The residential sector is undergoing potentially its most significant period of reform for a generation. While managing agents are often overlooked in the debate, bold but balanced regulation of property management is essential to improve consumer confidence.
Led by Lord Best’s Regulation of Property Agents Working Group, the wheels are already in motion. Last year, the group submitted proposals to the government for a new regulatory framework to strengthen many of the principles of good practice that exist at the more professional end of the sector.
Since then, parliamentary momentum has slowed, understandably. But now is the time for the sector to lead a push to see this work transferred into law.
Historically, regulation has been sporadic, with several voluntary codes of practice holding operators to different standards. Often, this sees large, professional managers offering high-level service, while those at the other end of the market provide less.
We expect a new regulatory system to require everybody who holds responsibilities to be trained, qualified and licensed under the same rules. This does not need drastic new measures – many already operate at the right level. However, those who do not must get up to speed.
As with other areas of reform, including on strengthening commonhold and lowering barriers to enfranchisement, regulation is about empowering residents. As residents are granted more control over things like finances, insurance and fire safety, informed advice will become more important. Property managers will be best-placed to take on much of this role.
It is expected that the new system will involve two-tier regulation, covering companies and individuals. This will give residents confidence in the firms they employ but is also positive for those who work in the sector, offering better opportunities for accreditation and training.
Ultimately, the system needs to provide more confidence, clarity and choice for residents. So far, the work done on regulation has achieved that. We now need the industry itself to back change and make sure this vital area keeps pace with wider residential reform.
Felix Keen is director of industry engagement at FirstPort