Responding to a consultation from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategies, which calls for evidence on the regulation of professions, Propertymark warned that under the current system “anyone can set up a business” in England and Northern Ireland as an estate or letting agent.
What’s more, outside of certain requirements for letting agents in Scotland and Wales “there are no minimum standards” to work in the sector, nor rules to ensure agents are suitably qualified.
It argued there would be a host of benefits to come from regulation, ranging from ensuring consumers do not receive “low-quality” services, providing value for money to the taxpayer, and allowing professionals to charge more for their services.
In its submission, Propertymark emphasised that qualifications should be included in any overarching regulation of the sector, as without this it means that buyers and sellers are potentially “dealing with someone who does not understand the technicalities” involved in a transaction or rental, nor understand “how to analyse the level of risk to their business”.
It argued that ensuring agents are properly qualified and meet certain competency standards, it will drive up standards of service and “eliminate the bad practice” in the sector.
Propertymark highlights problems with the current redress system, cautioning that all too often it is not clear to consumers who they should raise a complaint with, while the existing schemes are “inconsistent” in how they handle complaints.
The trade body argued that if all agents followed an approved code, it could be used by redress schemes to deliver a more consistent approach, and hold agents to account when they fall short of the desired standards.
The submission concludes: “A new regulatory approach will protect consumers from receiving low-quality services because the UK Government cannot continue legislating in a piecemeal fashion.
“This approach is unmanageable and unenforceable as demonstrated by the significant increase in legislation governing the sector over the last few years but no corresponding increase in prosecutions. We believe that overarching statutory regulation of the whole sector is needed.”