The government has announced that new measures will be brought in to professionalise the estate agent market, prevent “rogue managing agents” from taking advantage of homeowners and push up standards across the industry as a whole.
Government figures show that over six out of ten buyers and sellers reported experiencing stress throughout the process, while a quarter of sellers admitted they’d use a different estate agent if they were to go through it all again.
Under the plans, announced by housing secretary Sajid Javid earlier last week (April 8th), estate agents will be required to have a professional qualification and be transparent about fees received for referring people to mortgage brokers, surveyors and solicitors.
There are more than a million properties bought and sold in England alone every year, but a lot of financial and emotional stress is caused by delays and complications that arise throughout the process. This can result in delayed decisions and no doubt is a contributing factor as to why more than a quarter of sales fall through each year.
Other planned measures to make improvements include setting timelines for local authority searches so people can access the information needed within ten days, pushing for the use of voluntary reservation agreements to stop sales from falling through and also crack down on gazumping, and bolstering the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so more enforcement activity can be carried out – including banning agents.
Commenting on the announcement, Mr Javid said: “Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.
So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of rogue agents and can trust the process when buying or selling their home.”
The government has also pledged to crack down on rogue landlords, forcing those who rent out substandard properties out of the sector. Those who have been convicted of housing, immigration and council offences like unlawful eviction and leasing overcrowded properties will be put on a new database to help councils track information between themselves and monitor more closely those with poor track records.
There are 4.7 million households in England in the private rental sector and the government has said these reforms – part of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 – will make sure that everyone has somewhere safe and decent to live.
Heather Wheeler, minister for housing and homelessness, noted that the new changes will leave landlords in no doubt that they will have to provide decent properties – “or face the consequences”.
Landlords convicted of offences could also be handed banning orders that would stop them from leasing accommodation for a set timeframe, from 12 months to life.
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