Regulation of Property Agents - Is 2023 the year?
Regulation of Property Agents – Coming Soon?
The proposal to regulate the property industry started a while ago, and the announcement created a good deal of ‘noise’ within the ranks of established and young estate agents alike. Lord Best undertook an examination of the various facets of existing Consumer Protection law and the various bodies enforcing and implementing them in 2019 (54-page report). Obviously, just pre-Covid pandemic and it is now 2023 with no action, but our local MP, Lucy Fraser, was recently asked as a housing minister if it was still going to happen? The response was, “Yes, still have this in mind, and it will go ahead.” But then, in the way of all housing ministers, has been moved on.
Do I favour regulation? I do favour professionalism, integrity, knowledge, a high-level skill set, training in how to do things correctly and something for young sales negotiators to invest themselves in. Does that require Regulation to achieve? I suppose it does because being left to their devices means most won’t do the required training and reading. If regulation by a body that enforces this, then it’s a good thing.
There are existing bodies that set a code of practice for sales and letting agents. The Ombudsman for Estate Agents and the Property Redress Scheme, and membership of a scheme is mandatory to trade. The National Association of Estate Agents and the Association of Residential Letting Agents also have codes of practice that insist on honesty, integrity and that all staff are appropriately qualified and undertake training for continuing professional development. Membership of a redress scheme – OEA, PRS – is mandatory, but professional bodies like NAEA/ARLA under Propertymark are optional, which is not ideal.
BBC Radio 4 recently revisited a fraud expose’ from December 2022 and concluded “Unlicensed, unregulated and open to organised crime.” That was the damning conclusion on estate agency after the issue of licensing was thrown under the spotlight again. Somewhat extreme, and in the case they were highlighting where a homeowner was defrauded of their property while not living in it, there had to be some legal input to bring this about beyond the knowledge of most estate agents.
The proposal is for negotiators and managers to achieve a Level 3 vocational type qualification and partners, directors, a Level 4. The most important thing is that any new regulator has sufficient power to enforce this being carried out. Bringing all the powers under one roof, rather than separate organisations responsible for disparate parts, is a good idea, but it would need to self-fund in the same way.
I’ve been an agent since 1979/80 and traded in Ely for 33 years since 1990. I’m confident that nobody would suggest my firm and me personally would fit the Radio 4 image – and if it did, then who on earth would use us? As well as regulation and training, I think people should be using agents that have stood the test of time, had good reviews on sites like Feefo and regularly get recommended.
Rigorous training and continuing development are good things – come on government, get this moving!