The Property Ombudsman is the latest property industry player to throw its support behind the introduction of mandatory qualifications and a new regulator for the lettings sector.
Gerry Fitzjohn, chairman of The Property Ombudsman board, says the move, announced by the government on Sunday, is “incredibly welcome”.
He says: “Tenants have little choice over which agent they deal with as they often choose a property first and then have to use the agent which is managing it. These reforms however, will create a level playing field for consumers who will finally be able to expect a consistent level of service and knowledge, regardless of which agent they choose. This will also help consumers feel more empowered to raise concerns if necessary.
“We also welcome the news that civil penalties will be introduced for those that fail to comply with Client Money Protection. The requirement to share data across providers, redress schemes and local authorities to ensure compliance will help with enforcement and protect consumers.”
The government’s proposals, likely to become law in 2019, involve a new independent regulator and code of practice for letting and managing agents; prosecution for agents who fail to abide by the code; the requirement for agents to study for and secure a nationally recognised qualification; at least one person in every branch required to have a higher qualification; and a commitment by agents to undergo ongoing professional development.
In addition, the government says Client Money Protection will be mandatory for all agents - and this specific provision may become law later this year.