Calls for letting agents to be governed by consumer legislation
With government cuts hitting the availability of public sector housing, Hamer said that “it is now more than ever imperative” that landlords and tenants gained protection.
Hamer claimed that the coalition “could easily gain a quick win” by expanding the scope of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 despite housing minister Grant Shapps’s declared aversion to regulating the private rented sector.
The 2007 Act required all residential sales agents to join an approved redress scheme to settle disputes between consumers and agents.
A similar obligation for letting agents would be “an obvious consistency” and could result in the entire sector – not just the firms that have voluntarily agreed to follow its standards – abiding by the ombudsman’s code of practice.
Hamer plea to government came with today’s publication of his interim report, which shows that he dealt with the same number of cases for sales and letting agents – 150 – in the third quarter of 2010.
However letting agents generated far more enquiries than sales agents over the same period – 70% higher at 1,975. The ombudsman’s figures follows yesterday’s announcement by the RICS-backed Property Standards Board that it had voted to disband “with the prospect of statutory regulation of the whole residential property sector no longer on the political agenda”.
The board was formed in August 2009 to raise standards in residential property and protect consumers from rogue sales and letting agents.
Hamer said he hopes to meet Shapps to press the case for a change in legislation. He added: “More than 7,000 lettings offices in the UK are already signed up to the lettings code of practice voluntarily so clearly a large proportion of the industry itself sees this move as necessary.
“My report shows there is still a large number of complaints regarding lettings agents, numerically on a par with sales agents for whom membership [of the ombudsman scheme] is almost double the size.”