values for accreditation schemes and whilst the survey did not go into detail about these, certain conclusions can be drawn from the findings e.g.
1. Declaration – only 20% of schemes currently require a self-declaration from the landlord.
2. Verification – the level of verification varies from “totally absent” to “very resource intensive”.
3. Continual improvement – the survey did not address this issue; and
4. Complaints procedure – whilst nearly two thirds of councils have a formal complaints system with sanctions for landlords failing to comply with the Code of Standards, some do not. A complaints mechanism is vital to add credibility to a scheme and to ensure the accreditation status commands respect.
The survey found that over 67% of councils believed that within the next 12 months, the level of interest in accreditation would increase. This view was certainly reinforced during two roundtable meetings on accreditation, that were held as part of the independent review. The meetings called for more guidance from CLG, more resources and a more statutory basis for accreditation. Certainly further guidance from CLG would help reinforce the ANUK core values and establish that accreditation is a key component of council’s wider housing strategy.
In 2001 the CLG produced a good practice guide on landlord accreditation, which is available here. They also published a leaflet looking at the role of accreditation schemes for landlords, the benefits and where to find more information. To access this click here.
Accreditation schemes run by universities and other housing providers have not been included in the survey report, but LACORS believes it is important to consult with partner agencies and neighbouring councils before deciding how to implement local accreditation schemes.