In a surprise weekend announcement the government has almost doubled funding for the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team - the industry regulator.
Its funding has risen to some £500,000 a year, in the latest step in what the government statement calls “help [to] protect home buyers from rogue estate agents.”
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government this morning says that in 2017 NTSEAT issued 16 prohibition orders and this additional funding will “enable them to hire new staff to tackle problems during the home buying and selling process.”
In 2017 NTSEAT received 459 complaints, almost twice the 246 of the previous year.
The new funding will focus on three key areas:
- Rooting out what the government calls ‘rogue agents’ – giving the regulator the tools to step up its enforcement action by increasing the number of cases under investigation and the ability to issue more banning orders;
- Making fees more transparent – enabling the regulator to enforce new expectations on estate agents to disclose referral fees upfront so consumers know exactly where their money is going when recommended services; and
- Protecting buyers of new-build homes – enabling the regulator to investigate whether homebuyers are being provided with the right information and what could be done to improve the way new build properties are sold.
Housing Minister Heather Wheeler, says: “Making the housing market work is about more than just building homes, but helping hard working families buy and sell with confidence.
“This new funding will help ensure all estate agents are held to a high standard, reducing stress for people when making one of the most important purchases in their life.”
In the same statement the chair of National Trading Standards, Lord Toby Harris, says: “We are determined to ensure that consumers receive the protection they deserve when buying or selling a home.
“This extra funding is welcome and will allow the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team to do more to tackle the estate agents who flout the rules.”
This is the latest move by government to make the housing market work better for home buyers, with measures to professionalise the estate agent market announced last April.
A new national qualification is expected to be introduced later in the year to drive up standards among the 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country, with a quarter of sellers saying they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.