The government has given the UK’s estate agency trading standards team an extra £270,000 a year to crack down on rogue operators, taking its overall budget to nearly half a million.
Since its first year of operation in 2014 the number of complaints to trading standards about rogue estate agents has quadrupled.
In 2014/15 it processed 109 complaints about agents compared to 459 this year. The number of prohibition or ‘banning orders’ has risen from seven to 16 over the same period.
The extra cash is to help the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) hire more staff to hold agents to the highest standards of professional conduct and ban more rogue agents.
NTSEAT’s workload is processed by just four full-time dedicated staff including team leader James Munro plus one part-timer and a clutch of contracted investigators and solicitors.
Their work includes policing a surprisingly wide range of activity including, according to its most recent annual report; insider trading, kidnapping, fraud, theft, violence, and breaches of the Estate Agents Act such as failing to declare a personal interest in property
As well as rooting out more rogue agents, NTSEAT’s new cash is also to ensure agents are more transparent about the referral fees they pass on to solicitors and other recommended third-party suppliers and also to improve the new homes sales process.
“Making the housing market work is about more than just building homes, but helping hard working families buy and sell with confidence,” says Heather Wheeler (left), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness.
“This new funding will help ensure all estate agents are held to a high standard, reducing stress for people when making one of the most important purchases in their life.”
NTSEAT is run by Powys County Council with support from Isle of Anglesey Council and took over the functions of the Office of Fair Trading in relation to the Estate Agents Act 1979 from the beginning of April, 2014.