Since the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group first convened last year, details of its deliberations have been scant. However, the group is now preparing to share its report – an important development in the government’s leasehold and sector reform agenda.
The significance of this report should not be understated. Through bold and balanced changes to the managing agent market, it has the power to address many of the concerns that surround leasehold. This will be achieved by introducing measures that provide more confidence, clarity and choice for residents in managed developments.
Speaking at a seminar in June, the working group’s chair Lord Best confirmed the focus of the report and how it will achieve its aims. The measures proposed will significantly strengthen the principles of good practice already adopted by the best operators in the sector and expose the worst excesses and weakest performers.
Rigour and oversight
The key will be regulation. The group’s report will establish an independent body, appointed to oversee every member of the industry, all of whom will be governed by a single and defined set of rules.
At present there are a number of voluntary codes of practice in the industry. This is set to change. The new regulatory system will require that all those who discharge responsibilities are properly trained, qualified and licensed under a single framework, giving clarity to consumers over their rights and responsibilities as well as those of their managing agent.
Crucially, we anticipate that the working group will seek to update licensing arrangements to cover both companies and individuals. Two-tier regulation will give residents the confidence that the companies they employ are responsible commercial operators and that the individuals managing the day-to-day activity are fully trained and qualified.
For it to be truly effective, the new regulator will need teeth. By giving it the power to grant, suspend and remove licences, the report can help achieve that. With clear rules and powers in place, there will be nowhere for poor operators to hide.
Making change now
The working group’s report has the power to ease many of the concerns of leaseholders who are unhappy with the current system. What’s more, by building on a framework that already exists, we can ensure a swifter route to change that does not require a raft of slow-moving reform legislation.
Many of the most pressing leasehold issues can be addressed by ensuring property agents provide greater choice to residents about their homes, explain financial matters more clearly, and improve overall standards. For property managers like us, who believe that looking after people’s homes is a critical role demanding the highest professional standards, Lord Best’s reforms are a welcome endorsement of good practice and a positive step towards removing the weakest operators.
Nigel Howell is chief executive of FirstPort