Letting Agents Face More Regulation And Red Tape

Will UK Letting Agents Face Further Regulation?

Will UK Letting Agents Face Further Regulation?

Letting and property managing agents face the increasing likelihood of mandatory licensing following the Government’s cabinet reshuffle and the appointment of Mark Prisk as UK Housing minister.

The recent appointment of Mr Prisk as housing minister is hoped to mark a new beginning for the UK property market and it is hoped that he will be more receptive to the idea of mandatory licensing of the UK lettings industry as he first tried to introduce mandatory licensing for letting agents into a Bill back in 2007.

It is widely speculated that Mr Prisk’s views on the subject remain the same now and it is hoped that he will be more amenable to the mandatory licensing than former housing minister Grant Shapps was.

With the support of the new Housing minister it is thought that the licensing scheme is much closer to becoming a reality, although not a certainty, as the Government have previously stated that pursuing further regulation would be a waste of time and effort.

Mr Prisk’s support of the idea of mandatory licensing for the letting agent industry became public knowledge last week when during a House of Commons debate on housing, Labour MP Ian Mearns, speaking to shadow housing minister Jack Dromey, is reported to have said “Is my Hon. Friend aware that he has an ally in the new minister for housing on the regulation of the private sector? In 2007, he tried to introduce a clause into a Bill that would have regulated private letting agents.”

Mr Dromey replied: “It is welcome that the new minister for housing has taken that position. Perhaps he will follow that through in government.”

Award Winning Property Management Services

Award Winning Property Management Services

John Paul, Managing Director of award winning Castledene Property Management said “Good letting and property management agents should have nothing to fear, as they operate within the guidelines set by ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents), the Property Ombudsman and The National Association of Letting Agents (NALS). Further regulation of the lettings industry coupled with the Government’s welfare reforms could have an adverse effect on the UK Buy-To-Let market as a whole and unless landlords are using agents who are clued up on the proposed changes to housing benefit then we could see thousands of landlords going out of business before the end of 2013”.

Ian Potter, operations manager at ARLA, said: “It’s vital that consumers have full confidence in lettings agents, and the industry must respond to their concerns about bad practice. That’s why in the absence of regulation, we developed our own licensing scheme. All licensed ARLA member letting agents must be covered by a client money protection scheme and hold professional indemnity insurance – which means consumers are protected against negligence. They must follow our strict codes of conduct and have a certain level of training. Ultimately this means that, should something go wrong, there are protection mechanisms in place. We would therefore always advise that consumers use an ARLA-licensed lettings agent. This means that, should a landlord or tenant feel the fees were unclear, they can lodge a complaint with ARLA or utilise the Ombudsman Scheme membership, which all ARLA licensed agents are required to hold.”

Previously, the former Housing Minister Grant Shapps, had promised that landlords and letting agents would not be subject to greater regulation because it would introduce too much additional red tape. Speaking in parliament in September 2010, Mr Shapps rejected the regulations proposed by the Rugg Review, stating: “With the vast majority of England’s 3 million private tenants happy with the service they receive, I am satisfied that the current system strikes the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. So I make a promise to good landlords across the country: the government has no plans to create any burdensome red tape and bureaucracy, so you are able to continue providing a service to your tenants.”

However, now that Mr Shapps has been made Conservative party chairman and the subsequent appointment of Mr Prisk as UK Housing minister, further regulation of the industry has become widely feared, with some property professionals voicing concerns about the amount of red tape they would have to get through just to get a tenancy to commence.

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