The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is initiating a further crackdown to protect leaseholders as well as tenants from unfair fees and service charges from managing and letting agents.
A new code of practice is set to be introduced in the rental and leasehold market in order to make the sector more professionalised, which will mean that letting and managing agents must gain a nationally recognised qualification in order to practice. Leaseholders will be able to challenge unfair service charges under the code, and will be given extra support if they choose to switch managing agents.
There will also be a new independent regulator who will be able to enforce powers against agents who break the rules, which could mean preventing them from trading or even criminal sanctions for the worst offenders. The aim is that tenants as well as leaseholders will be less likely to fall victim to unexpected costs, deliberately vague fees or sub-standard repairs carried out by agents.
Giving consumers more choice
House Minister Heather Wheeler said: “Most property agents take a thorough and professional approach when carrying out their business, but sadly some do not. By introducing new standards for the sector, we will clamp down on the small minority of agents who abuse the system so we can better protect tenants and leaseholders who find themselves at the end of a raw deal.”
A group of representatives for lettings, managing and estate agents, tenants and regulation experts will develop the code of practice, with final proposals expected by early 2019.
According to Gerry Fitzjohn, chairman of the Property Ombudsman, tenants normally choose a property first, and then work with whichever agent is managing the property afterwards, with little choice over which agent they deal with.
He added: “These reforms 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.”