Mandatory code and qualification are among final steps towards professional lettings

Michael Lloyd

May 8, 2018

The proposed introduction of a mandatory code of practice and national qualification for letting agents are among the final steps towards a fully professional lettings sector, according to rental payment provider PayProp.

The new measures, announced in April, also include ongoing professional development and training for agents as well as increased support for leaseholders.

They will be enforced by a ‘new independent regulator’, with those failing to comply risk being banned from trading and serious offenders face possible prosecution.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp in the UK, said: “We welcome these proposals. Lettings will always be a customer service industry and professional standards should be at the heart of everything agents do.

“However, with so many new measures being introduced over a short period of time, it’s crucial that the government takes a holistic and considered approach to ensure maximum effectiveness,” he adds.

“For example, the deposit cap and fees ban, compulsory CMP membership and these new proposals should be introduced as part of a coherent and logical step-by-step process under the banner of professional standards.

“A piecemeal or scattergun approach could be counterproductive, leaving agents and consumers in the dark.”

The government’s latest proposals come alongside a range of other measures to regulate the lettings sector and crackdown on rogue operators in recent years.

Measures include a proposed ban on tenant fees, a cap on holding and security deposits, compulsory membership of a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme and a blacklist of criminal agents and landlords and banning orders for offenders.

These come alongside more established regulation such as compulsory redress scheme membership, full fee disclosure, compliance with the Right to Rent scheme and mandatory deposit protection.

Amid a mixed industry reaction to these proposals, there are several issues concerning timescales, enforcement and sanctions.

Cobbold added: “From announcement to introduction, it will have taken well over two years for the ban on fees to be implemented which may lead the industry to believe a similar timescale may be expected for these new measures.

“What’s more, it’s unclear at this stage whether the new independent regulator will work alongside or independently of the existing redress schemes and how much the maximum fines for the worst offenders will be.”

As the private rental market becomes increasingly regulated by the government, the professional standards of letting agents can be increased further with the help of PropTech, according to PayProp.

Cobbold said: “Minimum standards will help to rid the sector of rogue agents and effective adoption of technology can facilitate improved levels of professionalism across the industry.

“Automated PropTech solutions like PayProp can provide agents with the platform to provide a transparent, efficient and streamlined lettings service to their landlords.”

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