Midgley: ‘Agent regulation must not make a difficult job even harder’

The Neg catches up with Safeagent's new Chair, John Midgley for some characteristically straight talking about the lettings industry.

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John Midgely is the famously straight-talking property management senior who is now Chair of letting agency accreditation scheme Safeagent. He’s not afraid to discuss the challenges the industry faces and The Neg got some characteristically honest answers.

Q: Why do agents need safeagent when there’s already several other lettings industry schemes and associations?

“The key points are that we’re a not-for-profit organisation, so we have less of a commercial bias than some of the others and because we’re smaller, we have a more personal relationship with our members,” he says.

“Also, we pride ourselves on good customers service – and we’re not about complicated rules and regulations but instead supporting agents when they need help, and providing them with training so they can avoid those issues in the future.

“We don’t try and provide broad generic training but instead very the specific courses our members ask for.”

Q: You say safeagent wants to make the market better for everyone including agents – so do we really need more regulation via RoPA and the Renters (Reform) Bill?

“We have played a part in improving the sector including of course compulsory Client Money Protection, but everyone needs to be careful about more rules – the majority of agents do a demanding job in difficult circumstances but are let down by the minority of rogue agents and landlords out there giving the industry a terrible name,” he says.

“safeagent supports regulation but it musn’t stifle the industry and make being an agent even more difficult and costly; I don’t think that’s what anybody wants – letting agents for example already have 170 pieces of legislation to comply without any more being added.”

Q: So, you’d be against the Renters (Reform) Bill proposals then?

“It’s difficult to comment on what is really just speculation at the moment until the final version of the Bill becomes law,” he says. “That speculation is already doing a huge amount of damage to both agent and landlord confidence as nobody seems to know what’s going on or when it’s going to happen,” he says.

“It’s causing some landlords to bring forward their plans to sell their properties and also annoying tenants who are being given ‘carrots’ by Ministers but then seeing them withdrawn.”

Q: Do you agree that too many agents are unaware of the regulations?

“Yes, I would agree and that’s why safeagent exists – to ensure our members know this stuff, although I wouldn’t go as far as the politician who recently said agents should have to have a degree to work in the industry – that was ridiculous,” he says.

“What’s annoying is that we have a government who said they’d sort out the industry via RoPA but seems incapable of doing anything about it.”

Q: Can there every be enough homes to rent in the UK – why is supply so thin?

“Thinking in Whitehall isn’t helping – politicians of recent seem focussed on getting people onto the property ladder at the expense of the private rented sector, and the Renters (Reform) Bill isn’t helping here,” he says.

“In my experience many people are more than happy to rent all their lives so we need to supply homes for them and therefore we need political action to persuade more landlords to buy properties to rent, not fewer.


John Midgely recently retired after a high-level career in property management, latterly heading up industry behemoth Touchstone which has some 180,000 properties under management including residential and commercial premises. He has been involved with Safeagent since 2014 but was made its Chair earlier this year.

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