The Secretary of State for Housing, Sajid Javid, has brushed off accusations that there will not be enough parliamentary time because of Brexit to get a big raft of new lettings legislation through.
Javid was also challenged over how the new legislation will be policed, replying that he wants to see one ombudsman only across the entire sector. However, he did not seem to respond to the allegation that existing regulation is not being policed.
Speaking on the radio programme You and Yours yesterday, he told presenter Winifred Robinson that he was “absolutely, totally committed to this [the new proposals]”. However, he also agreed that in terms of parliamentary time, Brexit would take priority.
Most new legislation takes months to get through scrutiny and debates by both houses of Parliament, and the usual implementation times are October and April. The next general election is scheduled for May 5, 2022.
Just after midnight on Easter Day, Javid’s ministry announced a series of fundamental changes to the lettings industry, including a compulsory code of practice for letting agents; an independent regulator; mandatory qualifications and continuing professional development; possible prosecution of agents breaking the code with criminal sanctions; and mandatory Client Money Protection.
The ministry also announced its responses to two consultations.
Yesterday, Robinson not only queried whether there would be enough parliamentary time to get the legislation through, but added that there had been “so many consultations” which had closed and where “absolutely nothing” had happened.
She also said that letting agents were already subject to legislation, citing the requirement to display their fees.
She said that there were agents in breach of this, but that Trading Standards did not have the resources to police it.
She queried who would police the new regime, also saying that there was already a code of practice for letting agents published by the Property Ombudsman – “So there already is an ombudsman”.
Javid said that actually there were four or five ombudsmen operating across the whole housing sector, and he wanted a single ombudsman covering every part of the housing market.
Quoting ARLA, Robinson said that there was already plenty of legislation but that it simply wasn’t being policed properly.
Javid said that “most people would find it astounding” that anyone can set up as a letting agent, without qualifications or experience, and with no need to register with any regulatory body.
Asked who the new industry regulator could be, a short clip was played with leasehold reform campaigner Sebastian O’Kelly saying the new regulator should be robust and independent, and someone from outside the industry.
Javid said he agreed that the new over-arching regulator should be robust and independent, but he had an open mind as to whether that person should be from outside the housing industry.
Critics described Javid’s performance on You and Yours as feeble, and more about a flag-waving, vote-gathering exercise among generation rent than anything else.