Regulation of Property agents

What is RoPA?

RoPA stands for the Regulation of Property Agents. It is a group made up of different professionals, academics and associations, including ARLA and NAEA Propertymark, and chaired by Lord Best, who has many years’ experience in the housing sector and sits within the House of Lords.

The group has now advised the Government to create formal regulations of property agents and also an independent regulator to make sure agents follow the rules.

Why is it important?

The group’s aim was to discuss why an independent regulator is needed for property agents, what the regulator should do and what property agents need to do in order to raise standards across the industry.

Their advice and findings were then presented to the UK Government, so that the Government would be able to set up regulation of letting, managing and estate agents. Part of this would mean that agents would have strict rules & codes of conduct they would have to follow and that they would also need some sort of qualification so that they can legally work as a property agent. The regulator would be an organisation that makes sure everyone is following those rules.

The UK Government asked for evidence for protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market, and also for improving the home buying and selling process. They did this with a public consultation in the form of a survey.

The survey found:

  • 84% of respondents said a new regulatory approach should be required for property management agents
  •  85% agreed there should be minimum entry requirements in the form of qualifications or training.
  • 79% agreed that there should be more regulation for estate agents by the Government
  • 72% said the industry needs to make customers more aware of how to complain

Thanks to that feedback, the Government started the process to consider regulation, with the hope that it will put more power in the consumers’ hands (that’s you), so that they are treated fairly and can expect good service no matter what agent they choose.

Who will it affect?

The regulation would affect letting agents in England and estate agents across the whole of the UK. Letting agents are already regulated in Scotland and Wales.

Estate agents, however, would become regulated in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Most importantly, consumers can expect higher professional standards and agents will have to follow rules designed to protect consumers from being mistreated.

Why has this happened?

Estate agents in the UK are not required by law to be licensed or qualified. This means that, in theory, anyone can become an estate agent, with no prior knowledge or skills. Since estate agents deal with the most expensive purchases that most of us will make, regulation will ensure that every member of staff involved in your transaction know what they’re doing.

In terms of letting and managing agents in England; there is currently no mandatory regulation or trade association they legally have to be part of, although many letting and managing agents do join one voluntarily. This means that a minority of agents fall below acceptable standards.

Comparing this to Scotland, where a registration scheme now exists that all letting and managing agents have to join; Wales, who also require letting and management agents to be licensed before they can work; and Northern Ireland, who have plans to bring regulation forward for letting and managing agents; England is the only part of the UK falling behind, despite the rise of people in the private rental sector.

What is Propertymark’s view?

We have always campaigned for mandatory regulation of the whole sector for many years, to make sure agents are properly qualified and meet minimum standards; we believe this would raise standards of service.

Alongside this, there should be enforcement and clear standards, so that those who break the rules are caught and disciplined where necessary. Even agents who are currently part of a redress scheme don’t necessarily have to abide by a Code of Practice; in our opinion, a code would ensure agents could be more trusted and of a higher standard.

What do we think regulation should look like?

Propertymark believe that regulation should be as follows:

  • A single Code of Practice for everyone working in the property industry
  • More detailed codes of practice/rules for each specific industry (sales, lettings and block management)
  • All agents should hold a related qualification at Level 3 (A-Level) or higher in order to legally work
  • Each agent should complete 12 hours of Continuing Professional Development per year (which could be a workshop, a course or studying at home)
  • Ideally, agents would be members of a professional body, who are overseen by a larger regulator
  • There should be enforcement agencies that are properly managed and funded, who make sure everyone is following the rules.
  • Any banned agents and disciplinary action against those who break the rules should be publicly available, so consumers know who to trust and what is being done to punish rule-breakers

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