It is time for Letting Agents to be regulated and qualified!

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It is time for Letting Agents to be regulated and qualified!

Alan BeesleyBy Alan Beesley MNAEA, MARLA
Director of Atkinsons Residential/The Letting Line

I have always struggled with the principle that someone would give their biggest financial investment, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, to an unqualified ‘professional’ to look after! Would that someone also entrust their life savings to a savings scheme with no financial qualifications or safety net? Probably not!

And yet for years, residential letting and property management agents have flown under the radar where the industry has not been legally required to be regulated. However, since the outset, Atkinsons Residential and The Letting Line has voluntarily been members of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) respectively. Now under the banner of Propertymark, they have always ensured its members are qualified for the job and adhere to high professional standards, giving peace of mind to the public.

Since October 2014, by law, all letting agents must belong to a government-approved redress scheme, such as The Property Ombudsmen or The Property Redress scheme. However, it is still not a legal requirement for the letting agent to be licensed or qualified. This means that anyone with little or no experience could effectively be letting and managing your biggest financial investment! However, it is mooted that letting agents will soon need to be licensed and qualified to practice, something that we fully support.

Propertymark is the UK’s leading property membership body established to guide the general public in identifying the agents in their village, town or city who are best in class, and to educate the importance both of regulated agencies and qualified professionals, ensuring its members work to a higher standard than the law currently demands. Clients can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they will benefit from:

CLIENT MONEY PROTECTION All members who handle client money are covered by Client Money Protection and have annual inspections of their client account. Tenants and landlords can rest assured knowing that their money is protected if the worst happens: the agent goes bust or misuses rent, deposit or other funds.

QUALIFICATIONS Across the entire sector there is no standard requirement to be qualified. However, all Propertymark members are qualified in their profession, which demonstrates their commitment to higher standards. Their qualification proves they have the knowledge required to offer the best possible service.

PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE Members must hold the appropriate professional indemnity insurance, which provides cover for legal costs and expenses in claims resulting from negligence or breach of professional duty. It also covers any damages or costs awarded to consumers as a result of negligence.

INDEPENDENT REDRESS All members must belong to one of the Government-approved independent redress schemes: The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme, which provide fair and reasonable resolutions to complaints and disputes between members of the public and agents.

MEMBERSHIP RULES To maintain high standards, all Propertymark members must comply with their Conduct and Membership Rules. Disciplinary hearings are arranged when serious breaches occur; a tribunal will consider the case and impose sanctions on the member if they are found to have breached the rules.

THIRD-PARTY REGISTRATIONS To avoid hefty fines, Propertymark members will be checked to ensure they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who uphold information rights in the public’s interest, as well as checking they are registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for Anti-Money Laundering supervision.

Surely, all Landlords should expect these high standards, but sadly at this moment, it is only a selected few professional agents that voluntarily go the extra mile. We are proud to have been professionally qualified agents since 1997, a testament to our commitment to provide a high quality service looking after our clients’ biggest investments and their best interests. If you’re interested to find out more about our letting and management services, please contact our Letting Director, Sarah Beesley, you can contact Sarah here.