Efforts to professionalise the lettings sector of the UK’s housing market have come a long way recently. The latest proposals for a mandatory code of practice are in place with a range of other measures, intended to regulate the lettings sector.
With the aim of improving living conditions in an ever-growing rental market, recent measures include a proposed ban on tenant fees, a cap on holding and security deposits, compulsory membership of a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme, a blacklist of criminal agents and landlords, as well as banning orders for offenders.
The proposed mandatory code of practice and a national qualification for letting agents is one of the final steps towards a fully professional lettings sector. These new measures were announced in April, and include a requirement for ongoing professional development and training for agents, as well as increased support for leaseholders.
Efforts to professionalise the lettings sector have come a long way recently, with latest proposals asking for a mandatory code of practice.
Effective combination of legislation is paramount
When fully implemented, these measures are likely to create a more professional lettings sector for future tenants. With a strong focus on protecting tenants’ money. However, implementing new legislation effectively (and ensuring it’ll combine effectively could prove to be the biggest challenge to the government.
Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp in the UK, says: “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. 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,” he adds.
Timescales and implementation of legislation is crucial
If using the ban on lettings fees as an example, “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,” explains Cobbold.
“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.
Transparency and technology are the future
As the private rental market becomes increasingly regulated by the government, the professional standards of letting agents are likely to increase further.
As Cobbold says, “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.”
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