Industry must now work together, NALS urges
Industry bodies will be watching the outcome of today’s proceedings in Parliament with interest.
Most, however, seemed to think that the Government’s decision to bring in its own amendment, requiring letting agents to belong to an ombudsman scheme, is a done deal.
The British Property Federation said it was a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough. It said further action would be needed to get rid of rogue agents.
Policy director Ian Fletcher said: “There are still issues on the table. We should not kid ourselves that this will expunge the sector of bad letting agents. For example, we will continue to campaign to have client money protection insurance extended so that money paid over by landlords and tenants is accounted for and not at risk.”
At RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), global residential director Peter Bolton King said it was a “big step forward” but called for letting agents to be required to join a professional regulation scheme.
He said: “The lettings market has for far too long been in danger of becoming the Wild West of property industry. While, clearly, there are good agents out there, the market has been dogged by poor practice and a lack of consumer protection.
“From now on, should a tenant or landlord experience problems due to poor service, they will be able to register their grievance with an independent redress scheme which, if appropriate, will investigate and award compensation.
“RICS has long called for regulation of the lettings industry, and this is a big step towards ensuring tenants and landlords are comprehensively protected.
“What we would now like to see is lettings and managing agents required to sign up to a professional regulation scheme that would ensure a better standard of professionalism right across the sector. We still think there is a very strong business case for better targeted regulation and we are working with Government to this effect.”
At NALS (National Approved Letting Scheme), chief executive Isobel Thomson said: “We welcome this common-sense approach to improving the consumer experience of renting and letting, and support the Government’s amendment as a considered measure.”
She said: “We believe this is a sensible alternative to the heavy-handed bureaucracy of a formal regulatory regime which we believe would lead to increased rents for tenants and ultimately stifle entry into the market.
“All NALS agents under our strict registration criteria are required to be part of an ombudsman scheme.
“NALS believes that the introduction of mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme is the first step, and there is more industry organisations can achieve.
“We need to work collaboratively for the interest of the consumer on initiatives such as the SAFEagent campaign to raise awareness among consumers of the protection they are afforded by using an agent who is part of a Client Money Protection Scheme.
“We see SAFEagent as wholly complementary to the proposed amendment for the benefit of the consumer.
“We await the outcome of the debate in Parliament.”