Are UK estate agents regulated?
It’s a pertinent question that many people ask, and the short answer is yes. However, there have been many calls from the public to further improve the regulation of the business to help professionalise and improve customer satisfaction in the industry.
According to government research, over 60% of homebuyers and sellers have experienced stress during the homebuying process with almost a quarter stating that, if they were to do it all again, they would choose a different estate agent.
The research formed the basis to the government’s plans to professionalise the industry. So, we take a look at the current regulations, how these are going to change and what you can do if you are unhappy with your estate agent.
Current Regulations for Estate Agents
The work undertaken by estate agents is already covered by plenty of regulations, many of which are covered in separate parliamentary Acts, principally the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
The general guidance of this law means that estate agents must act in the best interests of their clients, and that both sellers and buyers are treated fairly, honestly, and in a timely fashion. Standards of the profession are upheld in law which cover all aspects of an estate agents role including marketing, handling negotiations, passing on offers, handling clients money and the preparation of sale particulars.
Estate agents must also carry suitable insurance to cover any liabilities from their business dealings as well as be a member of an approved property redress scheme.
Agents who do not comply with any aspect of this law could be banned from trading. Failure to follow this ban can result in prosecution and substantial fines being imposed.
Additional areas of regulation include:
- Cancellation of Contracts Regulations
- Provision of Services Regulations
- E-commerce Regulations
- Data Protection Act
- Anti-Money Laundering Regulations
- Town & Country Planning Act (Sale Boards)
- Equality Act
- Energy Performance Certificates
However, currently there is no requirement by law that estate agents must be licensed or qualified.
Regulating Estate Agents: Proposed Changes
The proposed change, announced by the Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid, last week will go further than the current regulations to ensure that all estate agents:
- Must hold a professional qualification.
- Must be transparent about the fees they receive from referrals to mortgage brokers, solicitors and surveyors.
In an effort to curb the practice of gazumping (see Property Jargon Buster), measures are also likely to be introduced to encourage voluntary reservation agreements.
The plans also lay out changes in other areas to help facilitate smoother housing transactions including reducing the timescales currently in place for the return of local authority searches. The proposals will ensure that these are returned in under 10 days.
Lastly, the government wants to provide more resources to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team to help enforce regulation, including banning non-compliant agents from trading.
What to do if you are unhappy with your Estate Agent
The first port of call should always be directly with your agent themselves and, even if the professional relationship has broken down, you need to give them a chance to put things right before escalating the matter.
Some things take time to resolve, so be prepared to be patient whilst matters are dealt with but, if you are still not getting satisfaction, you should follow the complaints procedure.
Since 2007 (under the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007), all estate agents must belong to an ombudsman scheme. Typically, this will be one of the following:
- The Property Redress Scheme
- The Property Ombudsman
- Ombudsman Services: Property
You can also lodge a complaint with their professional trade body such as the National Association of Estate Agents: Propertymark (NAEA) or the Independent Network of Estate Agents (INEA).
Each of these channels will outline the official procedure for investigating your complaint to find a suitable and appropriate resolution.
Here at Property Assistant, we go to every length to keep our customers happy and we like to think that we can resolve any complaints; no matter how big or small. Communication and trust are key to the success of any relationship and we believe that our bond with you is an important one.
If you would like to know more about the way we do business then we’d like to hear from you.
Featured image via Pixabay.