Some of the most radical reforms ever proposed for estate and letting agents are expected to be signed off today by housing minister Heather Wheeler MP.
The government-backed Regulation of Property Agents working party, known as RoPA, met for the final time last Thursday and is believed to have won unanimous agreement from its membership for the reform proposals.
The working party has been chaired by Lord Richard Best, currently chair of The Property Ombudsman scheme and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People. He has formerly led the National Federation of Housing Associations and the housing-focussed Joseph Rowntree Trust.
Members of RoPA include representatives from the NAEA, ARLA and TPO, several other trade organisations as well as pressure groups; it has met several times since its inaugural session last autumn.
It is widely expected that the government will rapidly endorse the recommendations being put to Wheeler today, with an announcement expected later this week confirming that the government will legislate to enact the proposals over the next two years.
The recommendations are expected to include:
- a new and overall regulator for the industry; it is so far uncertain how this will work in tandem with existing bodies such as the TPO, NAEA and ARLA;
- mandatory qualifications for agents and all those in ‘consumer facing’ positions dealing with buyers, sellers, landlords or tenants;
- whatever their previous experience agents will have to secure qualifications, so there will be no so-called ‘grandfathering’;
- every qualified agent would become ‘licensed’ and only license holders would be able to engage in a list of ‘reserved activities’ - core selling or letting activities;
- there will be substantial penalties for any agent without qualifications who attempts to undertake ‘reserved activities’;
- there will be a new industry Code of Practice with specifics to be worked out by current trade bodies such as the NAEA, ARLA, TPO and others;
- the regulator will be in place within two years and qualifications would roll out from that time.
These reforms are part of a wider-ranging series of government-led industry changes, some of which are still to be agreed - for example reservation fees, non-returnable deposits, possible log books for properties and so on.