Housing policy is devolved and the framework of regulation for professionals working in the lettings sector must be looked at through different approaches in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

Four reasons for regulation:

  1. Provide qualifications and continued professional development for professionals working in the sector
  2. Protect public safety when combined with adequately resourced enforcement
  3. Deliver greater levels of consistency and a joined-up approach
  4. Safeguard consumers from receiving a low quality of services

Outside of regulatory requirements for letting agents in Scotland and Wales, there are no minimum standards to work in the sector and there are no statutory rules to ensure letting agents are suitably qualified. Additionally, agents who are not members of a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards.

Regulation across the UK

Letting agents in Scotland are required to join the Scottish Government's Register of Letting Agents, pass a ‘fit and proper person test’ and comply with a Letting Agent Code of Practice.

The requirements—which mirror Propertymark’s membership criteria—aim to drive-up standards in the industry, improve the quality of property management for tenants and eliminate those rogue agents who bring the industry into disrepute.

Our response to the Code of Practice and training requirements  →

I would like to thank ARLA Propertymark for their involvement to date in implementing Part 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 (2014 Act). I have very much appreciated ARLA Propertymark’s input and support, which has assisted the Scottish Government to meet its requirements to lay a draft letting agent code of practice in the Scottish Parliament.

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Charlotte McHaffie Regeneration and Welfare Directorate | Scottish Government Housing

All letting agents in Wales (and the wider UK who let or manage rental properties in Wales) must be suitably trained and licensed under Rent Smart Wales to carry out letting or property management activities.

When Rent Smart Wales first announced a £3,728 licensing fee for agents, we branded this unfair given it did not consider the size of a letting agent business. This meant both the smallest and largest agents would be charged the same fee. Under the Freedom of Information Act, we requested an explanation as to how the Licensing Authority arrived at the £3,728 fee. 

Freedom of Information response  →

Following our continued lobbying, Rent Smart Wales announced a new fee structure which came into effect 25 April 2016. The new structure is graduated, it recognises the size of the business and offers a discount to Propertymark members. This offers agents a fairer fee structure which also demonstrates the benefit of professional membership.

There is currently no overarching statutory regulation of private sector letting or managing agents in England.

Propertymark was a member of the UK Government’s Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) Working Group. This was a small group of industry stakeholders set up to examine several key industry issues including regulation and qualifications.

The Group’s final report outlined some key recommendations for regulation:

  • All agencies operating a residential property business should be licensed and licensing should include a fit and proper person test.
  • A new regulator to be appointed to oversee compliance with an overarching Code of Practice.
  • Staff delivering ‘reserved activities’ should be licensed and adhere to a Code of Practice.
  • All staff delivering ‘reserved activities’ should hold a regulated sector qualification to a minimum of Level 3, preferably with directors qualified to Level 4.
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Regulation of Property Agents Working Group (RoPA)

The Regulation of Property Agents working group has proposed a new regulatory framework focused on estate agents in the UK and letting and managing agents in England.

Consultation responses
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08 Sep 2020
Overarching Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents

Propertymark has responded to the Overarching Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents consultation, welcoming the proposals, and calling for the Code to be strengthened in four key areas to further support the industry.

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13 Apr 2018
Strengthening Consumer Redress in the Housing Market

Propertymark has submitted a joint response to the Government’s consultation on strengthening consumer redress in the housing market by calling for an ombudsman portal for housing-related complaints with one ombudsman for private housing and another for social housing.

Mother and son viewing bedroom
29 Nov 2017
Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market

We are supportive of the Government's idea of addressing the imbalance of power in the private rented market by regulating letting agents and have put forward how we believe regulation should work.

There is currently no letting agent regulation in Northern Ireland and there are no legally binding requirements on letting agents to join a redress scheme or have Client Money Protection (CMP).

In January 2017, the Department for Communities proposed in its consultation paper ‘Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland: Proposals for Change’ to introduce a new regulatory framework for all letting agents.

Following the re-forming of the Northern Ireland Executive in January 2020, Propertymark continues to push for reform as part of the Virtual Housing Panel.

Consultation responses
12 Apr 2017
Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland — Proposals for Change

In January 2017, the Department for Communities published proposals for significant changes to the sector including introducing Agent Regulation, subjecting all unfit properties built before 1956 to rent control and banning letting agent fees.

Review of the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector  →
Review of Housing Fitness Standard (June 2016)  →

Industry focus

The Scottish Government have achieved a much better balance of agent regulation than what was introduced in Wales. Rent Smart Wales looks at training and the registration of property, whereas the focus of the Scottish Government’s agent regulation is to ensure that every agent involved in lettings has the right skills to do the job.

They have however created an administrative registration process which essentially duplicates the work already done by professional bodies. Whilst it is much less onerous than Rent Smart Wales, we continue to question its necessity when they could require that all agents are members of an approved professional body who would take on this administrative burden themselves.

The Scottish model reflects existing good practice in the industry and is the most sensible form of agent regulation that we have seen so far; however, there can be further improvements to reduce bureaucracy and ensure robust consumer protection whilst simultaneously re-purposing resources from administration to enforcement.

For England, Propertymark welcomes the recommendations of the RoPA Working Group and we believe that the UK Government must come forward with proposals to implement them in England as soon as possible. In December 2020, when asked about the issue, Kelly Tolhurst, the then, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said 'We established a working group, chaired by Lord Best, who looked at this alongside the regulation of property agents and reported back to Government last summer. We are currently considering their recommendations'.

10 Nov 2020
The recognition of professional qualifications and regulation of professions

We highlighted the importance of regulation within the property sector and divergence in rules across the UK in response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategies consultation.

Related news and resources

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22 May 2024
Lords frustrated by UK Government response on RoPA

The Chair of the Industry and Regulators Committee in the House of Lords, Baroness Taylor of Bolton, has written to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), expressing disappointment at the UK Government’s response to findings of the Committee’s inquiry into the need for the regulation of property agents.

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20 May 2024
PRS needs greater professionalism says Labour-backed report

A report commissioned by the Labour Party states that the opportunity to live in a secure, affordable and accessible home is out of reach for many people, and this is set to remain the case unless the system is changed significantly. They state that landlords and agents should be registered and accredited, recommend rent stabilisation measures, and support longer term tenancies based on the model of Rent Smart Wales.

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19 Apr 2024
Renters Reform returning to Parliament in a storm of criticism

The Leader of the House of Commons has confirmed the remaining stages of the Renters (Reform) Bill will take place on Wednesday 24 April 2024 with some key changes to the Bill brought forward. Whilst the UK Government has listened and reacted to some industry concerns, another chance has been wasted to effectively regulate property agents.