The first draft of the looming mandatory Code of Practice has been revealed this morning by its steering group, giving agents the first opportunity to see what they may soon have to adhere to in order to obtain and keep a ‘licence to operate’.
Agents also have their first chance to give their views on the document to a consultation on the document, which gives finalised details of the 14 recommendations within last year’s RoPA report put together by Lord Best.
“The new code of practice will look to set standards at a higher level than currently legally set,” says the steering group’s new chair Baroness Hayter (left).
“The ambition of the code is that it will become a requirement for obtaining a licence to practice in the future, which will increase trust across the sector.”
Failure to meet these 14 standards will have severe consequences for agents.
The code says: “A serious failure to meet these standards or a serious breach of regulatory requirements may result in regulatory or criminal action being taken against an agency and/or staff.
“A failure or breach may be serious either in isolation or because it comprises a persistent or concerning pattern of behaviour.”
The code will have two sections – ‘Dealing with Consumers’ and ‘Managing Businesses and Staff’ and will address key issues including encouraging and respecting diversity; treating consumers fairly; agent training and development, conflicts of interests, complaints handling, handling client money and data protection.
It will also set out standards for transparency of communication and reporting property safety issues.
Separate sector-specific codes will be developed later this year to sit under the main code covering areas such as leasehold and block management.
The main code will apply to all estate agents across the UK; letting and managing agents in England plus all others carrying out residential property agency work whether traditional high street, online or hybrid, even if it is not their largest or traditional core function.
The consultation will remain open for two months, closing on Friday 4 September.
The 14 standards
- Act ethically, with honesty and integrity.
- Act with due skill, care and diligence.
- Communicate clearly, accurately and transparently to represent correctly their service or product.
- Manage their businesses and staff effectively.
- Make appropriate arrangements to protect their clients’ money.
- Maintain appropriate accounts and records of their business activities.
- Ensure that all staff are qualified and capable to handle responsibilities delegated to them.
- Treat all customers fairly and equally.
- Report breaches of the relevant code(s) to the new regulator.
- Be open and transparent with the new regulator about matters that might affect their or others’ trust in the profession.
- Handle information sensitively and in accordance with data protection legislation.
- Seek to avoid conflicts of interest, and where this is unavoidable, declare all conflicts of interest and ensure these are managed properly.
- Have effective consumer complaints procedures in place.
- Comply with all relevant legislation.