The Code, which outlines standards designed to promote trust in the industry a will be key to the work of the new industry Regulator. The four areas of the Code on which Propertymark has focused are:
- Designated Professional Bodies – under the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) recommendations, these can perform part of the Regulator’s function and therefore should be referenced in the Code to avoid confusion and create consistency.
- Defining agents and agencies – there are different obligations on employees and employers, but it is not always obvious throughout the Code whether information is referring to agents as individuals or agencies as businesses.
- Effective consumer complaints procedures – complaint handling for consumers is a widespread problem in the property sector and must be more prominent in the Overarching Code.
- Train staff regularly and review their needs continually – rules and regulations in the property sector are introduced frequently and amended regularly. The Code must reflect this and highlight the need for continual training and development.
Other areas of focus
Protecting consumer’s money
The Code places a large emphasis on protecting consumer’s money and should reference an agent’s legal obligations for protecting deposits, preventing money laundering, and avoiding fraud and bribery.
In addition, we know from our research that agent spend with suppliers supports 17,000 jobs. To further protect consumer money and supply chains, the Code should reference the ability for agencies to ensure that contractors are competent for the task assigned to them and clear instructions have been provided.
Greater clarity is needed on devolutionary matters including the applicability of the ‘How to Guides’ referenced in the Code.
For instance, the ‘How to Lease’ guide issued by MHCLG applies to England only and therefore is not relevant to Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, there is no freehold and leasehold distinction in Scotland. The ‘How to Buy a Home’ and ‘How to Sell a Home’ guides are applicable for England and Wales, but sales agents in Northern Ireland and Scotland who are regulated under the Estate Agents Act 1979 will fall under the new regulatory regime for RoPA.
These guides are not universally relevant across the UK and the Code should reference this accordingly.
Environment and sustainability
The UK Government has legislated for net-zero emissions by 2050 and we believe it is essential that the property sector plays its part and minimises waste and uses resources efficiently. Propertymark, would, therefore, like to see a section on environment and sustainability included in the Code.
Simple and cost-effective measures and information could outline the need to adhere to local, national, and international standards designed to help protect the environment, as well as encourage waste recycling at premises and offices and when working with consumers.