A report published today by the Department for Business has called for greater strengthening of regulations governing residential estate agents.
The report called ‘Government Review of Regulation and Redress in the UK Housing Market’ was written by Professor Colin Jones, at Heriot-Watt University. He looked as problems across the housing sector that are damaging consumer confidence.
He called for the simplification and strengthening of existing redress provisions to help improve the public’s awareness of their rights.
Jones criticises current arrangements to protect consumers from rogue agents and landlords. He said: ‘Voluntary accreditation/redress schemes of estate agencies and lettings agencies cover approximately two thirds and a half of their respective market in terms of numbers of agents. The Housing Ombudsman has a very small but significant part of the market.
'Independent redress is only available for the order of 4% at most of private tenants renting directly from landlords except with regard to deposits.’
The BPF said the report added weight to its long-standing campaign for the regulation of letting agents. Property Week has also campaigned for proper regulation through its ‘regulate resi now’ campaign.
Ian Fletcher, the BPF’s residential director, said: ‘We’re pleased that the government is making moves to protect consumers and help the industry become more professional and more responsible. Allowing rogue operators damages consumer confidence and undermines the positive work undertaken by the many professional players in the market.
‘This report is a useful summary of redress in the sector and generally a good indicator of the direction of travel the policy is developing on several issues. The overarching themes of simplification and ensuring consistency are ones that I am sure will be supported across the sector.
‘Tackling rogue letting agents has already been the focus of the Rugg Review, and its suggestion for licensing has very broad support.
'The suggestion that consumers should have access to redress across the sector may sound radical, but landlords are already obliged to provide redress for tenancy deposit disputes and many of our members voluntarily provide redress for all their activities.
'If the day is not too far off when providing access to redress is a part-and-part of operating in the sector, for the professional landlord or agent I don’t think that will be a problem.’