Council and university join forces to train local letting agents
Published: 11 September 2019
The University of Exeter and the City Council have joined forces to launch a new scheme aimed at driving up rental standards and helping support those living in private accommodation.
The initiative will offer letting agents an opportunity to learn about how they can protect themselves against two major changes to the law that have very serious financial implications.
The scheme offers a free half-day’s training to letting agency staff in Exeter, initially restricted to 80 places, on three dates this month - September 19, 24 and 26.
The training is focused on real issues seen daily by frontline staff, to give a good practical grounding in the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – the basic standard for all housing - and other related law. This is a hands-on course, with practical workshops based on real local properties.
New housing law that came into force in March means that tenants can sue their landlords for damages and or repairs if a court decides that the property was unfit for human habitation at any stage during the tenancy – even at the end of the tenancy.
The government is encouraging “no-win, no-fee” action. The Fitness for Human Habitation standard includes the HHSRS.
In addition, wider licensing criteria for Houses in Multiple Occupation mean that many properties in Exeter should be licensed, but are not.
The owners of several hundred properties may have missed the deadline, leaving themselves potentially open to fines (up to £20,000) for failure to license, civil penalties (up to £30,000) if standards are inadequate and not remedied, and even Rent Repayment Orders (repayment of a year’s rent and any benefits paid) to all the tenants involved.
Sixty specific properties have already been identified by Exeter City Council as likely to fall into this category, with more to follow. Trained agents can help identify potential issues for their landlords - before properties are inspected for licensing.
Cllr Emma Morse (pictured below), Lead Councillor for Supporting People, said: “In the last decade the number of households that rent privately has doubled, and the City Council wants to encourage a private rented sector that allows good letting agents and landlords to thrive, and in turn offers peace of mind to tenants so that they can access decent and affordable accommodation.
“We know letting agents in the city share our aim of driving up the quality and standard of private rented housing, and I encourage them to make the most of these free, comprehensive training sessions.”
Helen Whyte, Accommodation Office Manager at the University of Exeter, said: “This training will put agents in a better position to inspect their properties to spot and fix problems early. We’re pleased to team up with Exeter City Council to inform landlords and agents and ultimately support our students.”
A publicity campaign will highlight agents who have received the training, and they will be listed on the Council and University websites.
To book a free place visit exeter-agent-training.eventbrite.com.