Letting Agent Today understands that senior industry figures are working on the framework of a new attempt at regulation, including measures concerning agents’ fees.
In an interview with LAT Glynis Frew, the chief executive of Hunters, says she is a member of a sub-group of the Lettings Industry Council working on the proposals.
The council was set up in 2015 and is currently chaired by a representative of Savills; its regulation sub-committee has been working throughout the summer, meeting with agents, redress organisations and deposit companies, in a bid to create the framework.
The group’s next meeting, scheduled for October 12, will discuss the proposals which are being kept confidential but will soon be sent for consultation across the industry.
“At the moment it’s a framework that applies to the lettings sector but ultimately it’s something which could, with modification, be applied to sales as well” says Frew.
“We’ve discussed the idea with tenants’ organisations and some landlords’ groups, and at the next meeting and beyond the idea will be to discuss it with groups such as Shelter, the Department of Communities and Local Government and others” she adds.
“It’s undoubtedly difficult to bring in regulation when the landscape involves a frequently changing housing minister and so many organisations. But I’ve never known a group that has been so wide and yet so determined to act together on this” Frew continues.
“The key issue is uniformity, making such regulation understandable, and then - the number one priority - having the resources and determination to enforce it. Piecemeal regulation doesn’t work, as it’s impossible to keep across the difference. Look for example at local council selective licensing, varying from place to place, or look at the 400 different pieces of legislation that govern the private rental sector.”
Frew hints that the idea of a single regulator for the private rental sector - a person who would oversee a code to which all players in the sector would adhere - might be a way forward.
“Training will also be key. There are a lot of people entering the lettings sector now and it’s not good enough to say one morning that you want to diversify from sales in order to protect your income and then assume you’re suddenly very good at handling lettings.”
But Frew adds that the “overwhelming majority” of letting agencies and industry suppliers do not want to rip off tenants or landlords; however, keeping across changing legislation and local council initiatives is becoming increasingly difficult, so simpler and more universal regulation is required - and urgently.