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By David Westgate

Group Chief Executive, Andrews Property Group

OTHER FEATURES

The government must stop using agents to carry out their dirty work

I don’t believe it’s unfair to state that our government, indeed, the entire political establishment is in some turmoil at the moment.  

Quite what will happen between me writing this and you reading it, is anyone’s guess. It’s therefore maybe understandable why in recent times government has palmed more and more tasks off to third parties.  

Let’s face it, when a friend, family member or colleague is going through a rough patch, the first thing we offer to do is help by taking something off their plate.  

It is, however, inexcusable to expect those of us in the property sector to carry out work that government isn’t prepared to, or simply can’t afford.

The recent news that the High Court had deemed the government’s Right to Rent policy a breach of human rights led me to consider this issue in more detail.

*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group

Leaving the rights and wrong of this policy to one side, the simple fact is that property agents are not Border Force Officers. Our area of expertise is in knowing and understanding the property market in the local area where we operate and in delivering a service to clients that allows the process of moving home to be as stress-free as possible; it is not moonlighting as experts in matters of residency, or even national security.

I’d argue, and I’m pretty certain that I’m not alone here, that the same can be said for anti-money laundering. HMRC’s current crackdown focused on estate agents which is aimed at ensuring they’re registered under the appropriate rules and carrying out the necessary due diligence, while grounded in a certain level of sense, again places undue pressure on an industry already under strain.

Further examples in a similar vein could include the Financial Conduct Authority’s pushing of lending control through agents with the additional pressure that brings, or the introduction of the tenant fee ban which now hurtles towards us with unrelenting speed.

The fact remains though that these policies are not left at the door of agents because that is where responsibility is best placed, but instead because such policies are laden with controversy and delivery costs that the government simply can’t (or wont) carry.

So, what’s the solution? Well if I had a definitive answer to that, the chances are I wouldn’t be here debating the subject now. And perhaps that’s exactly the problem.

At the most basic level, many policies of this ilk are grounded in the best of intentions. It’s difficult to argue against any policy that ensures a level playing field to all those that wish to live and work here and are entitled to do so; or against a system that aims to wheedle out those of unscrupulous and criminal ways who use property transactions to conceal their true activity.  

The disconnect, unfortunately, lies somewhere between the intention and the execution. While there are government agencies and representatives far better placed to oversee the successful roll out of such policies, insufficient public sector investment means the responsibility has fallen elsewhere: in the case of those referenced, to those of us within the property sector.

Whether it’s agents who have an already demanding day job to carry out, in increasingly uncertain times, or landlords who get a bad enough press as it is and currently risk being unwittingly seen as discriminatory, I can’t help but think that we’ve been placed as the fall guy in these instances.  

So, simply I’d like to say to the government, ‘leave us to do what we’re good at, and we’ll leave you to do likewise.’  

Ah, and therein lies another issue… 

  • Chris JaiBahadur

    Its a dilemma and the cost we incur should be covered by the government if we are to attempt to do their job. I have just had to pay out £230 to the government for their AML supervisor which is a government department not to mention setting up systems to cover risk assessment staff training and so on.

    As for the referencing fee being abolished to which no tenant has ever complained about paying well that has led me to lose a member of my admin staff.

    Like the debacle of dare I say the word BREXIT this parliament are shirking their responsibilities. And in addition happy to give them selves a £2500 salary increase.

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