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A new nation-wide scheme called SAFE Agent has been launched to ensure students are financially protected when paying deposits and rent to landlords.
The initiative has been set up in the wake of the recent economic recession, which saw many tenants out of pocket after their letting agent absconded or closed down without repaying deposits.
Currently, letting agents and landlords can voluntarily sign up to be part of a client money protection scheme, but the scope of these is wide, with varying levels of credibility making it confusing for first-time renters. Instead, SAFE Agent aims to bring all the chief client protection schemes together and award landlords who are members of the schemes one clear title – that of SAFE.
If a letting agent is registered as SAFE it means they are ‘Safe Agent Fully Endorsed’, and thus any financial transactions between the agent and a tenant are protected.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has thrown their support behind the initiative. In a recent statement they said: “NUS is proud to support the SAFE Agent scheme. All too often students can fall prey to letting agents who do not have client money protection.
“We know that the private rented sector is growing, with more and more people relying on rented accommodation, and therefore it’s vital that we have mechanisms in place to make this a safe and professional sector, and ensure that tenants are not left out of pocket.”
So far, 1,000 landlords and letting agents have signed up to the scheme and therefore accredited as SAFE. LUSU Living, however, is yet to sign up. Currently, it regulates the landlords on its books through Lancaster City Council’s accreditation scheme.
The SAFE scheme is also finding popularity with students. “It’s hard enough to find a house to rent in the right place, with enough bedrooms, that everyone likes, without having to worry that the landlord is trying to rip you off,” said Claire Braintree, a recent graduate of County College.
“I heard of a few stories of people who had problems getting deposits back, not in Lancaster thankfully, but other university cities.” Braintree went on, “this idea sounds like a great solution because it’s so easy. All a student needs to know is if the landlord is SAFE – and see the documentation to prove it – and that’s one less thing to worry about.”