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Lettings sector to face huge reforms designed to weed out rogue agents

Housing ministry outlines compulsory code of conduct including mandatory training, new regulator and sweeping reforms of leasehold.

NIgel Lewis

lettings

A new compulsory code of conduct for agents backed by mandatory qualification for at least one member of staff and a new independent regulator have been announced for the lettings and property management sectors by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG).

The details of the new code will now be thrashed out by a working group of lettings, tenant and regulatory representatives, with proposals nailed down by early 2019.

The DHCLG announcement, which was released during the Easter break, revealed that it wanted to protect the UK’s nine million private renters from the unexpected costs, vague bills and poor quality repairs offered by rogue agents.

heather wheeler lettings“Most property agents take a thorough and professional approach when carrying out their business, but sadly some do not,” says Housing Minister Heather Wheeler (pictured, left).

“By introducing new standards for the sector, we will clamp down on the small minority of agents who abuse the system so we can better protect tenants and leaseholders who find themselves at the end of a raw deal.

Other measures outlined by the DHCLG include the promised reform of leasehold including a new system to help leaseholders challenge unfair fees, help to switch managing agents where the service is poor and a requirement for managing agents to undertake professional development and training.

The working group will also consider a cap or ban on the ‘additional charges’ many freeholders and leaseholders face including restrictive covenants, leasehold restrictions and administration fees.

Industry reaction

Gerry Fitzjohn TPO“This is incredibly welcome news to protect tenants and leaseholders from a small minority of rogue agents,” says Gerry Fitzjohn (right), Chairman of The Property Ombudsman.

“Tenants have little choice over which agent they deal with as they often choose a property first and then have to use the agent which is managing it. These reforms however, will create a level playing field for consumers who will finally be able to expect a consistent level of service and knowledge, regardless of which agent they choose. This will also help consumers feel more empowered to raise concerns if necessary.

“We also welcome the news that civil penalties will be introduced for those that fail to comply with Client Money Protection. The requirement to share data across providers, redress schemes and local authorities to ensure compliance will help with enforcement and protect consumers.”

Isobel Thomson imageIsobel Thomson (left), CEO of NALS, says: “We welcome the Government’s recognition of the current contribution that lettings and management firms play within the Private Rented Sector (PRS).

Creating a level playing field will eliminate the poor practice and dishonesty that currently tarnishes the sector and ensure a safe and fair experience for tenants and landlords.

“NALS has consistently called for regulation and unreservedly supports the Government’s announcement of its intentions and strategic goals. Agents who already submit to self-regulation should have nothing to be concerned about. NALS will continue to be at the forefront of discussions over the Government’s route map.”

 

April 3, 2018

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