RICS calls for compulsory regulation of estate agents


The age old problem of consumers not trusting estate agents continues right across the UK, with over 90% of homebuyers now calling for compulsory regulation to better protect buyers, according to a new RICS survey.

Of those who failed to check whether their agent was a regulated member of a professional body, only half (54%) said they trusted them to provide honest and truthful advice.

With no statutory regulation currently in place to ensure sales agents are suitably qualified to sell property, and with public confidence at such a low level, understandably, the overwhelming majority (91%) believe that buyers would be better protected if compulsory regulation were introduced.

While all sales agents are legally bound to offer a customer redress scheme, those who are not members of a professional body are not obliged to meet minimum competency standards or subject to the scrutiny of regulatory monitoring. This means that consumers are potentially dealing with an agent who, while technically abiding by existing legislation, could be providing inaccurate advice.

Only agents who belong to a regulated professional body, such as RICS, are duty bound to a strict ethical code and obliged meet minimum competency levels. If RICS agents fail to act in accordance with rules of conduct, they are subject to regulatory investigation and if found to have acted inappropriately are subject to sanctions. In extreme cases, agents can potentially lose their chartered status.

RICS would like to see all estate agents forced to sign up to a professional regulation scheme that provides better safeguards for buyers and sellers and is clearer than the current regulatory regime which is unnecessarily complex. Concise, compulsory regulation would both improve consumer protection and minimise the burden on business by simplifying legislation, making it easier for agents to abide by.

These results show a shocking lack of consumer trust in the estate agency profession. Clearly, when people are making the biggest purchase of their lives, they want to know that they can trust their agent and the advice they’re given. People who are buying or selling a house should always check that their agent is a regulated member of a professional body, such as RICS, who abide by ethical codes.

By using an unregulated estate agent, people are potentially dealing with someone who doesn’t understand their obligations to consumers. Although all estate agents must have a redress scheme, these only deal with complaints once something has gone wrong. This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. What is needed is compulsory regulation for all agents that helps to raise standards and prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Peter Bolton King, RICS Global Residential Director
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