Regular blog readers may remember how we wrote about the government’s new working party (now known as ROPA) to raise standards across the property agent sector last October. The group was set up in order to investigate ways for improving conditions for all stakeholders in he property market, to ensure that they are better supported and that standards are being met with new estate agent regulations.

Now the first findings and suggestions from the working party have been released. On the 18th of July the government announced that they had produced a plan to develop new estate agency regulations, following recommendations from ROPA (which stands for the Regulation of Property Agents) detailed in a recent report.

The new blueprint was released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government nine months after ROPA was established by Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP in order to improve conditions for homebuyers, sellers, landlords, leaseholders and tenants so that they all have the best service possible.

At present, anyone can operate as a property agent without any qualifications or professional oversight. Although many take a professional approach and sign up to standards of practice through membership of professional bodies, there are still a lot of ‘rogue’ landlords and agents who do not adhere to any standards and many tenants and homebuyers have been suffering as a result.

The main thrust of the proposed plan is that there should be a new compulsory framework for agents – including a new licencing regime, a new regulator to enforce a code of practice for the industry and mandatory requirements for both sales and letting agents to have gained a minimum specified level of qualification in order to be able to work.

In their report, ROPA recommended the following:

  • All agencies operating a residential property business should be licensed and licensing should include a suitability test for company directors.
  • All customer-facing staff employed within residential agency businesses should be licensed and adhere to a single, mandatory and legally-enforceable Code of Practice for property agents
  • All customer-facing staff employed within residential agency businesses should hold suitable qualification at Level 3 or above.
  • All company directors and management agents should be qualified to a minimum of Level 4.
  • A new regulator to be appointed to oversee compliance with the Code of Practice
  • A system of minimum entry requirements and continuing professional development for property agents
  • Clarifying processes and charges for leaseholders

We imagine these changes can only be good for the industry – and home buyers – although it may take a while to implement some of the changes as agents and their employees obtain qualifications and licenses. If you’d like to know more, you can read the full report on the gov.uk website.