The newly elected Conservative Government should make the regulation of letting agents a priority in a bid to deal with unscrupulous letting agencies and help improve standards in the industry, according to Leaders’ Chief Executive, Paul Weller.
Mr Weller (left) believes that millions of landlords and tenants in the private rented sector (PRS) would prosper from the formal regulation of letting agents.
He said, “More people and families than ever before now use the PRS and the services of letting agents. Yet the vast majority are unaware that letting agents are not regulated by the Government and that anyone can set up a letting agency, with no experience, knowledge of lettings law or client money protection in place.
“Letting agents can hold hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent which they are supposed to protect. But without regulation, there is no way to enforce this and there have been countless cases of letting firms losing their clients’ money, using it for their own ends, or completely disappearing with it, leaving landlords and tenants badly out of pocket. Too many people have suffered at the hands of agents like this, as well as incompetent and unscrupulous agents who fail to provide a decent standard of service.”
The only way to tackle the issue, Mr Weller argues, is to make it mandatory for agents to abide by an agreed code of conduct, be professionally qualified with a sound knowledge of the laws governing lettings and to have client money protection and professional indemnity insurance in place.
He is the latest in a long line of housing professionals calling for greater industry regulation. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Association of Residential Letting Agencies (ARLA) are among some of the most vocal groups calling on the Government to introduce the compulsory regulation of lettings agents to help improve standards in the industry.
As it stands, only agents that are members of a self-regulating professional body, such as ARLA and RICS, sign up to a code of conduct which protects consumers from bad practice. The rest can get away with cutting corners and as a result, can often afford to undercut good quality agents on fees to attract unwitting tenants and landlords.
Despite Paul Weller’s concerns regarding a lack of regulation in the lettings agency sector, he accepts that the new Conservative Government has put forward “some promising policies on housing” which he believes “will be good for the market”.
With the Tories leading the direction of the housing market over the next five years, they now have an opportunity to fulfil their agenda of boosting the supply of much needed new build housing, including the introduction of 200,000 starter homes for first-time buyers aged under 40 at 20 per cent discount, while creating a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund to unlock sites for hundreds of thousands of new homes. The Tories have also vowed to continue to support the Help to Buy scheme, offer 1.3 million tenants the “Right to Buy” housing association homes and provide more people with the “Right to Build” their own property.
He added, “There is now a golden opportunity to make a positive difference to those renting and letting. Proper regulation is essential to stop rogue agents taking advantage of the thriving rental market. Good agents have been crying out for this for years and, as the numbers of those renting and letting continues to rise, the need for it grows ever stronger.”