ARLA and the NAEA Propertymark have written a uncharacteristically blunt joint letter to business minister Andrea Leadsom warning that business rates are driving estate agents off the high street and helping reduce employment within the sector.
Signed by both David Cox and Mark Hayward, the letter reflects the growing anger within the industry that the government is unaware of the perfect storm being faced by high street agents.
This includes being charged higher business rates than retail premises because agents’ branches are considered offices rather than shops; and facing both increased costs created by additional regulation and competition from online agents, who utilise home-based representatives rather than office staff.
“One of our members has told us that the amount they pay in business rates is greater than the annual profit made in a year,” the letter says.
It also suggests that this cost is beginning to impact employment levels; 3,000 fewer people were working within the sales and lettings sectors last year than compared with 2017, Propertymark claims.
The letter also points out that while agents support the government’s recent investment in towns and communities and Boris’s electoral commitment to ‘thriving high streets’, the cost of business rates threatens to empty the high street of estate agents.
“Propertymark urges the Government to extend the small business retail discount to include estate and letting agents in order to retain and promote growth not only of the sector, but the local high street, in turn improving the experience for homeowners and tenants,” it says.
Read the letter in full.