Agents in the UK are calling for the tougher regulation for residential lettings and property management to be extended to include estate agents.
A consultation has been opened by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as part of a crackdown on escalating leasehold charges in England and the regulation of both letting and management agents.
But the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) says that all agents should be regulated and required to be qualified. It is calling for the DCLG to widen the scope of his planned changes to cover the whole of the housing market.
David Cox, chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), both welcomed the consultation in a joint statement.
‘We have long called for greater regulation of the housing sector. It will give consumers greater control over who manages their property, create long needed transparency, and raise the bar for those wishing to work in the housing sector. However, it’s concerning that estate agents don’t fall under the Government’s initial scope and we urge ministers to widen the remit to include the whole housing market,’ they said in a joint statement.
‘We are committed to ensuring consumers receive the best level of service when looking to buy, sell, rent or lease a property. Our members are required to have deposit and client money protection schemes in place and undertake regular training. However this doesn’t stop some rogue agents from giving the industry a bad name. Blanket regulation is the right approach if we are to give consumers the confidence they deserve and reassurance that they will be treated fairly, no matter which agent they use,’ it added.
The consultation, which ends on 29 November 2017, aims to establish if a regulatory overhaul of the sector is needed, what measures are needed to protect consumers from unfair costs and overpriced service charges and ways to place more power in the hands of consumers by giving leaseholders more say over their agent.
It will ask if a new independent regulatory body is needed and if separate bodies should be established, for both leasehold and private rented management, and letting agents. It has been widely welcomed.
‘We fully support stronger lettings legislation to clamp down on the small minority of rogue agents and ensure that any fees charged within the industry are fair and transparent. Ultimately tenants should feel confident that the homes they pay for are safe and meet clear minimum standards and that the agents they deal with are fully qualified and regulated to practise,’ said Martyn Alderton, national lettings director for Your Move and Reeds Rains.
Richard Daver, managing director for managing agents Rendall & Rittner, said regulation of the property management sector is long overdue. ‘We are pleased the Government is looking to put an end to rogue agents, who have little or no experience, and give the profession a bad reputation. We welcome the increase in standards and transparency that these regulations will bring to the industry,’ he explained.
He pointed out that the firm is already a member of ARMA, and is ARMA Q accredited, which requires adherence to strict standards. ‘These are in place to ensure our developments and residents are not only secure, but that leaseholders are paying the correct fees at the most cost effective prices,’ he added.
Enforcing transparency is the best way to give landlords, renters and leaseholders greater confidence that their managing agent is acting professionally and ethically, according to Adam Joseph, chief executive officer of the Happy Tenant Company.
‘Whilst it may only be the minority of unscrupulous agents that load invoices with excessive charges for menial tasks, it tarnishes the reputation of the whole sector and must be stopped. Landlords and tenants should be able to see invoices from contractors and, in most cases, be given the option of two to three quotes to choose from before the work is carried out, particularly on more expensive maintenance works, such as boiler installations. Proptech software has made the sharing of maintenance works and associated costs really easy to facilitate, and any reputable managing agent should be happy to disclose all costs,’ he pointed out.