Propertymark has told the government that it needs to introduce overarching regulation of agents now, because existing piecemeal provisions are unmanageable and unenforceable.
In response to a consultation process run by the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategies, Propertymark says regulation within the property sector would :
- protect the public on environmental, health and safety grounds;
- create value for money for the taxpayer;
- enable professionals to charge more for their services;
- protect consumers from receiving low-quality services; and
- provide training.
Propertymark tells the government: “The main rationale for regulation in the property sector is that estate agents working across the UK and letting agents operating in England and Northern Ireland are unregulated, which means anyone can set up a business.
“Outside of regulatory requirements for letting agents in Scotland and Wales, there are no minimum standards to work in the sector and there are no statutory rules to ensure agents are suitably qualified. Additionally, agents who are not members of a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards.”
The lengthy submission to BEIS includes strong support for mandatory qualifications for estate agents.
Specifically, Propertymark says: “We believe that qualification should be included in the overarching statutory regulation of the whole sector. Without minimum entry requirements to practice, such as a qualification and a code of practice, it means that consumers are potentially dealing with someone who does not understand the technicalities involved in buying and selling and renting property or understand how to analyse the level of risk to their business.
“Ensuring agents are suitably qualified and meet minimum competency standards is the only way to drive up standards of service for consumers and eliminate the bad practice in the sector.
“Regulation for the property sector will provide training and continued professional development for professionals working in the industry. This is important because sales and lettings are complicated tasks governed by complex areas of law. For instance, up to June 2015, there were 145 laws with over 400 regulations that landlords need to abide by to legally let a property in England and Wales.”
Interestingly, NAEA Propertymark breaks ranks with the two existing redress services by highlighting problems.
It says under current codes and legislation it is not clear to consumers who to raise a complaint with, plus there are gaps anyway in current redress structures, and the two existing redress schemes are inconsistent in how they handle complaints.
“Propertymark believes that all agents should adhere to an approved code of practice that can be used by the redress schemes to adjudicate consistently across the sector. An approved code will also ensure that agents can demonstrate a high level of customer service and protection, such as a robust and legitimate customer complaints procedure, which can be used to hold agents to account” the submission says.
Overall, the organisations tells the government department that it wants a new regulatory approach for the agency industry because the current piecemeal approach has become unmanageable and unenforceable.
“We believe that overarching statutory regulation of the whole sector is needed” it concludes.
You can read the full Propertymark submission here.