Countrywide and Foxtons have thrown their weight behind an idea to identify every single UK residential property with a unique number.
The agencies, along with Savills and a string of agency trade bodies, have signed a letter to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick highlighting the potential benefits of the Unique Property Reference Number concept.
UPRN allows each address in the country to have a unique number and can have ‘attached’ to that number the sort of activities and characteristics which agents need to know about - for example, planning permission for when it was first built and subsequent extensions, building regulations, council tax payments, utility providers, EPCs, health and safety checks on rental properties, and more.
Signatories to the letter include NAEA and ARLA Propertymark, Savills, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, The Lettings Industry Council, the National Residential Landlords Association, The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Scheme.
Andrew Bulmer, chief executive of the Institute of Residential Property Management - another signatory to the letter - says: “The UPRN is like attaching a number plate to a car. Instead we attach a unique number (up to 12-digits) to all things related to properties (fittings, fixtures, paperwork, surveys etc), so that each property can be uniquely identified with unparalleled accuracy.”
He continues: “If all the conditions outlined in the letter were to be met, we could proactively work towards the wholesale adoption of the UPRN. Implemented effectively, this could help position the UK as the world’s leading property market”.
Last summer the government opened the UPRN system - managed by a firm called GeoPlace, which has Ordnance Survey as its parent company - with the aim of ultimately allowing digital searches for properties producing more comprehensive information than in the past.
This week's letter to Jenrick claims the widespread market adoption of the UPRN would mean property legislation - say, rental licensing - could be more targeted, plus faster conveyancing and transparency in home sales.
The letter also calls for the government to do its bit for the adoption of the UPRN system. The agents and groups want government to ensure all data relating to properties should contain UPRNs - they already exist - with publicity given for their use in conveyancing and other transactions and rentals.
The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team is also backing the initiative, issuing a statement of support saying: “The widespread use of a Unique Property Reference Number has the potential to deliver many benefits across the residential property market. Importantly, a UPRN can offer tenants a greater level of protection against rogue landlords and help to reduce consumer fraud when buying or renting a home. The NTS Estate and Letting Agency Team supports the work of The Letting Industry Council in driving the adoption of the URPN across the property sector”.