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Estate Agents - rogues could be gazzumped by the law

Time is running out for dodgy estate agents. The campaign for stricter mandatory regulation to run them out of business is attracting more supporters.

Lenders are the latest to support the Move It campaign launched by the Consumers' Association, in March following the report on estate agency by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The Association's journal Which? called the OFT's conclusions "woefully inadequate".

The OFT's recommendations, made after a two-year investigation, were that agents should use plain English in contracts and keep written record of offers. That's just not enough to rid the industry of rogue traders as far as the Consumers' Association is concerned. Nick Stace, director of Which? Campaigns, adds, "Which? is stepping in where the OFT has failed to ensure people get adequate protection when making the biggest purchasing decision of their lives".

The Move It campaign is asking for mandatory regulation of estate agents to replace self-regulation and an immediate review of the Estate Agency Act, which was last modified 25 years ago. Which? says that the current self-regulatory system in which agents monitor themselves is just not working.

Move It has already attracted the support from The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and now the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), representing about 98% of lenders, has put its weight behind it. The CML also wants the Department of Trade & Industry to reject the OFT's recommendations and introduce mandatory regulation of estate agents.

CML director general Michael Coogan said, "In an environment where everyone else involved in the transaction will be regulated - the conveyancer, the surveyor, the broker, the mortgage lender - it is ironic that the estate agent, who is in many ways the most important player in determining the outcome of the house sale, is the only professional who does not have to meet stringent, compulsory standards. This situation cannot be right."

Give it a go yourself

Anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent. To prove the point, Nick Stace recently registered his own estate agency in London, even though he is completely untrained. Unlike other industries, there are no minimum standards of competency for estate agents. This is something both RICS and Which? want to change with minimum levels of competency introduced. However, right now this untrained and fairly unregulated bunch manage to earn £4 billion in fees from the 1.8 million of us who move home each year!

Halifax, which has its own estate agency business, said that estate agents should be regulated in the same way that mortgages are regulated. It added that it has been vigorously campaigning for transparency and compulsory membership of the estate agency ombudsman scheme, which would give us as homebuyers and sellers redress should we be dissatisfied with a service from an estate agent.

At the moment, the majority of estate agents do not belong to any kind of professional body nor do they use a code of practice. Only about one-third adhere to a code of practice through membership of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), RICS or the ombudsman scheme for estate agents. Even the NAEA has said that it was disappointed with the recommendations by the OFT. It wants to see more agents become members of the NAEA and join the ombudsman scheme. It is also running a national advertising campaign encouraging people to use only NAEA-accredited agents.

The ball is now in the government's court whether to introduce mandatory regulation and reject the OFT's proposals.


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Schedule of Articles

property investing
property refurbishment
buying overseas property
moving house
home letting
buy to let
home improvements

top 10 celebrity areas
6 up & comming areas
5 signs that an area is up & comming
city types yearn for the country in town
your place in the sun
equity release
planning permissions & extensions
estate agents
rent or buy
buy to let
mortgage overpayment
mortgage endowments
mortgage protection
stamp duty
self build your home
electrical surveys
the cost of moving in
the perfect neighbourhood
council tax
house price league
good neighbours
stamp duty land tax
top 20 towns 2003
cut the cost of moving
interest rates
buying in scotland
dream homes
first time buyers
the worth of uk homes
bad estate agents
keeping up appearances
home improvements


Please note that articles on this site & any other 'planning-approval' related web site does not constitute professional advice. All articles are intended to provide a general view of many subjects. We suggest you to consult a solicitor before making any important decisions.  The author is not an expert in any given field.

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