Madness from Manchester?

This year’s recent Conservative Party Conference in Manchester brought the news that many campaigners having been waiting for – the announcement that all letting agents will need to be registered under new legislation. Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, said at the conference: “Currently, anyone can operate as a letting agent without any qualifications or professional oversight. We will change the law so that all letting agents must register with an appropriate organisation. This will mean that letting agents would be required to satisfy minimum training requirements and comply with an industry code of conduct.”

Javid also went on to say that all landlords will need to sign up to a property ombudsman or redress scheme – either directly or via a letting agent.

There are four main things to consider following this news. Firstly, the announcement is good for the hundreds of honest, hard working letting agents out there who are already providing an exemplary service – the new legislation should prevent ‘fly-by-night’ outfits from opening and stop previously prosecuted agents re-entering the industry.

Secondly, the overall image of the private rented industry will improve as a result of locking out malpractice, trust will grow among the general public, and hopefully landlords and tenants will be encouraged to stay with or return to using High Street agents.

Thirdly, landlords may increasingly seek the help of lettings agents to fulfill their new property ombudsman requirement – especially as they can become members ‘by association’ with an agent. We’re in a time where landlords are being required to do more than ever, so the assistance of professionals may play a greater role. It’s an area agents can really ‘massage’ when looking to retain and attract business.

Lastly, it’s not clear yet how an agent will become adequately qualified and regulated, and it’s already proving to be a bone of contention in property forums and comment sections.

Agents and property managers are grumbling about new ‘invented’ qualifications their staff may have to take, additional fees they may have to pay to trade bodies – perhaps to a different one to which they are currently subscribed – and the possibility there will be an increase to public liability insurance. Pockets of agents have already decided this is a money-making racket designed to further penalize the private rental sector and bolster the strength of larger agency networks. Others feel agents working to high standards have nothing to fear and it’s only those whose practice methods fall short who should be looking over their shoulder.

The full remit of the announcement needs digesting in full, so we urge you to read Javid’s speech in full as it affects tenancy lengths and disputes as well as agent registration and landlords’ ombudsman membership. While the details are murky, it’s clear that more change is ahead.

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