Letting Agents and Landlords Central Housing Group

Clampdown on Letting Agents and Landlords

A prominent member of the House of Lords has given a surprising insight into how the fiscal and regulatory clampdown on letting agents and landlords began – and it’s all down to MPs’ own experiences dealing with the private rental sector for the first time.

Lord Richard Best, a cross-bencher, is chair of the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group, which has produced proposals for mandatory qualifications for agents.

In an address to conveyancers earlier this week, Lord Best – who over almost half a century has worked with housing trusts and associations, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Property Ombudsman and other housing industry organisations – said the biggest change in his lifetime has been the expansion of the private rental sector.

In just two decades it’s grown from housing nine per cent of households to 20 per cent across the country, and 40 per cent in larger cities including London – he described this as “a phenomenon.”

And he went on to say that until recently ‘regulation’ was seen as an unpopular process with politicians, especially those of older generations who were almost wholly owner occupiers. But as owner occupation has dropped, so rental regulation has increased.

“That’s because MPs for the first time came into contact with agents, landlords and the private rental sector. They weren’t very aware of it before. But as their sons and daughters cannot always afford to buy, so MPs became aware of the private rental sector – and the same for the House of Lords, in relation to their grandchildren” he told the conveyancers.

“Lots of MPs and their children, and Lords and their grandchildren, have encountered the private rental sector in a way they hadn’t before. Did it go well? Sadly, for many, it didn’t.”

Lord Best, who was speaking to the Council for Licensed Conveyancers’ annual conference, reiterated the ROPA recommendations that there would be mandatory qualifications and a code of conduct – the latter being tougher than that which exists now through trade organisations like The Property Ombudsman.

There would be two key phrases that would be “vital” to the industry: every agent would have to be “a licensed agent” and a member of “a regulated body.”

He said there would be no exceptions.

Best said that all government ministers, trade bodies, political parties and consumer groups were in favour; legislation is likely to be completed within two years.

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