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Hi all I read the following article in the Guardian this week and I thought I would share it with you as I happen to agree with the viewpoints stated by the author Heather Kennedy.

Please take a couple of minutes to read the following…. 

Is Shelter’s campaign against ‘rogue landlords’ helpful for private tenants?

Law-breaking landlords aren’t the sole blight on the private rented sector, despite Shelter’s eye-catching campaign

How do you feel if I say the words “energy performance certificate”? What about “London landlord accreditation scheme”? Is your pulse racing? I didn’t think so.

The dry and cumbersome language of the private rented housing sector is not exactly the stuff of captivating media headlines. For those of us trying to shout from the rooftops about how bad things are for private tenants right now, this can present a problem.

One organisation that has succeeded in capturing widespread attention is Shelter, with its simple and popular ‘evict rogue landlords’ campaign. The housing charity is encouraging residents to report dodgy landlords to their local authorities, who can take legal action if they are found to be operating outside the law.

The message has gained traction. Across the public debate on welfare and housing, the concept of the “rogue landlord” has caught on fast. It is central to our understanding of what is wrong with the private rented sector.

So if talk of ‘rogue landlords’ has helped to make the difficulties of life as a private tenant mainstream news, what’s the issue?

The problem is that Shelter’s concept seduces us into believing the deep-rooted problems in the private rented sector can be eradicated by punishing a small, malignant minority when in fact large-scale policy overhaul is now urgently needed.

There are plenty of fully legal landlords happy to bully their tenants, impose huge rent increases and end contracts on a whim.

Some renters and their landlords have come to consider this acceptable behaviour, so a rogue is always someone else: someone a friend of a friend told you about, or that one you saw on the telly. Never the landlord you have – or the one you are.

Of course unlawful evictions, harassment of tenants and illegal hazards need to be tackled. But I speak to private tenants across London every day and for most of them, current legislation offers them little or no protection against the problems they face.

For those landlords who are operating illegally, local councils have a feeble track record at prosecuting them, as Shelter points out. What Shelter doesn’t explain is how councils are supposed to find the time and resources to deal with the spiralling number of complaints from tenants, and at a time when funding for local authorities is being cut by central government.

Councils are already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of complaints they receive and can often only hope to provide basic dispute resolution between landlord and tenant.

For Shelter to suggest that we can prosecute our way out of this problem using current legislation is at best naive and at worst disingenuous.

The figure of the rogue landlord as a modern-day folk devil might be media-friendly, but it is meaningless for the majority of private tenants.

We need nuanced debate about the private rented sector, to reflect the diverse and complex experiences of tenants.

Shelter does some excellent work getting housing issues into the mainstream press, but right now its analysis is being allowed to dominate the debate.

Unlike council tenants, who have rich a tradition of self-organisation and representation, private tenants have no collective identity or voice.

This is partly why we’ve found it so difficult to challenge unfair treatment. It’s only now, as pressures on private tenants reach an apex that we’re beginning to speak as one and forge this collective voice.

Not until tenants are allowed to define their own campaigns and solutions will we begin to see the deep rooted change to the private rented sector we so desperately need.

Heather Kennedy is the founding member of Digs, a support and campaign group for private tenants in Hackney

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. Join the housing network for comment, analysis and best practice direct to you

Specialist provider of Buy-to-Let cover, Total Landlord Insurance, is pleased to announce that they will be sponsoring the inaugural UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership (UK LAP) awards.

The event which takes place on Thursday March 1st 2012, will celebrate the professionalism of London’s landlords and agents.
Eleven awards will be given to those landlords, agents and partners who have excelled in their service to the private rented sector.

Steve Barnes, Broking Manager, for Total Landlord Insurance, said: “We fully support initiatives that improve standards in the private rented sector, and as such wholeheartedly endorse everything that the UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership stands for. The UK LAP is not only there to recognise good landlords but also offers support and training to new landlords to ensure that they can build a successful and well run business, and give all of its members access to the latest legislation. We are delighted to be a sponsor of such a prestigious event and wish all the nominees the best of luck on the night.”

Two new accreditation programmes will also be launched at the event.

The Green Landlords’ Accreditation Scheme which will train landlords to be more energy and water usage conscious for the sustainability of their businesses, and to the benefit of their tenants and the environment.

The Tenant Accreditation Scheme will also be launched which will advise tenants on how to be responsible residents. The benefits of gaining accreditation will make tenants more knowledgeable as to their rights and responsibilities, and, they will be more desirable to landlords as they will have shown their commitment to being ideal tenants.

Dave Princep, chair of both the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme and the UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership, said: “We are seeking nominations from the capital’s best accredited landlords and agents. The time is right to award professional landlords and agents and to encourage others to follow their excellent examples. The launch of the two new accreditation schemes, in addition to the range of Continuous Professional Development courses that UK LAP offers, shows that the UK Landlords Accreditation Partnership is committed to supporting and training private landlords with the many and varied skills required from legal obligations to general duties as a landlord. By supporting landlords the UK LAP enables them to provide good quality housing for their tenants with minimum intervention from the authorities.”

The Future of Housing in the Private Rented Sector will be hosted at
The Thistle Hotel, Edinburgh Suite, Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EH. For more information go to www.llas-conference.org.uk.

For more information on Total Landlord Insurance and our products visit totallandlordinsurance.co.uk or call 0800 63 43 880.

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The National Landlords Association (NLA), Accreditation Scheme for private landlords is now being used by 28 local authorities across the UK, only a year after the initial launch.

The NLA Accreditation Scheme is free to local authorities and was launched by the National Landlords Association in April 2010.

The scheme provides local authorities with the means for compliant landlords to self-regulate and keep up-to-date with best practice and legislation.

This frees up vital local authority resources to tackle rogue landlords.

Over 85% of landlords who have completed the Scheme to date have described it as ‘excellent’.

NLA Chairman David Salusbury said “The NLA Accreditation Scheme provides local government with a valuable vehicle to raise standards within the private-rented sector and local authorities are now waking up to its potential. The NLA Scheme provides landlords with a clear way of demonstrating that they are professional by understanding their obligations, as well as the extensive legislation governing the letting of private residential property. The fact landlords can become accredited through the NLA’s Scheme without cost to the public purse is an obvious benefit. We’re very pleased with the feedback from participating landlords; with 85% of those completing the scheme describing it as ‘excellent’. These individual landlords will now be able to promote that fact that they are accredited by the NLA.”

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