The Working Group has reported. Now the lettings industry should get to work.

If you’re thinking the industry has had more than its fair share of changes recently, we suggest you brace yourself. A working group on the Regulation of Property Agents has just published its final report and more changes are likely to be on the way.

If you’re expecting howls of protest from this camp, you’ll be disappointed. We might not like the fact that change is being imposed, but we cannot fault proposals to create a more responsible and professional sector – it’s just a pity that regulation is deemed necessary to achieve this.

The working group was chaired by Lord Best and included representation from the National Landlords Association, ARLA Propertymark, Trading Standards and Citizens Advice amongst others. It has concluded that the regulation of property agents is a matter of great importance and has commended the Government’s decision to take this forward.

In short, the working group’s proposals include:

  • An independent regulator
  • A new, binding regulatory regime
  • Regulated persons or companies to be licenced
  • The introduction of a statutory code of practice in which qualifications will be required
  • An enforcement and redress system.

The aim of the proposals is to improve the experience of consumers when renting, letting, buying or selling property and is likely to apply to estate agents across the UK and to Letting Agents in England. It’s worth noting that the report also states that any legislation should allow for future extension to the regulations, specifically mentioning the potential regulation of landlords.

Qualifications and licencing make sense. We cannot expect to be treated as professionals unless we act as professionals, maintaining standards, updating our skills, acting with integrity and having a transparent and effective procedure for complaints. Similarly, we need to get behind any enforcement scheme, providing it is fair and reasonable.

It is not on the broad-brush recommendations that we should now be placing our attention. But rather we need to look at the detail. For example, there are proposals that the new regulator should also be responsible for Client Money Protection Schemes and that there should be a single ombudsman for property agents. The financing of such a scheme is also not decided nor is the potential of a role within the framework for some of our familiar trade bodies.

If you’d like to learn more, you’ll find the full report here. But remember these are suggestions from a working group and although they are recommended, they are not yet set in stone. Now is the time to study the proposals, offer your views on any aspect and help to shape the industry’s future.

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