Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure
Note: These Rules are binding upon all Members, Employees and Representatives of the Association.
The rules contained in this Code of Practice form an integral part of the conditions of membership to the Residential Landlords Association Ltd (R.L.A.Ltd). In applying for membership each applicant agrees to be bound by them.
The Code of Conduct aims to achieve and promote the highest standards of conduct by members of the Association in order that the image and professional status of the private sector landlord may be improved and advanced.
These rules are also aimed at protecting the public against unethical practices and provide a means of complaint against any member-landlord who fails to honour them. By adopting these Rules it is our intention to promote good standards of accommodation and service, and to develop a useful and mutually respectful co-operative relationship with local authorities, local and national government representatives, and other agencies.
While the Association will use its best endeavours to inform its members of current and future legislation, it must be understood that this cannot be all encompassing, and it will remain the individual member's responsibility to obtain independent legal advice and guidance on all matters. We stress that members must not base any action on information given by the Association, its members or Officers, or from that contained in any material issued by the Association, without first seeking guidance as above.
These Rules relate solely to the way in which the Association requires members to conduct themselves in the activities as a landlord, property management agent, or letting agent, and must not be taken by clients, applicants, tenants, or others as in any way affecting their statutory legal rights or the legal relationship between them and any firm, company or member.
The term "member" in the Rules that follow denote Ordinary grade, Associate grade and Corporate grade members. In the latter case it also denotes - where appropriate- all partners and directors, who by being a Corporate member are members of the Association.
The Code of Conduct, and the Disciplinary Procedure, may be subject to amendment from time to time.
SECTION "A" - CODE OF CONDUCT
Rule 1 - General duty to comply with legal obligations
A member shall conduct his business so as to comply with all relevant laws.
Note: There has been no attempt to write all relevant and applicable laws into these Rules. It is the responsibility of the member to make himself aware of the laws, legislation, regulations and procedures, pertinent to his particular business and /or practice. The Association is prepared to provide whatever information and advice it can, but members should always seek professional legal guidance as the Association will not accept responsibility for any action that results in the contravention of any law, procedure or regulation based on information or advice given.
Rule 2 - Duty to abstain from dishonesty etc.
No member shall do any act (whether in the business of being a landlord or otherwise) which:
- involves dishonesty, dishonourable, or deceitful behaviour, or which is unfair to members of the public; or
- in any way brings the Association and /or its members into disrepute.
Note: The purpose of Rule 2 is to provide for disciplinary action to be taken against any member whose behaviour may adversely affect the public or the Association, including fellow members, but which is not covered under any other more specific Rule. It is not designed to restrict members from competitive business transactions or limit in any way the freedom or rights of the member as an individual. It is aimed only to protect the integrity of the Association and other members within it. This is the only Rule which applies to members conduct generally and is not restricted to his practice as a landlord only. Conviction on a criminal offence is not necessary for proceedings under the Rule as misconduct may be evidenced in other ways, and successful proceedings against a member in a criminal or civil action do not necessarily imply a breach of this Rule.
Rule 3(1) - Duty not to misdescribe membership
No member shall misdescribe his class of membership. No member shall display or publish or disclose in any form public or to Officers or members of the Association indicating that he is a member of the Association, or a particular class of member of the Association, if he is not such a member, or is in suspension of membership.
Note: This Rule applies to any form of disclosure or publication, including the printing and use of headed stationery, advertising, and during the procedure for application or the renewal of membership. As suspension from membership means that the member loses his rights to privileges it is important, however inconvenient, that stationery, etc. does not display the suspended members as if he were a member. If such a practice were to be permitted, suspension would lose its meaning and therefore its relevance.
Rule 3(2) - Duty to disclose change in class memberships
A member shall disclose immediately and in writing to the Secretary any change in the class of membership during his term of membership.
Note: This Rule makes it mandatory to disclose any change of circumstance that alters the member's class of membership from one grade to another.
Rule 4 - Duty to abide by the aims and rules of the Association
Every member shall, in the conduct of his business as a landlord or any other associated business, conform to of the Aims of the Association, together with these Rules and any other Rules and Regulations made from time to time by the Association.
Rule 5 - Duty not to seek or conduct business using improper means
A member shall not use any oppressive or improper methods to gain or transact business; or use any method that involves dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation.
Note: It is considered oppressive to seek or conduct business by methods that take an unfair advantage of an applicant's or tenant's or client's age, condition, infirmity, ignorance, or bereavement, or by any course of action that amounts to harassment. Likewise, members are not permitted to use any form of cheating or subterfuge in seeking or conducting business.
Rule 6 - Duty regarding a conflict of interests
A member shall disclose to his client or any tenant or prospective tenant any existing conflict of interest, or any circumstance that may involve a conflict of interest, in his dealings with his clients, or tenants or their associates.
A member shall disclose to the Secretary of the Association any existing conflict of interest or any circumstances which may involve a conflict of interest in his dealings with the Association or any of its members or their associates.
Rule 7 - Duty to confidentiality
Any member shall at all times respect the confidentiality of the Association its business or its members.
Note: Members are reminded that they have a duty to respect the confidentiality of the members within the Association, the nature of the business, and any details or discussions held formally or informally at meetings or otherwise. This Rule also prohibits the publication of any information, given verbally or in writing, by any individual member or by the Association as a whole, without first having sought and obtained written permission from the Officers of the Association.
Rule 8 - Property Management & Letting Agents General Duty
A member shall make himself familiar with all current legislation and codes of practice and changes affecting the same regarding and relating to the management and letting of property in his capacity as an agent and, in his dealings with clients and other agencies, A member acting in the capacity as an agent for the purpose of property management and letting will have appropriate professional indemnity insurance.
Note: Members are reminded that the Accommodation Agencies Act 1953 regulates the right to make charges to those seeking accommodation for rent.
Rule 9 - Duty to protect members of the public
A member, will have at all times an appropriate Public Liability insurance policy.
Note: This includes those members who are property management agents/or letting agents, as well as those who are landlords.
Rule 10 - Duty to act at all times without discrimination
A member will not discriminate in his dealings with clients and/or prospective and existing tenants, members of the Association or members of the public. All sections of the population will have an equal access to employment, lettings and tenancies, and no applicant or client or employee or tenant will receive less favourable treatment than others because of his or her colour, creed, ethnic or national origin, disability, age, sex, marital status, sexuality, politics, or his or her responsibility for dependants.
Note: Members will not contravene the Equality Act 2010; Sex Discrimination Act 1985; the Race Relation Act 1976; Disabled Persons (Employment Act) 1944 and 1958; Equal Pay Act 1970 (and Equal Pay Amendment Regulation 1983). A member will at all times conduct his business with the highest principles of social justice. The only exception to this general rule is where a member can satisfy the Association that the above legislation has not been contravened and that in offering a tenancy, employment or any other service, denying the same to a particular individual has occurred for reasons that are acceptable to the Association.
Rule 11 - Duty to assist and co-operate in disciplinary investigations
A member shall co-operate with any disciplinary investigation, replying to correspondence, in accordance with the current Disciplinary procedure Regulations. A member may attend the formal hearing of the Disciplinary Hearing Committee (D.H.C.) at which an allegation concerning his conduct is to be discussed, and that he has the right to be heard and to be represented. A member must abide by any finding, and pay any fine imposed on him no later than 28 days after the date of the decision The member must also abide by any conditions imposed upon him within the time limit set by D.H.C.
Note: This Rule requiring a member to co-operate with any investigation applies regardless of whether he has allegedly broken a Rule or Rules, and follows from each member's agreement to be bound by the Rules of the Code of Conduct which he agrees to abide by as a result of applying for membership. A disciplinary investigation may be instigated only when a formal complaint has been made in writing to an Officer of the Association. Complaints may be received from other members of the Association, prospective, existing and prior tenants of the member to which the complaint applies, recognised agencies and other bodies, and from members of the public.
Rule 12 - Duty to restrain from any act of harassment or illegal eviction
A member will not cause harassment to his tenant or instruct or undertake any action that involves the tenant being illegally evicted.
Note: This Rule restricts the member from unprofessional behaviour which may lead to harassment or the illegal eviction of his tenant. Such action need not necessarily be undertaken by the member personally in order for him to have contravened this Rule. The member's attention is drawn to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985 and the Housing Act 1988 for guidance.
Rule 13 - General duty to be familiar with legislation and conduct business and lettings within current and future legislation
A member will be familiar with all relevant laws and ensure that these laws are observed in full when conducting any business, whether in relation to property management or otherwise, and shall also ensure the same laws are observed by anyone acting on his behalf, whether employed by him or otherwise.
Note: This Rule applies to those laws and Acts and legislation that are relevant to the member's business and conduct but which may not be specified in any preceding or following Rule. While the Association will assist wherever possible with advice and information that is requested, it remains the member's own duty to make himself aware of current and future legislation pertinent to his business. In all cases and without exception the member is responsible for seeking independent legal guidance at his own expense in any action he undertakes.
Rule 14 - General duty to attain good standards of practice
A member will at all times aim to achieve good standards of practice in his capacity as a landlord, property management agent or letting agent. This will involve maintaining a professional and courteous approach to tenants, clients, and members of the public, and conducting himself in such a manner so as to encourage respect amongst all members of society.
Note: This Rule is intended to promote and improve the existing public image and status of the "private sector landlord".
Rule 15 - General duty to attain high standards of accommodation
A member will at all times aim to achieve so far as is practicable good standards of accommodation offered for renting to the general public. This will include meeting all existing and future legal or recognised minimum standards with regard to the type and nature of accommodation and its geographic location.
Rule 16 - Codes of Practice
A member who agrees to subscribe to any Code of Practice published by the Association will use their best endeavours to comply with the provisions of that Code.
General Note - References to compliance with laws and legislation do not extend to contractual matters.
SECTION "B"- DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE
This Disciplinary Procedure of the Residential Landlords' Association is an integral part of the Code of Practice and will be observed by all members of the Association.
The procedure that follows will be instigated when a formal complaint is received by the Secretary. A formal complaint must be in written form, signed by the person making the complaint, and it must include a contact address for further correspondence. No complaint will be entertained unless the complainant has already taken the matter up as a complaint with the member concerned. Full particulars of the complaint must be supplied to the member. The complaint will only be investigated if the member has responded to the complaint and the Complainant considers that response to be unsatisfactory or has failed to do so within a reasonable period of time (after having received at least one reminder in writing). The member will be expected to have responded in full within 14 days unless there is good reason for not having done so.
The Association's complaint procedure is intended to protect the reputation of the private rented sector generally and the Association and its members in particular. It is not intended to operate as a substitute for Court proceedings; nor as a means of alternative dispute resolution. This is particularly relevant where the substance of a complaint relates to a breach of contract (including tenancy agreements between members and their tenants and management contracts between managing agents and clients).
The Disciplinary Procedure is intended to ensure that all such complaints are dealt with swiftly and with due regard to each member's right to respond to any complaint made against him/her. Whilst every effort will be made to hear all sides of any grievance before a decision is made, it should be fully understood that the Disciplinary Hearing's decision is final and binding. There is an appeal against such decisions only where additional and significant evidence is made available in which case, and at the Secretary's discretion, a further hearing will be arranged to reconsider the matter.
Where a series of complaints is received regarding a member then, even if they are not complaints which would normally be formally investigated under this Code a complaint can be investigated. Normally, this will apply when a third complaint is received regarding a member and there have been two other complaints within the previous three years. The Secretary will determine whether to proceed with such a complaint in these circumstances.
Having received a formal letter of complaint the Secretary will record the date the complaint was received and confirm that the person(s) to whom the complaint relates is a member of the Association at present and was so at the time the grievance occurred. The Secretary will respond to the individual(s) making the complaint to inform them that a formal investigation is to be undertaken. The Secretary may decline to institute a formal investigation where:-
- The Complainant is making complaints to more than one organisation of which the Association is one.
- The complaint relates to a contractual matter.
- Where it is possible that dealing with the complaint may prejudice pending or future legal proceedings.
- Where insufficient information is provided by the Complainant.
- Where it may not be in the interest of the Complainant to pursue the complaint e.g. because it may cause deterioration in a landlord/tenant relationship.
- Where the complaint relates to matters outside the scope of the Association's Code of Conduct.
- Where there are particular matters which make it inappropriate for the complaint to be considered further.
Within 14 days of a formal complaint being received the Secretary will appoint a Director or other suitable person to investigate the complaint. The Secretary will write to the person(s) to whom the complaint relates to invite that person to respond to the complaint within 14 days.
The Investigating Director shall consider the complaint and decide.
- To dismiss the complaint.
- To seek further information.
- To hold a formal Disciplinary Hearing.
The Secretary will contact those involved notifying them of the decision of the Investigating Director
Step 3 (a)
If the complaint is dismissed, the Secretary will contact the person(s) who made the complaint informing them of the Investigating Director's decision. No further correspondence will be entered into and the investigation will be dissolved.
Step 3 (b)
If further information is requested, the Investigating Director will instruct the Secretary to contact those individuals necessary to obtain such information. Once this is received, the Secretary will relate it to the Investigating Director who will follow Step 2 again. If insufficient information is made available the Investigating Director will decide whether to hold a hearing based on the information that has been mad available or whether to dismiss the complaint on the grounds of insufficient information.
Step 3 (c)
If a formal Disciplinary Hearing is directed the Secretary will convene a Disciplinary Hearing Committee (DHC) consisting of at least 1 director of the Association (other than any Director who has acted as the investigative director) and the DHC will decide who is to be the Chairman if more than one director is appointed. If only one director is appointed then he/she shall be the Chairman.
Step 3 (d)
The Secretary will write to the parties, and to each member making up the D.H.C. Each of the above will be issued with (a) a copy of the letter of complaint any response and any related documentation ; (b) a copy of the Disciplinary Procedure; (c) a letter informing them of the time, date and place when the formal Disciplinary Hearing will be undertaken. The Secretary will also explain that if those invited cannot or prefer not to attend, they may submit a written response. The date of the hearing will normally be within 21 days.
The Disciplinary Hearing will take place regardless of the person(s) making the complaint or the person(s) to whom the complaint relates being in attendance, but providing that all members of the D.H.C and the Secretary are in attendance. If the hearing cannot take place it will be adjourned by the DHC or the Secretary for no longer than 14 days. The Secretary will record minutes of the hearing and those present. All discussions at the hearing will be directed through the Chairman. Anyone at the hearing who fails to observe this rule may be asked to leave. Both parties may bring with them one guest. The guest may act as their representative providing that the person they are representing is in attendance. Both parties may also provide witnesses to give evidence. Witnesses may only be called in to the hearing at the request of the Chairman with the agreement of the DHC. The procedure at the hearing will be as follows.
- The Chairman will open the Hearing by introducing all those in attendance.
- The Chairman will outline the complaint.
- The Chairman will read out or circulate any evidence or correspondence received by relevant person(s) not in attendance.
- The Chairman will invite both parties, in turn, to speak about the issue in question. Each party may request to bring witnesses into the hearing during this time. All parties will be given an opportunity to question the witnesses. Witnesses will be invited into the hearing one at a time.
- The Chairman will at an appropriate time adjourn the hearing so that the D.H.C can make their decision.
The D.H.C will decide, (a) whether the complaint is upheld; or (b) whether the complaint is not upheld.
For a complaint to be upheld it must relate to an issue contained in the Code of Practice or Articles of Association and be proved on the balance of probabilities to have occurred as stated. If the complaint is not upheld, both parties will be invited back into the hearing and the Chairman will inform them of the hearing's decision.
If the complaint is upheld the Chairman will invite each party back into the hearing individually to inform each of the hearing's decision and explain that written notice of the D.H.C's decision and any resulting course of action will normally be posted within 7 days.
Note: Any of the functions of the Secretary may be delegated to a suitable person who will act on the Secretary's behalf.