Recent steps have been taken by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to increase the professionalism of the estate agencies, such as the introduction of banning orders and a database to record those who have received one. This will hopefully bring us closer to putting a stop to rogue landlords and letting agents.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has announced on behalf of the government that another addition to this movement is to be made. Estate agents will now be required to have a personal qualification in order to operate. In addition, there is to be a clamp down on the lack of transparency involving fees. In particular, this will apply to referrals from solicitors, mortgage brokers and surveyors.
Founder and CEO of Emoov, Russell Quirk, has commented: “For far too long the estate agency industry has got away with providing below par standards to the determent of those it is supposed to support and serve. Hopefully, these new regulations will go some way in raising the bar and compelling those operating below it to get their house in order.
“The current process is outdated and works in favour of the agent not the consumer and this simply isn’t good enough when you consider the financial commitment required throughout the process.”
“Home buying and selling must be improved and by increasing the speed of a transaction, with the addition of a higher degree of certainty and stability, fewer sales will collapse, less money will be wasted and there will be less stress for buyer and seller alike.
“We’ve been working with the Land Registry, Nationwide and the Law Society to name but a few, as part of the Ministry of Housing Culture and Local Government, to provide guidance and advice on how to better the UK home buying and selling process. One area we’ve highlighted that is in dire need of improvement is the lack of regulations and qualificational requirements and so we are vehemently in favour of licensing agents and delighted to see this change in the industry.”
Rob Clifford, commercial director at property specialist SDL Group and CEO of estate agency franchise CENTURY 21 UK, has voiced that he is surprised it has taken the government so long to introduce this tougher stance on rogue estate agents.
He has commented: “It’s been 18-years since regulation and mandatory qualifications for mortgage advisers were introduced, so it’s certainly not before time. This is the last such industry with no barriers to entry and we’ve been left in a situation where an unqualified carpet fitter or a van driver can trade as an estate agent without evidencing competence. I’m not surprised many have been left wondering what on earth has taken so long to get to this position where the government is finally taking it seriously.
“What we need to remember is that there are many very good estate agents out there who are not professionally qualified or vastly experienced, but are actually doing a brilliant job. It shouldn’t be about driving these people out of the industry. Instead, we should be focusing on the ‘men of straw’ who can’t afford to run a competent business or compensate consumers who suffer failure. These are the ones who need to go.
“It will be interesting to see if this goes in the same direction as mortgage regulations, which started with a mandatory qualification and then moved on to professional indemnity insurance, the Ombudsman and eventually full statutory regulation. I guess time will tell but hopefully we won’t be waiting another 18-years to find out!”
Alongside the requirements for qualifications and a clearer specification of fees, other measures are to be announced. There will be an encouragement of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through, as well as reducing the likelihood of buyers being gazumped. For those looking for further information, there will be a timeline of 10 days set for local authorities.
They are looking to put a stop to the upper-hand freeholders and their agents have over leaseholders by requiring them to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee.
Acts such as the banning of agents will also be more efficiently enforced with the strengthening of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team.
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark has also commented on the MHCLG’s announcement to professionalise the market: “We have been campaigning for a more professional estate agent market for years, and are really pleased the Government is committing to this. For too long, unprofessional agents with no qualifications have been able to operate in the sector, and advise homeowners as they undertake the most important purchases and sales of their lives.
Our research has found that the process of buying a home is more stressful than starting a new job, undertaking home renovations or planning a wedding, so it’s important that agents are well-informed and professional, to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible. Enforcing compulsory qualifications will result in a fairer industry not only for consumers, but for the professional agents who have undertaken qualifications in order to deliver the highest standards every day.”