Last year (2012) Unipol inspected over 400 properties in Nottingham to ensure that they met the standards of the Unipol DASH Code (those that do not are reinspected to see that any necessary works have been completed properly or membership is refused).
Unipol will inspect (or verify) a sample of properties to ensure that your self-declaration is accurate and the following procedures will apply:
- all new applicants for membership of the Code will have at least one property inspected prior to the landlord being admitted, within 12 weeks of the application being made, on a ratio of 1 in 5 properties.
- in the case of agents a ratio of 1 in 5 properties belonging to each managed landlord is inspected, on the same timescales as above.
- if the inspection/s reveal any problems then a higher sample of properties is inspected and, in some cases, all proprieties are inspected
- inspections can also be triggered by any formal complaints.
Property inspections are carried out in a set format by trained staff and an inspection report is completed for each property. This report allows for recommendations to be made, including action plans that can be followed up. Membership may be recommended if work is required on an inspected property, depending on the severity of the non-compliance and the timescales agreed for the completion of any necessary work.
At the verification inspection suppliers must provide:
- a current gas safety certificate
- a current electrical periodic report
- an HMO licence if the property meets the mandatory licensing criteria
- evidence that the fire alarm panel (if installed) is serviced on an annual basis
- evidence that any deposits taken from tenants have been protected under one of the three approved deposit protection schemes
If Unipol has to chase this documentation (and membership is not granted until it is seen and checked) then a charge applies to cover the administrative effort involved in this. Generally, it is easier to either have these documents at the verification visit or to bring them into Unipol where they can be checked while you wait.
Most inspections go well and the report received by the landlord/agent following the visit is generally regarded as helpful. An example of a completed verification report can be downloaded here. The verification process is intended to ensure either that suppliers meet the standards or can be helped to do so and the inspections are carried out in the spirit of voluntary compliance that underpins the Codes.
In respect of existing members covered by the Code, Unipol reinspects 1 in 5 properties (or at least 1 in the event that a portfolio was below 5) of existing Code owners on a three year cycle.
All matters relating to licensing are referred to the relevant local authority for consideration, and if Unipol comes across any properties (accredited or not) that it thinks should be licensable it will refer details to the local authority for action.
The landlord is asked to provide a timetable for any work required in the first section of the report.
This timetable should be provided within 14 days. This is not to say that the work itself is to be completed in 14 days, merely an appropriate timetable provided. Clearly issues relating to matters such as fire safety should be addressed with more urgency than less risky matters.
Once a timetable is agreed, and the work completed, then dependent on the nature of the findings, a re-inspection may be required. During this very short re-inspection, the verifier will check to ensure that the required work has been completed to the expected standard.
If it is clear from the re-inspection visit that not all of the works have been completed, then a second re-inspection will be required and a fee of £75 will be charged to the landlord/agent for that.
This category only applies to a managing agent. Individual landlords must join all their properties to be members of the Code.
This scheme is for managing agents that are working towards full accreditation but where all of their properties are not yet at Code standard. Supporter members sign a bilateral arrangement with Unipol, which is reviewed annually, that means that an increasing number of their properties meet the standards over an agreed period of time. A sample declaration form can be downloaded here.
Supporters who constantly meet their targets can then gain full membership. Membership is for three years.
Unipol and the educational institutions recognise that managing agents working towards becoming full members should be recognised as such and advice to students stresses that these agents, and those who are full members, should be given preference over agents which have not joined any scheme.
Managing agents who are Supporters join individual properties to the Code and these must be displayed by them. The properties joined are fully covered by the Code and all the standards apply and their tenants have access to the complains procedure.
Those properties being managed by agents that are not badged as Unipol DASH Code do not fall under the Code, nor do "let only" properties and those let to non students.
Generally, for a managing agent to gain Supporter status Unipol has be convinced that this is a reasonable supplier with a fair proportion of their properties joining up to the Unipol DASH Code.
Verification processes for Supporters are the same as under the main Unipol DASH Code.