An outspoken estate agent has given the government a clear message - get off our backs , ease the red tape and let our industry help the economy recover.
Trevor Abrahmsohn - managing director of high-end London agency Glentree International and one of the founders of OnTheMarket - says the recent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is merely the latest in a long line of regulations creating hoops that agencies and other businesses must jump through.
“I’m not saying that the consumer doesn’t need protecting ... but don’t you agree that with all the other suffocating regulatory restrictions this must be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’?” asks Abrahmsohn in his latest blog.
He says GDPR adds to a list including measures against data protection and money laundering, The Bribery Act, The Estate Agents Act, Right to Rent, fire regulations, Legionella assessments, electrical certificates, health and safety and others. Together, he says, they form a vice-like grip “which a python could only aspire to.”
He says his own agency Glentree has a perfect example of how regulation is strangling business.
“Glentree wanted to encourage a private wealth department of a well-known clearing bank to do business, with the idea for them to simply introduce potential clients to the business, who may like to buy or rent property in London and where they could be offered a convenient, ‘one-stop-shop, service.
“The plan was that Glentree would not take any deposit monies, since this would always be dealt with by the client’s independent solicitors.
“The bank, understandably, asked for Glentree’s accounts, which were given to them, and every interminable question about them and the shareholding structure of the company was answered. This involved the company’s solicitors, accountants and other professional input.
“This tortuous journey lasted over one year and when Glentree went back to the bank to suggest that the matter should now be brought to a conclusion after all this time, they responded by saying that since due diligence had taken so long, they needed another set of up-to-date company accounts, for compliance purposes.”
Glentree scrapped the idea at that point, telling the bank that bureaucracy and regulation were at fault.
Abrahamsohn says what he calls ‘the Know Your Client cure’ - in the form of due diligence about tenants, landlords, buyers and sellers - is now much worse than the ailment itself.
“Is it any wonder that the smooth flow of business is being asphyxiated by these inane regulations?” he asks.
He insists he doesn’t want a totally deregulated ‘Wild West’ but believes “something between this and terminal suffocation” has to be achievable.