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New Regulator: Countrywide welcomes reform but warns it’ll be tough

Countrywide has thrown its weight behind the proposals for a new single industry-wide regulator taking on the roles of Trading Standards and ombudsman redress.

The proposals came last month from the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) working party and endorsed by the outgoing ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government shortly before the end of Theresa May’s administration.

But Paul Creffield - Countrywide’s group managing director - told Estate Agent Today that whilst the company fully endorsed the proposals, he was in no doubt as to the extensive call on training, time and costs that the new regulations would require from agencies if, as expected, they are likely to be in place within two years.

“It was be very testing. We’re really supportive of regulation because we believe it will help create a level playing field with all agents expected to have the same expertise. It’ll be very good for consumers too” says Creffield.

“Because of Countrywide’s scale, we’ve been consulted frequently on the proposals during their preparation, and we’ve conducted some pilot projects on some ideas” he states. 

“But logistically it will be really, really difficult. However, we’ve made a start and for example over the last 18 months - during much of the build-up to the lettings fees ban - we’ve been training all of our lettings staff who have agreed, up to specific ARLA standards” he adds.

Creffield says that even after recent branch closures there are some 10,000 staff at Countrywide, many of them consumer-facing in the trading of rental and sale properties - and thus likely to be required to pass qualifications as proposed by RoPA.

And he concludes: “Exactly what’s needed and the call it will make on the company will become clear when there’s more clarity on grandfathering” - that is, whether long-standing agents with substantial experience but limited or no qualifications will have to undergo the same level of training expected, for example, for new recruits to the industry. 

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.


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