A Bill in the Queen’s Speech, announced today, is intended to protect homebuyers from rogue estate agents. The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill compels all agents to join a redress scheme.
Agents will also have to keep records which will be able to be inspected by Trading Standards officers.
The Bill makes compulsory the standards which some agents already subscribe to under the voluntary Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA).
Recent media attention, including a prime time documentary, has been directed at agents who are dishonest in a multitude of ways including fee fixing and over-charging buyers.
However, some think the proposed Bill doesn’t go far enough. RICS Director of Regulation, Steven Gould said: ‘This is a missed opportunity. While RICS welcomes the Government’s commitment to introduce independent redress across this sector, we feel that redress alone is insufficient. Consumers should have confidence when they walk into an estate agent that it is a properly regulated business.
‘The current proposals do not offer them this option. All reputable estate agents, professional bodies, trade associations, and Which? have been calling for a proper system of regulation for years. Agents only being required to offer independent redress is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted because the customer already has a complaint. We want prevention as well as cure.’
Charles Smailes, President at the NAEA, agreed: ‘This is clearly a step in the right direction. It is important for consumers to feel secure in the fact that they will receive some form of compensation if they are unfortunate enough to suffer at the hands of malpractice.
‘What is equally important, however, is to do everything possible to stop the malpractice happening in the first place. Agents who are members of an industry body, such as the NAEA or the OEA for example, are bound by a Code of Conduct.
‘We would like to see the Government make it compulsory for all agents to be a member of a regulatory body. What we hope is that today’s proposed legislation is the first step towards improved regulation of the industry and we would be pleased to work closely with the Government to take this forwards.’