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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Mandatory qualifications for agents “within two or three years”

The mandatory qualifications expected of agents have not been forgotten and will come into effect in two or three years.

That’s the view of Mark Hayward, outgoing chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents. He was a member of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) working group which reported in summer 2019.

Addressing an industry webinar yesterday, Hayward - who says he is in touch with the government on a weekly basis - predicted that while the government is clearly pre-occupied with Coronavirus and Brexit, the RoPA findings are still important to the government and its Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

“It’s still very much on the agenda. It’s just the precise timing that’s the issue” Hayward told webinar attendees.  

“It’s something that the government wants to move forward, it’s got cross-party support so it will happening. It just needs primary legislation, and finding time for that is difficult” he continued.

In his update on progress on RoPA, Hayward said that some work had started on a code of practice for the agency industry under the leadership of Baroness Hayman; a steering group to consider a new code has been formed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and The Property Ombudsman, with Propertymark, Safeagent, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the Association of Residential Managing Agents and the Property Redress Scheme also represented.

“The existing Property Ombudsman and NAEA Propertymark codes will be surrendered to the new industry regulator when that person’s appointed” said Hayward.

The outgoing NAEA chief executive said that he believed an announcement on the identity of a new regulator would be made within the next few months, with the legislation required to enact the formal qualifications and other recommendations taking “two to three years” in total. 

Hayward predicted - but could not speak on behalf of the government - that once progress was definitely underway, agents would probably get some two years in total to achieve the qualifications necessary. 

A number of industry training suppliers offer Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications which lie at the heart of the RoPA recommendations.

Here’s a reminder of the RoPA recommendations made some 15 months ago:

Scope of new regulation: “We recommend that all those carrying out property agency work be regulated (including auctioneers, rent-to-rent firms, property guardian providers, international property agents, and online agents)” but this regulation will not extend to property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla nor to the Airbnb-style short-let sector.

“However, we recommend that the legislation required to regulate property agents should allow for future extension to the scope of regulation (e.g. to include at a future point regulation of landlords, freeholders and developers – as well as retirement housing managers and Right to Manage companies).”

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The new regulator: “We do not consider that an existing body could take on the role of the new regulator. Therefore, Government should establish a new public body to undertake this role. The new regulator should be established and run with regard to general principles of good governance, including: independence, openness and transparency, accountability, integrity, clarity of purpose and effectiveness. The new regulator, through its board, should be accountable to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. It should publish an annual report on its progress in raising standards of property agents, using agreed key performance indicators – including customer satisfaction …

“We recommend that the new regulator take over responsibility for the approval of property agent redress and client money protection schemes. The new regulator should have the power to appoint a single ombudsman for property agents, rather than competing redress schemes, if they believe this to be the best way of improving standards.”

“The new regulator should be able to consider complaints from all sources. Where solicitors, lawyers or other professionals have evidence of possible illegal agent behaviour, they should be obliged to present it to the new regulator.”

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Licensing: “To confirm appropriate qualifications and credentials, property agencies and qualifying agents should be required to hold and display a licence to practise from the new regulator. Before granting a licence, the new regulator should check that an agent has fulfilled its legal obligations (such as belonging to a redress scheme and submitting a copy of their annual audited accounts to the new regulator) – and that they have passed a fit-and-proper person test. We recommend that the new regulator should be able to vary licensing conditions as it sees fit and that it maintains accessible records of licensed property agents.”

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Codes of Practice: “Codes of practice set out clear standards of behaviour. The Government has already committed to requiring that letting agents adhere to a code of practice, and we recommend that all property agents be required to do so. There should be a single, high- level set of principles applicable to all property agents which is set in statute: the ‘overarching’ code. Then, underneath, ‘regulatory’ codes specific to various aspects of property agent practice, binding only on those providing these types of services.

“Key principles for the ‘overarching’ code should include that agents must act with honesty and integrity; ensure all staff are appropriately qualified; declare conflicts of interest; and have an effective complaints procedure in place. To develop and maintain the ‘regulatory’ codes, the new regulator should establish a working group for each sector of property agency to work up sector-specific detail.”

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Qualifications: “In the new regime, every property agency should be responsible for ensuring their staff are trained to the appropriate level and clear oversight arrangements are in place for junior staff. To ensure levels of qualification are appropriate yet proportionate, the working group recommend that licensed agents should be qualified to a minimum of level 3 of Ofqual’s Regulated Qualification Framework; company directors and managing agents should be qualified to a minimum of level 4 in most cases.”

The new regulator will be expected to develop a system of qualification quality control.

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Leasehold and freehold charges: “The new regulator should be given a statutory duty to ensure transparency of leaseholder and freeholder charges, and should work with the sector (property agents, developers and consumers) to draw up the detail of the regulatory codes to underpin this aim as it applies to property agents … We recommend that the new regulator takes over from the First-tier Tribunal the power to block a landlord’s chosen managing agent where the leaseholders have reasonably exercised a veto. We also recommend that the new regulator provides information on managing agent performance to allow landlord freeholders - and where relevant, leaseholders - to make an informed choice of managing agent.”

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Assurance and enforcement: “We recommend that the new regulator should have a range of options for enforcement action according to the seriousness of the infringement and how regularly it has occurred. These options should range from agreeing remedial actions and issuing warnings up to the revocation of licences and prosecutions for unlicensed practice.”

“The new regulator and other bodies (such as Trading Standards and redress schemes) will need to share information and work together effectively. There should be a system of flexible working between the new regulator and Trading Standards teams, and the new regulator should set out guidance clarifying their own and Trading Standards’ roles with regards to enforcement action to avoid duplication.”

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You can read the full RoPA report here.

Poll: Are mandatory qualifications for agents a good thing?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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    No it won’t. They’ve been talking about this for many many years but it never happens.

  • charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    I was chatting to the department responsible and yes it’s on hold as staff resources are stretched but they have a very clear appetite for it to happen. Not it’s still good to have qualified staff anyway! Our qual (CePAP) teaches the law and sales skills and has proper business value in helping staff be better sales people.

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    Hope you see a surge in take up Charlotte for your courses as agents switch onto the need to get on with the required qualification.

     
  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    I think it is an outrage that tens of thousands of pounds has been spent by agents on getting RoPA qualified, when it is just a talking shop. Propertymark should refund this money, await statute, which by my calculation could be 48-months or never, and then, the question is why should Propertymark NAEA be the gatekeepers who facilitate 'training' and agents can not avail themselves of other bodies?

    As an agency and proptech consultant, I am all for training and development, but this posturing that keeps agents in fear that they need to get their A' level in agency 'or else' is wearing a little thin. With the obvious shift in the estate agency paradigm, prompted by WFH culture and Covid-19, the real focus for industry thought leadership should be around AI and the use of technology, and helping agents make the change from legacy groundhog systems to being more connected to their clients and ensure their businesses will thrive in the new world of technology, that is eating many agents lunches.

    charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    People can use other bodies - it’s just Propertymark are shouting loudly!! We are an alternative to Properymark - better in my eyes as we cover estate agency, lettings, sales skills and customer service in one RoPA ready qualification - so regardless of RoPA it’s a qual that actually adds vale to your team/ business. The Able Agent !

     
  • icon

    I do not see what difference a qualification will make , The most difficult part of the job is gaining instructions. If a house is on at the right price it will sell. Negotiating with a buyer is the easiest part of the process.
    Valuations are subjective opinion. There will always be differences in opinion. Some agents will still overvalue to get an instruction.
    The only thing I think agents should get more knowledge of is legal issues and what a solicitor can / should to to resolve them.

    charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    So choosecacqualificatio that trains in these topics as well as law.

     
  • icon

    I personally think Estate Agents have enough stress to deal with with at present with Covid & Brexit and now the government want us to take mandatory qualifications. We could see good agents out of the industry all because of an exam. A wealth of experience in my opinion is better than someone who comes straight out of school and passes an exam. I think this is just another money making scheme and of course NAEA, ARLA & property mark want us to take the exam and pay for their study material. A Lot of unanswered questions yet again from the government.

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    As an estate agent who has been practising for over 20 years this will be the last straw for me, in over 20 years I have never had one complaint, I am a Member of the NAEA, regulated, fully compliant with HMRC AML SUPERVISION and been running my own estate agency for over 14 years in a small town that has approximately 5 other estate agents, with brexit, covid and all estate agents fighting for the business (not including competing with the hybrids) our fees have not increased and I am poorer now than I was 14 years ago. Now they want me to go and do more exams and more regulation that will no doubt cost more money including yearly costs it really isn't worth it for me anymore and I no longer enjoy estate agency due to the constant worry of not just the regulation but the fact its a race to the bottom on everything. We had an HMRC AML inspection that we passed with no issues but the worry was alot for very little reward now. I have started my own video and marketing company and I will have no worries with all the regulation and will just have to submit my accounts every year and have public liability insurance, all income will then be my own and I wont have to worry about all this new regulation. Once I have built up this new company within the next 12-24 months I will give up estate agency for good and will be glad to see the back of it.

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    Agree - Paul I got out of it and have not missed it for 1 single second. I would rather not have a job.

     
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    The problem is doogooder people who decide to form a "body" and then to make it pay for themselves, they lobby the government to make it compulsory as that's the big money ticket. The government being people pandererswith housing give in with little thought. Most of the regulation is BS at best.

     
  • icon

    it's absolutely ridiculous, when there are thousands of unlicensed unqualified and useless Private landlords who just do as they please. How about getting a level playing field and get Landlords regulated and licensed.
    Are the likes of all the online agents Rightmove etc being treat the same RM now employing a advisor to the industry David Cox who is going to be given Advice to agents via RM.

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    • 29 October 2020 11:01 AM

    As a LL I couldn't agree with you more.

    Good LL have nothing to fear from a register and licensing system which would cost £100 for each property and per LL every 5 years.

    I contend as you do regarding training.

    It should be a legal requirement that EVERY LL attends a CPD course every 5 years for at least 35 hours of training.
    .
    Just like every lorry and coach driver now has to do now.

    For any new LL they to be required to complete the CPD training BEFORE they let a property.

    There will be many willing to train LL etc
    There are 2.5 million LL that would need to undergo training

    Many of the trainers could come from within the EA/LA industry with of course a suitable syllabus arrived at after all industry participants had contributed to it to what they consider appropriate.

    I consider CPD training for LL should be introduced now along with a National LL register.

    However the logistics of this are enormous.
    It took over 10 years to have every lorry and coach driver undergo the CPD training!

     
  • icon

    It’s a disgrace who wants to sit exams when you are nearly 60. I am a Director of my own company so probably have to do Level 4. Been in the industry for 25 years I certainly do not want this to be in place. We are trying to run and build our business we do not need the extra pressure to study many hours to take an exam. I think experience goes a long way.

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    Totally agree Nicola, trying to run a business, stay compliant, compete with the online agents, HMRC Supervision and training and now this, think for me (I am 43) a career change will soon be on the way. Huge regulation for now very little reward.

     
  • icon

    Yet another body, trying to exist by touting the government to force people to be members. Waste of time as usual. I see people with MNAEA etc and always think why bother, it's hardly the same as ACA or similar.

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