Membership of accreditation schemes is voluntary. They enable landlords to demonstrate that their properties comply with legal standards and good management practices through the accreditation status.
Local and central Governments, professional housing organisations and landlord associations recommend membership.
Some form of accreditation operates across two-thirds of the geographical areas covered by the 350 local authorities in England and Wales. Schemes are operated by both landlord organisations and local authorities, with some student-based schemes operated by educational establishments or related agencies.
The Private Rented Sector Accreditation Scheme (PRSAS) is a scheme that operates in England.
The Accreditation Network UK (ANUK) is the national body that publicises, promotes and shares good practices in accreditation. Detailed information about accreditation is available here.
How Accreditation Schemes Operate
Schemes work either by inspecting properties and accrediting a property or a landlord. Or by training the landlord to ensure they have skills regarding their legal and management obligations and duties. Skills and training-based schemes often involve a training day or an interactive web test. They are gaining in popularity because of the expense of undertaking verification procedures by visiting properties.
When properties are visited, schemes accredit either the landlord or the property. These require compliance with a set of reasonable physical and management standards. Schemes relating to students are more likely to involve the physical inspection of a sample of properties, but some skills-based schemes have an element of physical examination.
Operational details vary according to, and to suit, a range of regional or local factors.
All proper accreditation schemes meet ANUK’s four core values which are:
The Declaration Accreditation is about accountability: to be accountable, there must be a voluntary declaration by the supplier or manager of the housing to a set of processes or standards (usually both). The declaration should be regular and typically occur once every three to five years.
Verification A scheme must verify that those who sign up to meet standards do so. Time has shown that to maintain consumer and landlord confidence, a regular and transparent process that checks on the standards being met, issues some form of a report, and where any shortcomings are identified, a landlord must agree to an improvement package. Whatever the verification process is, it must be public, realistic and achievable. A complaints system alone is not sufficient to ensure verification.
Continuing Improvement Verification should not be simply about standards being met. Continuous improvement sets the mental tone for accreditation: it is about doing better from a base standard and accepting that there is always room for improvement in management outputs.
Complaints There must be a proper complaints process that should be simple, inclusive, transparent, rapid and known.
In addition, scheme operators may provide a range of further benefits to encourage membership, the numbers and extent of which available resources may determine.
Benefits can be categorised into information provision, financial, e.g. discounted products and services, and a supportive approach and ‘light touch’ regulation by local authorities, often accompanied by discounts on licensing fees.
Access to some property letting services by local authorities, educational establishments and related agencies may be conditional on membership of an accreditation scheme.
ANUK/Unipol Codes of Standards for Larger Student Developments
Unipol Student Homes administer these two Government-approved national schemes.
One scheme is for student developments operated and managed by educational establishments, and the second is for private sector developments.
HMOs that are owned by educational establishments and are members of the Educational Establishment Code, and would ordinarily be licensable are exempt from HMO licensing. Licensable HMOs that are members of the private sector Code are not exempt from HMO licensing. Still, the Government’s Department of Communities & Local Government advises local authorities to discount their HMO licence fee for Code members.
Further details are available from: http://www.nationalcode.org/
UUK Code of Practice
Universities UK (UUK) administers one Government-approved national scheme for buildings controlled and managed by educational establishments. This Code has the same purpose as the Codes mentioned above. Further details are available from: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/PolicyAnalysis/StudentsTeachingSociety/Pages/default.aspx.
London Rental Standard is being scrapped whilst a new rental standard in Leeds launches.