These 14 are to be used by the future industry regulator to both authorise and oversee agents - both firms and individuals. The 14 are:
- Agents must act ethically, with honesty and integrity;
- Agents must act with due skill, care and diligence;
- Agents must communicate clearly, accurately and transparently to represent correctly their service or product;
- Agents must manage their businesses and staff effectively;
- Agents must make appropriate arrangements to protect their clients’ money;
- Agents must maintain appropriate accounts and records of their business activities;
- Agents must ensure that all staff are qualified and capable to handle responsibilities delegated to them;
- Agents must treat all customers fairly and equally;
- Agents must report breaches of the relevant code(s) to the new regulator;
- Agents must be open and transparent with the new regulator about matters that might affect their or others’ trust in the profession;
- Agents must handle information sensitively and in accordance with data protection legislation;
- Agents must seek to avoid conflicts of interest, and where this is unavoidable, declare all conflicts of interest and ensure these are managed properly;
- Agents must have effective consumer complaints procedures in place;
- Agents must comply with all relevant legislation.
The overarching code is proposed to have two sections - ‘Dealing with Consumers’ and ‘Managing Businesses and Staff’, and it addresses such issues as encouraging and respecting diversity; treating consumers fairly; agent training and development, conflicts of interests, complaints handling, handling client money and data protection.
It also sets standards for transparency of communication and reporting property safety issues.
There will also be ‘sector codes’ covering specific agent services such as leasehold and block management, which will be developed later this year.
“The new code of practice will look to set standards at a higher level than currently legally set. The ambition of the code is that it will become a requirement for obtaining a licence to practice in the future, which will increase trust across the sector” says Baroness Hayter.
“Input from consumers, stakeholders, interest groups and the industry is paramount to ensuring that the Code of Practice is balanced, fit for purpose and meets the requirements of a future Regulator.”
The consultation, which you can see here, will remain open for two months, closing on Friday September 4.
The steering group looking at the consultation and then creating the code are:
- Baroness Dianne Hayter (chair);
- Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government officials;
- Dallas Banfield of the First Tier Tribunal;
- Cecilia Brodigan of the ARHM;
- Andrew Bulmer of the IRPM;
- Mairead Carroll of the RICS;
- David Cox of ARLA Propertymark;
- Anthony Essien of LEASE;
- Alison Farrar of NTSELAT Trading Standards;
- Tim Frome of the Property Redress Scheme;
- Nigel Glen of ARMA;
- Peter Habert of The Property Ombudsman;
- Steve Harriot of the Tenancy Deposit Service;
- Mark Hayward of NAEA Propertymark;
- Chris Norris of the NRLA;
- Katrine Sporle, TPO;
- Liz Owen;
- Vivienne Sugar; and
- Isobel Thomson of safeagent.