Take a unique opportunity to meet the Housing Minister

by Inhouse Reporter 20. February 2017 14:05

Gavin Barwell is touring the U.K. from 20th Feb to 6th March.

He wants to hear from a wide range of stakeholders - councillors, local authority planning and housing officers, large and small developers, housing associations, estate agents, lettings agents and others - about what they think about the White Paper and how we can work together to fix our broken housing market.

Here are the dates you can meet Mr. Barwell:



Venues and how to book will be announced shortly.

NALS CEO Isobel Thomson is urging agents to attend one of the regional meetings where the Minister will be speaking to let him know your views on the fees ban, mandatory client money protection, Section 24, and other issues affecting your lettings business.

"NALS is urging all our licensed firms to take this unique opportunity to meet the Housing Minister and have your say about the future of the sector", she says.


RELATED:  NALS responds to Housing White Paper

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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NALS supports Gas Safety Week 2016

by Inhouse Reporter 20. September 2016 14:13

NALS is proud to support Gas Safety Week 2016. Running from 19 - 25 September, the annual safety week raises awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of gas appliances.


This will be the sixth annual event, which is co-ordinated by Gas Safe Register with support from the gas industry, retailers, manufacturers, consumer bodies and the public. 

SAFEagent will be encouraging letting agents to get behind the campaign this week by sharing gas safety tips and best practice via social media channels.

Isobel Thomson, CEO of NALS commented:

"At NALS we want to make the private rented sector safe, with the highest possible standards for all tenants. That's why we think Gas Safety is such an important issue.

We're encouraging all agents to visit the Gas Safety website and pledge their support."

For more information and safety tips, go to the Gas Safety Week website.  

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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NALS supports Scam Awareness Month 2016

by Inhouse Reporter 11. July 2016 11:33

July is "Scam Awareness Month" 2016, organised by Trading Standards.

Each year millions of people in the UK fall prey to scammers. Some estimates of the total cost of mass-marketed scams are as high as £5 billion. The truth is - with reporting levels as low as 5 per cent - this cost could be far higher.

However, talking of thousands, millions or even billions of pounds undervalues the wider social cost of scams: the blight they bring to people’s lives, the emotional trauma for families and the loss of confidence among not only their victims, but every consumer who hears about them. 

Sadly, the lettings industry is often targeted by unscrupulous operators, who steal tenants' deposits and/or rents.

NALS therefore welcomes any initiative that can create awareness of risk for tenants and landlords when letting property in the PRS.  This can be done by highlighting the modus operandi of such individuals, creating consumer awareness as to the warning signs of potential scams.

NALS CEO Isobel Thomson commented:

"NALS is committed to raising standards in the private rented sector through consumer education and awareness and supporting such industry initiatives as "Scam Awareness Month" and "SAFEagent Awareness Week".

Additionally we work with stake-holders in the industry and recently launched our Enforcement ToolKit to help local authorities tackle rogue agents.

We
 worked in collaboration with a number of local councils and experts in the private rented sector (PRS) to create the Effective Enforcement Toolkit, the first of its kind in the industry.  The kit walks local authority enforcement officers step-by-step through the legalities and requirements for regulating letting agents. 

The release of this to co-incide with Scam Awareness Month is synergistic, as we, as a community, can aid the regulation process in a myriad of ways, including the sharing of information and best practice".

DOWNLOAD THE ENFORCEMENT TOOLKIT

In another statement to mark ‘National Scam Awareness Month’ the Local Government Association cites a letting agent who scammed more than 60 tenants and landlords out of more than £220,000 of rent and deposits, who was then jailed for four-and-a-half years following an investigation by Barnet council. T
he scam left some victims tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket, some without a home and others unable to care for ill relatives.

The association says local authorities can help victims of scams get their money back from fraudsters through Proceeds of Crime hearings.

"Scammers often target the vulnerable but anyone can be fooled by a bogus businessman or scheme, as fraudsters are always devising new ways to trick people out of their savings. Trading Standards teams see at first-hand the devastation but victims shouldn't suffer in silence or feel embarrassed. By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim” says a spokesman.

Visit the Scam Awareness Month 2016 website.  

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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Guest blog: Keeping your employees driving safely

by Inhouse Reporter 4. July 2016 12:10

One of the benefits of being a NALS licenced firm is access to a free health and safety/employment law helpline, run for our licenced firms by Peninsula.


Peninsula also run regular events on important issues, which are free for NALS members to attend.

In this blog, Nick Babington of Peninsula deals with the important topic of making sure your employees drive safely.

Nick writes: 

In the year ending September 2015 in the United Kingdom there were 1,780 road deaths and almost 22,000 serious injuries as a result of road traffic accidents. Less serious injuries to another 167,000 people were also recorded as having been reported to the police.

Whilst many of those killed and injured were not at work it is estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve a person driving or travelling in the course of their work. So that could be 600 friends and colleagues who die in the course of a journey for work, 7,000 seriously injured and 55,000 injured. Apart from the pain, suffering and grief that these accidents will cause, they have a very substantial impact on the costs, effectiveness and efficiency of a business.

There are sound financial reasons for directors and managers to consider the safety of their workforce when driving and travelling in the course of business. There are duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 but morality and the financial benefits from managing the risks should be the key [driver].

Although driving carries its own inherent risks careful planning and management can reduce the risks.  Where employees drive in the course of their work their employer should consider the potential hazards and assess the risks and risks faced by their employees whilst on the road. Then having considered the hazards and risks and decided how they will be managed draw up and issue a driver handbook or rulebook so that everyone knows what is expected of them. The hazards include:

  •  fatigue and tiredness caused by long driving hours or long working days.
  •  impact with other vehicles, pedestrians or property.
  • vehicle overturning.
  • stress.
  • distraction caused by a mobile telephone and satellite navigation equipment.
  • bad posture due to an ill adjusted seat or driving position.
  • fuel filling.

Other matters that may need to be considered, sometimes for all journeys and sometimes for specific journeys only will include, whether:

  • the journey is necessary - could the meeting be held using video conferencing or other means of communication? 
  • weather conditions -.is the weather too adverse to carry out the journey?
  • there is a safer more efficient means of transport (taxi, bus, train or plane). 
  • the vehicle is suitable for the task.
  • work schedules are realistic.
  • the driver holds the correct licence for the vehicle being driven and has received adequate training.
  • sufficient time has been allowed for the journey.
  • the journey and the other planned activities can be completed in one working day.
  • an overnight stay should be taken.
  • the vehicle has been properly serviced and is in good order.

As an employer it is important to remember that you can be liable for road traffic accidents committed by an employee, in a company vehicle or their own, where they have facilitated an offence.  What this means is that if an employer requires, allows or encourages for example the use of a defective or overloaded vehicle, an unlicensed driver or long working days they can be found guilty of an offence. 

Take care to check that all staff that drive vehicles or ride motorcycles or bicycles as part of their duties are suitably qualified, with the correct licence for the type of vehicle being used. Keep copies of licences (and CPC cards where required) on file. Check regularly to ensure they are still legally permitted to drive the vehicle. Require employees to report any changes in the validity of their licence regarding penalty points and disqualification to their Manager who should check that insurance cover is not compromised. 

You are entitled to rely on the valid licence as evidence that the driver has been trained and tested as competent to drive that class of vehicle and fully aware of the rules set out in the Highway Code. However you would question those skills and reconsider their position if they were often involved in incidents or cause damage to vehicles and property.

Vehicles used for company business, whether company or privately owned, should be insured for business use and be properly maintained. For private vehicles used on company business check, on a regular basis (at least once every year) that the correct insurance cover is in place and the MOT test, if required, is up to date.  

Journeys should be planned in advance, using the most appropriate roads for the vehicle. Motorways are suitable for all vehicles being driven by a person who holds a full licence for the type of vehicle being driven; minor roads may be unsuitable for large goods vehicles and passenger service vehicles due to weight restrictions, low bridges, level crossings and narrow carriageways. For long journeys allow extra time for drivers to take rest breaks as in the Highway Code.  

Where workers are required to travel to carry out work at one or more places before returning home at the end of the day employers must ensure that the combined driving hours and job related working hours do not require excessive working hours. In the event of an accident the employer could be held liable for injuries caused as a result of excessive working hours. 

All in all there’s a lot to be considered in this brief article we haven’t even touched on driver’s hours for LGVs and PSVs, the times of day when accidents are more likely to happen, speed limits, mobile phones and hand held devices, daily vehicle checks, accident investigation, advanced driver training, defensive driving training, etc.

Peninsula’s members have not only access to advice and information on this subject but also the benefit of routine visits from their Business Safety Consultant who will help prepare a bespoke Driver handbook and guide them along the way with sensible pragmatic advice. They will also have access to a 24 Hour Telephone Advice Service where trained, qualified and competent staff are ready to take their calls.

For further information please contact Nick Babington nick.babington@peninsula-uk.com 07896 036993  

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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New toolkit from NALS helps councils root out rogue lettings agents

by Inhouse Reporter 27. June 2016 14:24

NALS creates toolkit to raise standards in the private rented sector

The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has created a toolkit to help local authorities tackle rogue letting agents who fail to comply with the law.

NALS worked in collaboration with a number of local councils* and experts in the private rented sector (PRS), to create the Effective Enforcement Toolkit. The first of its kind in the industry, the kit walks local authority enforcement officers step-by-step through the legalities and requirements for regulating letting agents.

Following the cuts that left some local authorities without specialist knowledge and skills to effectively regulate the private rented sector, NALS saw a need to support cash strapped councils protect local residents. Research conducted by NALS** found that while 84% of local authorities had taken some steps to promote new requirements for letting agents, only 16% had issued any civil penalties for failure to comply with redress scheme membership, and less than half (46%) had sent any warning letters to agents.

NALS aims to give councils the tools to help protect tenants and landlords alike, by enforcing these requirements effectively, while also raising standards and professionalism in the industry.

The NALS toolkit includes warning letters to letting agents who are failing to comply with legal duties, advice on serving civil penalties and even advice on highlighting enforcement action to the local media. In particular, the kit highlights to local authorities:

  • The requirement by law for letting agents to belong to a government approved redress scheme
  • Agents to display their fees, redress scheme membership and client money protection status.
  • The power to issue civil penalties of up to £5,000 on agents that don’t comply.

 Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive of NALS said: 

“More and more of us are choosing to live in privately rented housing, but public opinion of the private rented sector remains mixed. When an agent’s service is not up to scratch, landlords and tenants have every right to complain – but they need to know where to go and what their rights are.

“Only by raising standards across the sector can we start to tackle the small minority whose rogue activities tarnish our reputation. This toolkit is designed to be a ‘one stop shop’ for Local Authorities working with the private rented sector. They are, after all, in the enforcement front line. Working together, we help to make living in the private rented sector a positive experience.”

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT HERE

*The following local authorities provided helpful information, advice and examples of good practice that contributed to the development of the toolkit:

Bristol City Council

Enfield Council

Islington Council

Newham Council

Powys County Council (National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team)

Sheffield City Council

Westminster City Council

York City Council

 **A survey of 37 local authorities across England, conducted during August/September 2015, by London Property Licensing on behalf of NALS.

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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Guest Blog: Common mistakes employers make when dealing with a disciplinary issue.

by Inhouse Reporter 15. June 2016 13:47

One of the benefits of being a NALS licenced firm is access to a free health and safety/employment law helpline, run for our licenced firms by Peninsula.


Peninsula also run regular events on important issues, which are free for NALS members to attend.

In this blog, Nick Babington of Peninsula deals with the topic of common mistakes made by employers when dealing with a disciplinary issue.

Nick writes: 

Misconduct is unfortunately a common event in any business and employers need to be prepared to manage the situations and initiate their disciplinary procedure if there is a disciplinary case to answer.

Due to alternative engagements or work load it may be difficult for many employers to allocate the necessary time to conduct the disciplinary procedure properly and unfortunately this can lead to common mistakes.

1. Not following the disciplinary policy or Acas Code of Practice

The Acas Code of Practice provides key steps which should be followed when conducting a disciplinary or grievance procedure. Both the Acas Code and the employer’s disciplinary procedure need to be followed. Unreasonable failure to comply with the Code can result in a maximum of 25% uplift of the award or a procedurally unfair dismissal if dismissal is the end result.

2. Not informing the employee of the allegations or including new allegations in final stages of the disciplinary

The employee should be made aware of the allegations and be provided with a copy of all the evidence prior to the disciplinary hearing so that they have the opportunity to prepare and give their account of events or any mitigating circumstances. The allegations must be kept consistent throughout the process and only the investigated allegations should be taken into consideration when deciding the outcome or sanction.

3. Not conducting a sufficient investigation and not documenting it

Although there are no specific rules relating to the extent of the investigations, an employer should conduct the “necessary” investigations to establish the facts. This should include talking to the alleged employee, obtaining statements from witnesses and collecting any evidence. When conducting the investigation, it is important to take notes and document any meetings you hold with witnesses or the accused employee, as you will need evidence to rely on when deciding the outcome.

4. Imposing an unreasonable sanction

Before deciding the sanction to impose or whether to impose one at all, employers should remind themselves of the possible outcomes stated in their disciplinary procedure and only impose sanctions available to them. When deciding whether an outcome was fair, an employment tribunal considers whether the outcome was a reasonable response to the employee’s misconduct.

5. Not appointing a suitable officer

The individual conducting the disciplinary investigation and hearing should be impartial. It is best appointing two different people to carry out the two processes, however that may not be practicable for small businesses. Similarly, if possible the officer chairing the appeal should not have been involved in previous stages and should have the authority to overturn the disciplinary decision if necessary.

For support in these tricky areas do contact Nicholas Babington nick.babington@peninsula-uk.com 07896 036993.

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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NALS and NAPIT join forces to launch free electrical safety course for letting agents

by Inhouse Reporter 18. May 2016 15:04

NALS has collaborated with the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) to create new free online electrical safety course for letting agents.

The Electrical Installation Safety course was created by NAPIT, a prominent trade association for electricians and allied tradespeople. The course focuses on giving those involved in letting accommodation in the private sector the necessary knowledge to comply with their legal obligations and ensure appropriate electrical checks are conducted for their premises.

It includes extensive user friendly guidance on the different regulatory requirements that apply in England, Scotland and Wales, considers industry best practice when it comes to periodic electrical inspections and provides valuable tips to help landlords conduct their own simple visual checks.

Isobel Thomson, NALS Chief Executive, said:

“NALS is committed to ensuring excellence in the PRS. Giving letting agents the tools to successfully navigate the sometimes complex legal landscape that governs the sector is essential in this regard.
 

NALS online learning platform offers a variety of short bite-sized courses as well as a Foundation Lettings Course which is an approved course under the Rent Smart Wales licensing requirements for agents and is also approved by the GLA for agents wanting to meet the London Rental Standard. We are delighted to have worked with NAPIT and this short course is a fantastic addition to our offering.”

Chairman of the NAPIT Trade Association, Frank Bertie added:

“While the legal frameworks in different parts of the UK differ slightly, following the best practice advice set out in this course will ensure appropriate precautions have been taken.

The key message is that landlords should confirm that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) has been carried out by a competent, registered electrician, experienced in periodic inspection, within the last five years or within the time frame recommended on their last EICR.

This is the best way to find and fix faults before electrical fires or accidents occur. It’s also highly recommended that this is supplemented by an annual visual electrical inspection, which any landlord can complete themselves.”

The Electrical Installation Safety learning snack course is completely free and can be taken by anyone with an interest in electrical safety.

To get started and test your knowledge, visit the NALS E-learning site and create an account using NAPIT as your NALS Membership Number and self-enrol on the course.

Here is a reprise of our interview with Michael Collinge of NAPIT who spoke on electrical safety at the NALS 2016 York Conference:




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NALS appoints Steven Hilton Consulting

by Inhouse Reporter 11. May 2016 12:03

The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) has appointed Steven Hilton Consulting, to raise their brand profile across the sector and consumer press.

NALS have briefed owner Steven Hilton on a full service contract, which will also supply media relations for the SAFEagent campaign. Working with Steven Hilton on the account, consultant Ellie Irwin will concentrate on NALS and SAFEagent’s consumer-focused purpose, to protect tenants and landlords, while also improving the reputation of the lettings industry.


With extensive experience of the private-rented sector and property industry, Steven Hilton has a unique blend of in-house and consultancy experience, driving PR and issues-led strategic communications campaigns. His in-depth knowledge of the sector began during his time at the National Landlords Association, where as Media Manager he created their press office, which he ran for three years. Most recently, at Redwood Consulting, a leading communications consultancy, he directed a wide range of campaigns for companies including Grosvenor, M&G Real Estate, Hermes Real Estate, The Crown Estate, RICS, and Cluttons.

Ellie Irwin led the media relations team as UK Head of Media at RICS. Prior to that she was Press Officer at the National Landlords Association, where she worked with Steven Hilton, overseeing marketing/communications for tenancy deposit protector, mydeposits.co.uk. Most recently, Ellie was Group PR Manager at Churchill Retirement Living, specialist senior-living house builder.

The appointment forms part of NALS’ long-term strategy to make the private-rented sector a better, safer place for all. Steven Hilton Consulting has already begun work on the SAFEagent awareness week, which runs from 6th- 10th June 2016

Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive of NALS said: 

“We are delighted to be working with Steven Hilton Consulting. Their specialist, in-depth knowledge of our sector was fundamental in our decision to take them on. We know the private-rented sector doesn’t always have the best reputation, but there is a lot of good in the sector and we want to celebrate that, while policing the bad.”

Steven Hilton, added:

“Working with NALS feels like coming home to us – it’s a sector we know inside out, and where we started. We are truly passionate about helping to transform the sector, and we know NALS and SAFEagent are perfectly placed to do this.”


NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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What I love about being a NALS agent - Glyn Trott, Pinnacle Lettings

by Inhouse Reporter 7. April 2016 15:25

Glyn Trott, M.D. of Pinnacle Lettings is proud to be a NALS agent and has found the training support to be an excellent resource, especially in regards to new legislation in his home country of Wales.


You can find our more about NALS Personal Development >>> here.

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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NALS inputs to make Rent Smart Wales more equitable for agents.

by Inhouse Reporter 22. March 2016 18:31

Following consultation with NALS about the Rent Smart Wales fee structure for Letting and Management Agents, we are pleased to announce that revisions have been made to make the scheme more equitable.

The new fee structure is now:

> Graduated based on the size of the organisation,

> A reduced fee is applied to those who are a member of specified professional body

> Payment options are available to smaller companies.

This new fee structure will be effective from the 25th  April 2016.

You can find full details of the new pricing structure >>> here.

NALS CEO Isobel Thomson commented:

"NALS are delighted to have been instrumental in revising the fee structure and that our licenced firms continue to be able to enjoy reduced professional fees through our association with Rent Smart Wales.

We will always support any initiative that seeks to raise standards in the private rented sector and we are pleased that RSW were open to feedback about how to fine-tune the fee structure to make it more equitable for the wide variety of agents operating across Wales". 

NALS is the National Approved Letting Scheme, a not for profit licensing scheme for lettings and management agents operating in the Private Rented Sector.

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