New standards to crack down on rogue estate agents

Professional qualifications and a requirement to be transparent about fees are among the measures being introduced by the government to help reduce stress for homebuyers

The Government is introducing new standards for estate agents in a bid to crack down on gazumping and drive rogue agents out of the market.

Estate agents will be required to hold a professional qualification and be transparent about any fees they receive from referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.

The use of voluntary reservation agreements will also be encouraged to help prevent sales falling through and to reduce gazumping.

Estate agents who do not comply with the new rules will face greater penalties, including being banned.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life.

“But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.”

Why is this happening?

More than one million homes are bought and sold in England each year, but government research found that six out of 10 buyers and sellers had experienced stress during the process.

Around a quarter of sellers also said they would use a different estate agent next time they sold a property.

The Government said delays and complications during the home-buying process caused unnecessary financial and emotional stress and contributed to more than a quarter of sales falling through.

It hopes the measures being introduced will drive up standards and help the market work better.

The requirement for estate agents to have a professional qualification will also put them on a similar footing with those in the same trade, such as conveyancers, solicitors and surveyors.

Who does it affect?

The move gives consumers more certainty and protection when they are buying and selling a home.

The changes have also been welcomed by the estate agency industry body NAEA Propertymark, which has campaigned for a more professional market. 

Chief executive Mark Hayward said: “For too long, unprofessional agents with no qualifications have been able to operate in the sector. 

“Enforcing compulsory qualifications will result in a fairer industry not only for consumers, but for the professional agents who have undertaken qualifications in order to deliver the highest standards every day.” 

What’s the background?

There are 20,000 estate agency businesses across the country, and as the law currently stands, anyone can practice as an estate agent without any qualifications or previous experience.

Other measures announced by the Government to help improve the home-buying and selling process include setting a timeline for local authority searches, so that buyers get the information they need within 10 days.

Managing agents and freeholders will also have to provide up-to-date lease information to an agreed timetable and for a set fee.

The powers of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team will be strengthened so that they can carry out more enforcement activity, including banning agents if they do not comply with the new rules.

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