Property agents propose new sector regulator

The Regulation of Property Agents working party has proposed the formation of a new regulator that would oversee a new regime for all property agents.

The party was launched last year by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, and comprises a host of sector trade bodies, including RICS, Arla Propertymark, and the national landlords association.

Along with this proposal are a series of other suggested elements for this new regulator, including the desire for it to be held responsible for a statutory code of practice, and to devise a syllabus for a modular approach to the qualifications which will be required for letting and estate agents.

The party would also like to see the regulator demand transparency and use of leasehold and freehold charges, and for it to “have a range of options for enforcement action according to the seriousness of the infringement and how regularly is has occurred.”

NAEA Propertymark chief executive Mark Hayward and ARLA Propertymark chief executive David Cox in a joint comment say: “This is a significant moment for those in the property industry and a huge leap forward in stamping out bad practice.

“We have long called for government intervention to ensure everyone in the industry is licensed, adheres to a strict code of practice and holds at least a Level 3 qualification, A-level.

“Following the extensive considerations by the working group, it is now for government to create the structures for a properly regulated industry, whose professional knowledge and skills are trusted and respected by all.

“These are substantial changes which will require agents to start making preparations now to ensure that they are well placed for when these proposed qualification requirements are introduced.

“While we anticipate that the need for property qualifications will be phased in, we advise agents to get ahead of the competition and to stand out by adopting the new requirements early.”

Benham and Reeves director Marc von Grundherr adds: “Any form of regulation is a step in the right direction and a step that the industry has been needing for a long, long time.

“Really, we would like to see this regulation stretch to all of those operating in the sector, whether they be a letting or estate agent, a property listing portal or a short-term letting site.

“To date, a lack of licensing, a code of practice to adhere to, and the requirement of qualifications to actually operate as a property professional have resulted in a number of below-par agents dragging the good name of the industry down with them.

“This clear show of intent from the government should help sort the wheat from the chaff, raising the operating standards of the industry and the service provided to tenants and home buyers and sellers across the nation.

“Hopefully, it equates to more than just hot air and the assurances and enforcement measures mentioned in today’s statement will be upheld to the letter.”

RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins comments: “Housing is central to the welfare of society, so ensuring consistent minimum standards across the sector for agents is vital to upholding the public interest.

“The process has helped to highlight the leadership that the chartered surveying profession demonstrates through its long-standing commitment to upholding the public interest, through effective, independent regulation.

“This is clearly reflected in the report, which has recommended that the new state regulator should be able to delegate regulatory functions to a professional body which can show sufficient regulatory independence and competence in that area.”

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