The consultation sought insight on the UK’s approach to ensure the way we recognise qualifications from other countries is fair, complements the needs of the UK workforce and maintains high levels of quality and consumer protection.
It also looks to promote a regulatory environment that supports jobs, social mobility, and access to professions for individuals from all backgrounds to ensure the regulation of professions is forward-looking, adaptive and meets the needs of consumers.
The importance of regulation in the housing sector:
- Protects public interest for environmental reasons
- Protects public safety for health reasons
- Value for money/protects taxpayer
- Enables professionals to charge more for their services
- Protects consumers from receiving low-quality services
- Provides training
The main rationale for regulation in the property sector is that estate agents working across the UK and letting agents operating in England and Northern Ireland are unregulated, which means anyone can set up a business.
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 agents are suitably qualified. Additionally, agents who are not members of a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards.
As a result, there are four other rationales for regulation:
- It will protect consumers from receiving low-quality services.
- It will provide training and continued professional development for professionals working in regulation will protect public safety for health reasons.
- It can help to bring greater levels of consistency and a joined-up approach.
Regulation of Propertymark members
Our members join and seek to become Propertymark Protected voluntarily to demonstrate transparency and ensure they are at the forefront of developments in the industry in accordance with our Conduct and Membership Rules. They have opted to become regulated, in a mostly unregulated sector, by complying with higher standards than the law demands.
Our members must comply with a series of requirements including:
- Propertymark’s Conduct and Membership Rules
- Completing 12 annual hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD)
- Having an accountant's report carried out on their designated client account
Propertymark’s standards set a blueprint for much-anticipated regulation within the sector as the current standards we set, against which applicants are assessed are a fair reflection of the level of skill, training, education and experience required to practice their profession.
International recognition of qualifications
Given the variation between legislation and practice in property across the UK, Propertymark requires those individual agents coming forward for recognition and membership of the UK professional body to be competent in the UK context in which they plan to work.
Reliance is put on the individual to map their achievement against the relevant learning outcomes which are then considered by our team. This enables Propertymark Qualifications to develop a list of ‘acceptable’ and proxy-type qualifications.
However, given the differences in law and practice, it is unusual for real estate/property agency qualifications to be mutually recognised internationally. This would be further complicated by licenses to practice in a number of countries and the development of a similar regulatory system in England and across the UK.
Propertymark has a good working relationship with CEPI – European Association of Real Estate Professions, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a North American trade association for those who work in the real estate industry, and Ireland’s Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV). For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown period, we hosted a webinar with representatives from NAR and IPAV to share best practices and look at and discuss how the pandemic is affecting agents in their respective countries.
Qualifications for the property industry
We believe that qualification should be included in the overarching statutory regulation of the whole sector. Without minimum entry requirements to practice, such as a qualification and a code of practice, it means that consumers are potentially dealing with someone who does not understand the technicalities involved in buying and selling and renting property or understand how to analyse the level of risk to their business.
Ensuring agents are suitably qualified and meet minimum competency standards is the only way to drive up standards of service for consumers and eliminate the bad practice in the sector.
Regulation for the property sector will provide training and continued professional development for professionals working in the industry. This is important because sales and lettings are complicated tasks governed by complex areas of law. For instance, up to June 2015, there were 145 laws with over 400 regulations that landlords need to abide by to legally let a property in England and Wales.
Consumer protection through independent redress
The main consumer protection impacts in the housing market are problems with redress. This is important because complaint handling for consumers is a widespread problem in the property sector. For instance, the Property Ombudsman’s annual report 2019 shows that ‘complaints handling’ was the second most common cause of complaint about sales and the third most prevalent complaint about the lettings sector.
The other most common complaints from sales and lettings include communication and record-keeping, management and marketing and advertising.
There are three reasons for this:
- It is not clear to consumers who to raise a complaint with
- There are gaps in redress
- The existing redress schemes are inconsistent in the way that they handle complaints
We believe that all agents should adhere to an approved code of practice that can be used by the redress schemes to adjudicate consistently across the sector. An approved code will also ensure that agents can demonstrate a high level of customer service and protection, such as a robust and legitimate customer complaints procedure, which can be used to hold agents to account.
Regulation of Property Agents Working Group (RoPA)
We welcome the five main recommendations of RoPA that were included in the report released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in July 2019. The proposed new regulatory framework will cover sales agents across the UK and letting and managing agents in England only.
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.
We believe that mandatory qualifications will promote professionalism and basic standards within lettings and sales which will benefit both businesses and consumers. It is vital the UK Government implement the recommendations and set out how it plans to regulate the property sector as soon as possible.
A new regulatory approach will protect consumers from receiving low-quality services because the UK Government cannot continue legislating in a piecemeal fashion. This approach is unmanageable and unenforceable as demonstrated by the significant increase in legislation governing the sector over the last few years but no corresponding increase in prosecutions. We believe that overarching statutory regulation of the whole sector is needed.
Get ahead of regulation and start studying for a Level 3 or Level 4 Propertymark Qualification. Propertymark Qualifications is the market leader and the only specialist awarding body for agents in the sector offering up-to-date qualifications to fit in with any new syllabus required and offer continued support to students.
Specialist, regulated property qualifications which you can complete flexibly through distance learning or with additional support with a Propertymark Qualifications recognised centre.