A council in London is to introduce the UK’s first local star ratings for letting agents.
The London Borough of Newham is to publish a ‘star rate’ for all agents advertising properties for rent or managing properties within the borough, giving them between one and five stars depending on their track record.
The list will then be published on the council’s website and updated regularly.
Newham has already rated local agents but until now has not published the detailed list of results.
It says 71 per cent, or 109 businesses, are 3 stars or above, while 29%, or 43 agents, remain non compliant with the council’s Fair Lettings Projects and fall below 3 stars.
As part of the initiative, the council has spent the past two years auditing all agents operating within the borough.
The audit looked at agent performance, compliance with the law, delivery of best practice, and customer feedback, as well as which agents have in the past “failed to refund deposits, pass on rental income, charged unjustified and astronomical fees or failed to address complaints”, the council says.
After an agency has been awarded a star rating they have 21 days to appeal if they believe any information used to determine the rating is inaccurate or out of date.
“The extreme demand in the private rented property sector is being exploited by some unscrupulous letting agents, who rip off landlords and tenants,” says the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales (pictured, left).
“We have seen tenants charged outrageous fees and had deposits withheld, and landlords who never see the rent that is due to them.
“The law gives us limited powers to act against these cowboys, but by scrutinising their activity, and sharing information with our residents and landlords, the ratings should see the unscrupulous agents pushed out of business, while professional and hard working agents are rewarded.”
The borough also operates a landlord licensing system and is one of the few local authorities to bring prosecutions against errant landlords in large numbers; so far 1,1000 prosecutions have been started.