I am delighted to announce the launch of the Southampton Rental Charter. The charter, supported by Citizen’s Advice Southampton, Southampton City Council,Royston Smith MP and ARLA, is an initiative to raise housing standards for private renters in Southampton.
I set up the charter in response to feedback from constituents and representatives from local letting agents. I held a number of public meetings on housing where many of my constituents complained to me about standards in the private rental sector. Issues ranged from unprotected deposits to having requests for essential repairs go unanswered. Representatives from local letting agents were also worried about their reputation being marred by a minority of disreputable agencies. I came up with the idea for this charter in response to both concerns.
A number of Southampton letting agents have already signed up to the charter designed to raise awareness of those agencies that adhere to good practice and who have committed to run a reputable and high quality service for both landlords. The charter requires letting agents to produce a clear publication of fees and charges, have a dedicated complaints procedure and clear communication with landlords and tenants, deal with property repairs in a timely fashion and always be contactable and ensure properties are of a decent standard.
The charter is supported by Southampton City Council and builds upon some of the work already done to improve private renting in the city. Councillor Dave Shields was pleased to see the introduction of the Southampton Rental Charter and said "The needs of the city's growing private rented sector tenants is a key priority for the City Council. As lead Council cabinet member with responsibility for this area, I very much welcome Alan Whitehead's initiative in launching the Rental Charter which complements work we are carrying out in addressing issues with HMO s.”
Liz Donegan Chief Officer at Citizen’s Advice Southampton was also pleased to see action being taken. “We warmly welcome this excellent initiative. Between April 2014 and March 2016 we experienced a 26% rise in the number of clients coming to see us with private rented housing problems, the majority concerning disreputable letting agents. We hope more letting agents providing transparency in their dealings with both tenant and landlord will reduce bad business practices, and make this vital source of accommodation sustainable for all in the long term."