Trade bodies and property firms have strongly welcomed the recommendations for root and branch reform of the agency industry - and have put themselves forward as key players in the ‘new world’ of regulation, licensing and training.
The proposals came from the Regulation of Property Agents working group, in a 534 page document released yesterday.
Sean Tompkins, the chief executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, says: “Ensuring consistent minimum standards across the sector for agents is vital to upholding the public interest. That's why the RICS congratulates Lord Best, working group members and the Ministry for these sound recommendations.
"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.”
The RICS statement points out that it is well positioned “to play a key role in the future regulation of residential property agents” and is “working to obtain recognition for the relevant RICS professional membership grades (chartered and associate), within the new regime and the recommendations published. We are also considering the development of a range of RICS vocational qualifications to meet the new licensing requirements, and to provide a stepping stone to gaining globally recognised RICS professional status.”
Meanwhile David Pilling, head of lobbying and policy at redress operator Ombudsman Services, says: “As the only redress provider to be involved in the working group, we believe that the recommendations contained in this report have the potential to make a significant and positive difference to consumers.
“We think the proposed regulatory body could play a key role in fostering a culture of openness, transparency and accountability across the property agent sector – ultimately raising standards and improving outcomes for consumers.”
With agent training being a key element of the RoPA proposals, The Able Agent is quick off the blocks publicising the ABBE Certificate in Property Advice and Practice (CePAP) - a Level 3 qualification registered with Ofqual.
The Able Agent direct Charlotte Jeffrey-Campbell says: “Even without today’s announcement, there are many core industry issues that come up again and again; namely training new starters and keeping existing staff up to date with legislation changes in both estate agency and lettings. In a difficult market place, agents need confidence advising customers and the skills to spot business opportunities….and in a marketplace where business owners have a genuine risk of a prison sentence and fines, training should be aiming to solve these real problems”
Meanwhile estate agents themselves have been muted in their response, with few going on the record.
“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” says Marc von Grundherr, director of London agency Benham and Reeves.
“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” he adds.
And Sam Mitchell, chief executive of online agency HouseSimple, has told his Twitter followers: "This is a positive step for the industry and we welcome regulation."
The National Association of Estate Agents has already made its views on the report clear.
It said yesterday: “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. Propertymark can support you and your organisation both with getting qualified and preparing for regulation.”
The Regulation of Property Agents working party recommends:
- a new independent regulator to lead a new public body to oversee a new regulatory regime for property agents;
- the new regulatory regime will be binding on companies, and certain individuals, that act as intermediaries to property transactions;
- those who are regulated will have to be licensed by the new regulator;
- the regulator will also be responsible for an overarching statutory code of practice, with different parts binding on agents depending on their area of work;
- a new ‘modular’ approach to qualifications, required for individuals within regulated companies “allowing agents to become proficient in those aspects of property agent work as suits the needs of their role and career, subject to minimum requirements”; and
- the new regulator is central to “a system of enforcement and redress which takes on, at their discretion, the support of national and local trading standards, of redress schemes, and of professional bodies.”
You can see a full summary of its proposals here.