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Letting and property agents face regulation and qualifications crackdown

Written by: Owain Thomas
Letting and property managing agents face being regulated and requiring minimum qualifications to practice under government plans for the sector.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) also wants greater transparency about charges and the relationships between freeholders and agents.

Its proposals are the latest in a series of measures to clean up the sector, which includes upcoming laws to ban letting fees. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has already announced plans to name and shame rogue landlords and lettings agents who exploit tenants in the capital.

The government is asking if a new independent regulatory body is needed – and if separate bodies should be established, for both leasehold and private rented management, and letting agents.

The call for evidence includes measures which consider:

  • what qualifications are needed by agents to practice and how regulation can be improved
  • how transparency can be increased in the system so that tenants and leaseholders know what they are being charged for and why
  • how consumers can be empowered in the market, including whether leaseholder tenants should have a greater say over the appointment of managing agents
  • ensuring fairness and openness around relations between freeholders and agents.

Protect consumers from rogue landlords

DCLG said it was determined to fix the problems in the property management industry, drive down costs and protect consumers from the small minority of rogue agents.

It added that the problem was not just for leaseholders, but for some of the 4.5 million tenants in the rental sector too, with overcharged costs for repairs and services often passed down to tenants.

As part of this call for evidence the government published three examples of anecdotal evidence of poor management. These were:

  • a group of leaseholders charged ten times the market rate to have a new fire escape fitted – with the £30,000 contract handed to the freeholder’s brother
  • one landlord charged £500 by his agent for repairing a shower door
  • a London-based property agent who tried to charge a leaseholder almost £5,000 to transfer ownership of a parking space to other leaseholders.

Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, added: “This is supposed to be the age of the empowered consumer – yet in property management, we’re still living in the past.

“We are showing our determination to give power back to consumers so they have the service they expect and deserve, as part of my drive to deliver transparency and fairness for the growing number of renters and leaseholders.

“Our proposed changes to regulate the industry will give landlords, renters and leaseholders the confidence they need to know that their agents must comply with the rules.”

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