Ombudsman Services takes seat on government-backed housing group

by Ombudsman Services | Oct 12, 2018

Ombudsman Services is part of a new working group of housing experts tasked by the government with helping to raise standards across the property agent sector.

Announced today (Friday 12 October) by Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP, the Regulating Property Agents Working Group will advise the government on a new regulatory approach to letting, managing and estate agents.

The ultimate aim is to ensure that home buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords and leaseholders can be confident they are getting a professional service and are being charged fairly. In particular, the group will be responsible for advising on:

  • a model for an independent property-agent regulator, including how it will operate and how it will enforce compliance;
  • a single, mandatory and legally-enforceable Code of Practice for letting and managing agents, and whether similar could be provided for estate agents;
  • a system of minimum entry requirements and continuing professional development for letting, managing and estate agents;
  • a standardised approach for presenting transparent service charges to leaseholders and freeholders;
  • an easier statutory-backed process for consumers to challenge unfair service charges; and
  • whether other fees and charges which affect both leaseholders and freeholders are justified; should be capped or banned.
  • The working group will be chaired by Lord Best and will report its findings to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government by summer 2019.

David Pilling, head of lobbying and policy at Ombudsman Services, said:

“Consumers should have confidence when buying, selling or renting a home.

“We are pleased that this group has been set up and it’s great to be actively involved in it. We are keen to share our considerable knowledge and experience of handling complaints in the property agent sector with other members of the group.

“We also think it’s important to share our knowledge of good practice in how other sectors operate in terms of standards, regulation, redress, consumer advocacy and enforcement.

“It is vital that consumers are put at the heart of thinking and design of regulation in the housing sector.”

Other members of the group include representatives from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the National Landlord Association, Citizens Advice, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA Propertymark) and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA Propertymark).