News

Estate agent regulation: good or bad?

By Will Leyland, 11 April 2018

The 2018 Homeowners Survey, an annual study conducted by the HomeOwners Alliance and BLP Insurance and polled by YouGov, seeks to measure public sentiment towards home ownership, potential home ownership and other related matters.

According to the poll, which was released this week, 82% of the public are in support of a licence scheme for estate agents which would see them required to pass standardised tests before being qualified to practice.

There is a vast array of existing legislation and protections that govern how estate agents can practice their business, but the results of this survey illustrate the public consciousness for ethical and regulated estate agents.

It’s a far cry from five years ago when news stories of slum landlords and unethical estate agents dominated the news. Students, especially, were subject to some appalling treatment by landlords and agents at the time and although that hasn’t been entirely eradicated there can be comfort taken from the fact that the public now recognise the professional role that agents play in the property industry.

Agents’ fees are still a hot topic of discussion and with no progress from the government on its proposal to ban them, the focus has now shifted towards how agents are regulated and held to account if they don’t act in the best interests of their clients.

As the industry has now moved towards greater regulation there are fewer and fewer agents who could be described in derogatory terms, and the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has played a huge part in this.

With strict criteria for members to join and regular check-ups to ensure members are following best practice, tenants and landlords are now finding reassurance from doing business with its members.

That’s not to say that further regulation and recognition of the professional nature of the industry wouldn’t be welcomed by ethical agents across the UK, quite the opposite.

On Sunday, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid announced new measures to be introduced which will require agents to obtain a professional qualification and also disclose any payments received for referring customers to solicitors, surveyors or other affiliated industries.

“We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of ‘rogue agents’ and can trust the process when buying or selling their home,” said Javid.

There are almost 20,000 estate agents across England who will need to be covered under the new scheme which hasn’t had a date yet set for introduction. The government is also looking to give further powers to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so that it can carry out more enforcement procedures, such as banning some companies.

For those who are already trading with a good reputation, a membership to a trade body and with a good relationship with its customers, there should be little to fear from a further strengthening of industry standards.

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