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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Letting and managing agents in England face tougher regulation

Letting and managing agents in England face the prospect of having to abide by a new regulatory framework, in accordance with the recommendations of the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group featured in a new report released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The report comes as part of work to raise professional standards in the industry and includes the recommendation that all agents hold a minimum Level 3 Qualification to meet the standards of regulation.

Estate agents across the UK will also have to abide by higher professional standards due to the proposals made by the working group, which was set up by the housing minister, Heather Wheeler, in October last year

The idea behind the new regulatory framework is to create a platform that gives consumers confidence in the agent they are dealing, helping to stamp out bad practice and raise professional standards.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association and member of the working group, said: “Landlords are as much consumers of property agents’ services as tenants, so we’re pleased to have represented their views in the Working Group, and to have made an effective contribution to this report, which represents a broad consensus across all parties involved in the sector.

“We hope that the proposals outlined in the report will drive forward the professionalisation of the private rented sector, making it a better place for those who live and work in it. We were particularly pleased that the report went beyond simply looking at activities and placed a new emphasis on the importance of ethics and behaviour.

“But the new regulator will be toothless if the government continues to fail to provide the resources to enforce existing legislation, let alone any new requirements. Our research shows that local authorities are currently failing to enforce against rogue letting agents, with more than half not prosecuting a single letting agent in the four-year period from 2014/15 to 2017/18.

“This report provides a clear and effective structure for the future regulation the property sector and it makes sense to focus on the professional agency sector first. However, the onus is now on the Government to implement these proposals, and ensure the regulator is fully functional before rolling it out to cover self-managing private landlords.”

The key proposals made last year by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government were:

+ Scope of new regulations

+ Details of a new regulator to uphold them

+ Licensing proposals for all agents

+ Codes of practice to adhere to

+ Qualification requirements to operate in the sector

+ Proposals on leasehold and freehold charges

+ Assurances and enforcements

Director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, commented: “Any form of regulation is a step in the right direction and a step that the industry has been needing for a long, long time. Really, we would like to see this regulation stretch to all of those operating in the sector, whether they be a letting or estate agent, a property listing portal or a short-term letting site.

“To date, a lack of licensing, a code of practice to adhere to, and the requirement of qualifications to actually operate as a property professional have resulted in a number of below-par agents dragging the good name of the industry down with them.

“This clear show of intent from the government should help sort the wheat from the chaff, raising the operating standards of the industry and the service provided to tenants and home buyers and sellers across the nation.

“Hopefully, it equates to more than just hot air and the assurances and enforcement measures mentioned in today’s statement will be upheld to the letter.”

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