13:06 PM, 10th February 2012, About 12 years ago 7
As stories of Letting Agents who cease trading owing large sums of money continue be reported, Norwich based landlord Mark Alexander has launched an e-petition advocating the compulsory licensing of UK Letting Agents to protect both landlords and tenants.
Over 4 million homes are provided by the Private Rented Sector in the UK by 1.5 million private landlords, many of whom opt to appoint Letting Agents to manage their portfolios assuming that this will be done within all applicable legal obligations. In fact Letting Agents handle large sums of clients’ money and they may be unqualified to correctly manage property within the relevant legal liabilities.
Mark Alexander said “I believe this is unacceptable and whilst not advocating that the industry be tied up in costly red tape I believe that a simple compulsory licensing structure would offer greater protection both to tenants and to landlords whilst ensuring that only the most professional Letting Agents continued to thrive.”
The licensing scheme proposed would simply ensure that redress is available in the event of financial failure or negligence on the part of Letting Agents.
A spokesperson from Knight Property Management commented on the epetition, saying “Simple, effective, compulsory regulation can only be a good thing for the industry’s reputation. I like the licencing idea, and the idea of bad agents being priced out of the market by extortionate PI premiums. That’s so simple it could actually work!”
Mary Latham, a landlord since the 1970’s and representative of the National Landlord Association and Midlands Landlord Accreditation Scheme, where she has influenced legislation before, agrees.
“Mark’s suggestion does not involve red tape, its simple and that is why it has a good chance of success.” added Mary.
Sally Lawson, owner of Concentric Lettings and a member of the Association of Residential Letting agents “ARLA” said “I personally would welcome regulation and have done for years. The problem is that Lettings is unregulated, but the English population thinks that if someone holds themselves out as a professional then they must be! But this is sadly not the case. As letting agents we have 100,000’s or millions of pounds through our accounts, and if this gets into the hands of someone with debt issues or an unscrupulous edge, then this leads to closure and theft of the money in many cases, which is bad for the industry and us honest agents that spend thousands every year on various insurances, memberships to various accreditation, client account auditing and accounting staff and procedures to do everything right.”
Mrs Lawson’s view is one also held by Mr Alexander, one that was one of the biggest factors in the creation of the petition.
“It is inconceivable that any other industry handling large sums of client money could do so without even basic best practice rules to oversee their business procedures and protect their clients in the event of fraudulent practice, incompetence or unforeseen business failure. If the Government fail to pick up on this I am hoping that Councils will use their powers under the new Localisation Act to introduce licencing. It’s a real vote winner for them in my opinion as it will clean up the industry, secure Public Sector jobs, protect landlords and tenants and help Councils to raise income to achieve their social and political objectives” he said.