The rules and regulations surrounding letting, managing and selling property are constantly evolving and it is vitally important for letting, managing and estate agents (“Property Agents”) to keep up to date with these changes.
Currently, no specific qualification, training or experience is required to become a Property Agent and they are not subject to compulsory standards of practice. This can sometimes result in a sub-par service which is reflected in a low level of consumer confidence in the industry.
Now, the government is proposing the regulation of Property Agents. They have commissioned a report which includes representations by the RICS, ARLA, NAEA and the Leasehold Advisory Service. The report recommends that:
- all those undertaking property agency work should be regulated;
- legislation should allow for future extension to the scope of regulation, to include landlords and developers, as well as retirement housing managers and Right to Manage companies;
- the regulator should be a newly established public body that would be funded by those it regulates, with the power to appoint an ombudsman for Property Agents;
- options for enforcement should range from issuing warnings up to the revocation of licences and prosecutions for unlicensed practice. It also envisages that infringements should be publicised. A right of appeal through the First-Tier Tribunal would also have the power to consider applications for judicial review against the new regulator;
- every agency must ensure that their agents and other staff are trained appropriately. It recommends that licensed agents should be qualified to a minimum of Level 3 of Ofqual’s Regulated Qualification Framework (equivalent to an A-Level). This would apply to those already in the industry, regardless of experience as well as those who join the industry following the reforms, although there is likely to be a level of phasing in of the qualification requirements.
With so much focus currently on Brexit, the regulation of Property Agents may not be the most pressing legislative issue that the government currently faces. However, as the theme does enjoy cross-party support, it seems that regulation is very much on the way.