How does the Unipol / AfS Code work in practice?
The Code has four core components:
- Declaration – ie making a formal commitment
- Skills-based training
- Verification – ie checking compliance with the Code's property and management standards
- A complaints and tribunal system
Landlords or their agents can be accredited on a property-by-property basis or they can be accredited as landlords for all their student properties.
To join landlords fill in a declaration form stating that they agree to comply with the terms and conditions of the Code. Landlords join the scheme for three years at a time. (The Code is reviewed, consulted on and revised every three years.) Click here for detailed information on how to join the Code and gain accreditation.
A fee is payable to cover the cost of joining and processing the application. Fees due vary according to prior accreditation under other schemes and their level. Click here for further information on the grouping of accreditation schemes by level and on associated discounting.
Landlords applying to join the Unipol/AfS Code need to undertake and successfully complete a short skills-based online training course . The programme has been compiled in recognition of the strong consumer expectation that landlords are equipped with a set of skills to make them competent and professional managers.
The property-based accreditation regime operates through property inspections known as verification visits. Verification can be undertaken in one of two ways depending on the form of the landlord's application: either through the inspection of a property or, where a landlord wishes to accredit their whole portfolio, inspection of a sample of properties.
One out of every five properties are inspected. If any problems are identified further inspections can be carried out.
If a landlord is already a member of a scheme where inspections have taken place then this may count towards the Unipol/AfS Code.
Verification visits are undertaken by independent professional verifiers with experience in the sector. The strong evidence from other schemes is that almost all landlords find the visits helpful and useful.
Verification visits focus on the property's physical condition, how it is managed and customer satisfaction.
The verifier writes a formal report to record their findings for each property inspection. This is done according to a prescribed format. The report is issued to the landlord. Where the verifier identifies matters which need addressing, these are highlighted in the report as Action Points. Following consultation with the landlord, a deadline is attached to each Action Point stipulating when the identified works must be completed by. The timetable for completion is set in consultation with the landlord. Timescales are realistic and the intention is to help the landlord meet the standards required and not adopt an enforcing mentality more common elsewhere.
Verification reports are reviewed by a National Audit Panel, made of experts who ensure that the verification process is consistently undertaken and the methodology properly followed.
If a landlord is unhappy with their report they have access to the independent Tribunal which can review complaints.
A paper certificate is issued to each landlord accredited together with free key rings for each tenant and stickers that can be fixed within the property and any office to display accreditation.
Once granted membership of the Code, a landlord's compliance is tested periodically through further verification visits. In serious cases non-compliance can result in membership being withdrawn.
Click here for detailed information on how standards are checked through verification.
Complaints and tribunal system
The Code has a complaints procedure that is open to both landlords, tenants and ex-tenants. The first stage of any complaint is to the National Codes Administrator who will talk to all parties and try to get a resolution before proceeding further. Experience shows that almost all complaints are resolved at this stage.
If a complaint cannot be resolved in this way, it can be referred to an independent Tribunal for resolution. The membership of the Tribunal includes representatives of education institutions, landlords and students. It is chaired by a barrister with considerable expertise in the sector and its legal setting.
Click here for detailed information on the complaints and tribunal procedure and how to make a complaint.