Letting agents will be required to sign up to a redress scheme, in the face of proposals for greater uniformity within the industry.
Currently, letting agents have no formal training requirements to adhere to. Government debate and proposals could require agents to sign up to a member body, adhere to a code of conduct, and partake in continuous professional development (CPD) to ensure that best practice is followed and unlawful actions are stamped out. The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has its own redress scheme, and its own code of conduct which could easily be the foundation of letting agent legislation.
Government have released a statement explaining it is expected to formalise proposals later in the autumn when more redress schemes have been decided on. This will follow with a roll-out of measures that letting agents will have to take to be able to conduct business.
Recently, Scotland has put an end to agent fees and in Wales proposals for a national, mandatory registration and licensing scheme for landlords, letting and management agents in the private rented sector (PRS) are expected to be enacted in the next coming months.
Now letting agents in England are feeling the pressure. Shelter want to put an end to agent fees, ‘Which?’ want consumers afforded greater protection and landlords want assurances that they are putting their properties into capable hands. ‘Which?’ also suggest that letting agents should be more transparent in charges, something for which the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has created new guidance and proposed regulation.
Letting agent courses are run across the country by people like the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). However, as it stands, for a letting company to be ‘accredited’ only one member of the team has to have undertaken the course; this means a majority of letting agents at an organisation may know next to nothing. The new redress scheme proposed by government provides a clear basis to the level of professionalism that is expected when managing people’s homes and attending to tenants needs.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has received an increasingly high percentage of complaints from TPO. In fact, complaints reported by TPO to OFT have increased 26 per cent in 2011 from 2010 standards.
Number of complaints received (by TPO complaint system); you can find the below information in The Property Ombudsman annual report for 2012 on page 19:
- 2009: 5551
- 2010: 6054
- 2011: 7641
- 2012: 8019
The report reminds readers that the number of complaints against non-TPO members is increasing, which will affect the result. However, the number of complaints themselves represents a growing discontent growing within tenants, and an apparent inability of landlords to respond appropriately.
Dave Absalom, RLA trainer, recently said in his ‘Complete Letting Agents Course’: “My concern here is that, as a complaint cannot be made to the Property Ombudsman until the Agent complaint process has been exhausted, many agents are simply ‘fobbing off’ complaints.”
Creating better working relationships between agents, landlords, tenants, and authorities will only reap benefits for everyone with the housing market.
- Government statement and report on regulation of private letting and managing agents in England
- The Property Ombudsman code of practice for residential letting agents
- The Property Ombudsman annual reports
- Property management: good agents, bad agents
- Landlords welcome MPs’ calls to tackle cowboy agents
- Shelter want an end to agent fees
- Change with the times: Scottish PRS reforms