Currently, estate agents do not need to be licensed or qualified. In Scotland, a solicitor will manage much of the property sale. However, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, unless the estate agent is a qualified chartered surveyor, he/she will liaise with other professional parties.
Estate agents need to abide by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Also, since 1 October 2008, all estate agents in the UK who engage in residential estate agency work are required to belong to an approved redress scheme under the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
The Private Rented Sector in the UK can be quite confusing, there is a huge amount of legislation that agents need to follow and because housing is under the remit of the devolved governments, the rules can vary quite dramatically across the different countries. Use the tabs to find out more.
In England, you do not currently have to be qualified to work as a letting agent and anyone can set up a lettings agency without any prior experience. However, if you do set up an agency, there are nearly 150 pieces of law that affect the industry including these mandatory requirements:
- Registration with a Government-approved independant redress scheme
- Tenancy deposits must be protected through a Government-approved scheme
- Registration with a Government-approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme
Letting agent working or managing property in Scotland need to understand the Letting Agent Code of Practice and the meet the minimum training standards required to join the Scottish Letting Agent Register.
The code sets out standards of how letting agents deliver services, including specific requirements on how to handle clients’ money. It was introduced to improve the protection for landlords and tenants while eradicating poor quality housing. It states that it will 'help raise standards (where this is needed) and help build a more effective Private Rented Sector that meets the needs of tenants, landlords and letting agents'.
The Register for Letting Agents in Scotland opened 31 January 2018, marking a new era of professionalism for the lettings industry. Agents had eight months to familiarise themselves with the Code of Practice and complete any training required to fulfil the criteria. Since October 2018, it has been a criminal offence to carry out letting agency work if an agent is not on the register.
All letting agents in Wales (and the wider UK who let or manage rental properties in Wales) must be suitably trained and licensed to carry out letting or property management work. Since November 2016, the law requires landlords in Wales to register themselves and their properties with Rent Smart Wales.
Landlords must be suitably trained and licensed to carry out letting or property management activities, or arrange for a trained and licensed letting agent to manage their properties on their behalf. This means all letting agents in Wales need to be suitably trained and licensed and the agencies themselves must:
- Have Client Money Protection (CMP)
- Have professional indemnity insurance
- Belong to an independant redress scheme
- Provide all of their landlord and property details
In January 2017, the Department for Communities published proposals for significant changes to the private rented sector with the inclusion of introducing regulation. This subjected all unfit properties built before 1956 to rent control and banned letting agent fees to tenants.
This public consultation was in its second stage during the Review of the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector. The consultation closed on 3 April 2017 and nothing has moved on since due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Government.
Requirements and expectations have been clarified in an update provided to Scotland’s private rented sector (PRS), particularly on training and registration.
In an industry where legislation is ever changing, and with the need to understand what it means to stay compliant; it is positive to see the vested interest from agents at every level of the sector to become qualified.
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.
All letting agents who let or manage rental properties in Wales must be suitably trained and licensed to carry out letting or property management work.