In July 2019, the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) Working Group submitted a recommendation to Government setting out how letting and estate agents could and should be regulated in the future. Estate agents currently do not need to be licensed or hold a qualification to be able practice in the industry, and so this is a long overdue and welcomed development.
For many years, the property industry has faced widespread criticism over the lack of regulation and subsequent bad practice this can cause; therefore the recommendation will protect consumers and improve the home buying and selling process for all.
The recommendation calls for an independent regulator, licensing for all agents, a new code of practice and mandatory qualifications for all, irrespective of experience. The full report can be found here.
So, when is this happening and how will it affect homeowners, landlords, tenants, and businesses?
Whilst the recommendation by RoPA is still just a proposal at this stage, it is understood that this has already been signed off by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, and it is likely to form the basis of legislation in the near future. Once this legislation is passed, all agents will be given a set time frame to become compliant.
The recommendation of the working group is that all customer facing agents should be able to demonstrate the knowledge and skills equivalent to a relevant Level 3 qualification, which is equivalent to an A-Level. Company Directors and management staff should achieve a Level 4 qualification. By requiring all staff to hold a qualification, this will bring Property Agents in line with other regulated professions and raise consumer confidence.
A relevant qualification will be required irrespective of discipline or experience, and thus there will be no exemptions. Whilst this may seem unfair or unnecessary in some cases, for example where an agent has been successfully working in the industry for 40+ years, the view of the working party is that it is important that this sets a benchmark for all going forward, and all staff should demonstrate that they are compliant with current legislation.
Many agents who already hold a Level 3 Qualification or higher may be wondering whether this will be compliant under the new regulations. Until the regulator has set the syllabus it is not possible to say for sure, however it is understood that if a candidate holds an OFQUAL regulated qualification at the relevant level, they will have a significant head start.
Whilst the recommendation only applies to agents, there is a firm belief that once this is rolled out, in time it will extend to Landlords too.
In reference to the final report from the ROPA Working Group, David Cox, Chief Executive ARLA Propertymark commented:
“These are substantial changes which will require agents to start making preparations now to ensure that they are well placed for when these proposed qualification requirements are introduced. While we anticipate that the need for property qualifications will be phased in, we advise agents to get ahead of the competition and to stand out by adopting the new requirements early. Propertymark can support you and your organisation both with getting qualified and preparing for regulation.”
As a forward thinking and proactive agency, Sheldon Bosley Knight support this call for a regulated industry and we have begun preparations for every member of staff to become qualified in line with this initiative.