OPINION: Property agents are ready and willing for professional regulation

By Nathan Emerson, chief executive of Propertymark

There is a strong political will within the UK government to drive up standards in the housing sector.

In addition to the recently introduced renters’ reform, there has been legislation around leasehold, building safety following the Grenfell Tower fire, and a focus on the use of short-term lets. New homes standards are also increasingly coming under the spotlight.

Nathan Emerson

However, over the past three years, there has been a lingering silence from the UK government on how it intends to progress another key piece of work that would strengthen the action we are seeing in these areas.

The Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) published its recommendations back in 2019 for the creation of an independent regulator, mandatory qualifications, and a Code of Practice.

But since then there have been few references to the policy on government headed paper.

The latest opportunity was in the renters’ reform white paper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector.

Tucked away on page 49, Ministers acknowledge the efforts agents themselves are making to drive up professionalism and standards, and even commit to doing more, citing the Database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents and the stronger enforcement tools it proposes to give local councils.

But still they stop short of any direct mention of adopting the RoPA working group’s 53 recommendations.

Meanwhile, agents in England remain the only part of the buying, selling, and letting process who are not required to have a professional accreditation.

Conveyancers are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Council of Licensed Conveyancers, mortgage brokers answer to the Financial Conduct Authority and chartered surveyors must be affiliated with the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

A quick and effective solution for driving up housing standards is to eliminate unprofessional, unqualified, and unethical agents from the property sector, while at the same time acknowledging the professionalism of those who remain.

For good agents, this is not about more regulation, it’s about more recognition. They are experts in their field and want to be recognised as such. And that means being part of sector in which all those who work meet the same professional standards.

They play an instrumental part in property transactions, and with people moving only every 18 years on average, leaving buyers and sellers need to rely on guidance from knowledgeable agents.

There are an ever-changing number of pieces of legislation relating to the private rented sector — so letting and managing agents need to know what they are doing!

As Ministers rightly acknowledge, there is a growing desire among agents themselves to do more to improve the perception of their role, and progress has already been made.

When the first RoPA working group was convened in 2018, the job of estate agent had become entrenched among the least trusted by the public, according to Ipsos MORI’s annual survey.

In the most recent survey, however, that has changed, and they have moved out of the bottom five with their trust rating the highest the survey has ever been. The survey itself does not give any insight into the driving factor, so allow me to speculate.

Recently, Propertymark Qualifications revealed the number of people seeking sales and letting agent qualifications hit a five-year high. A fifth of all new registrations in the current academic year are from 16 to 24-year-olds — double that of five years ago.

Those enrolling for a qualification primarily aimed at those currently in, or considering, the role of Principals, Partners and Directors in sales and or lettings agencies was up 26% year-on-year.

Agents are proving their worth and want to see that momentum continue.

Whilst the RoPA working group report continues to gather dust, Ministers will find little resistance from within our sector to anything that allows agents to keep climbing the public trust ratings. That needs to be harnessed by the UK government which needs to fully understand the benefits of the formal professionalisation of a sector that has such a key role in the UK economy.

Comments 2

  1. Please consdier carefully what you wish young Nathan.

    It is unwise turkeys voting for Christmas.

    Chartered surveyors are reugulated and look what a mess theb are in. Membes I spoeak to would leave if it had not been for the hard work they put in to qualify.

    Look at Thw Law society, look at the nuumber of lawyers who have ended up in prison.

    Look at Politicians who end up in prison.

    Morals maketh a man not regulation or qualifications.

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