Aspirant new trade body CIELA, the Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents, has cast more doubt last night on its ability to launch.
The launch is due on October 1, but yesterday, CIELA said that a possible outcome was failure to launch because of “obviously insufficient support”.
If CIELA does launch, it says it will spotlight agents trading illegally; fight the lettings fee ban; and aggressively pursue call-centre agents who use misleading advertisements to take non-refundable money off unsuspecting consumers, usually first-time sellers.
CIELA also said that if “not quite enough” agents signed up ahead of the launch, they would be asked to pay more – currently, they are being asked to pay £35 a month.
CIELA founder Charlie Wright refused to divulge numbers of agents already signed up.
He said: “I do not wish to reveal that at this stage, because whatever I say, it only adds to the ‘wait and see’ problem.
“A smaller number would lead agents to think their support is not necessary, but a larger number might make people think it is unrealistic.
“Agents who would like the lettings fees ban avoided, rogue agents exposed and call-centre agents to be forced to play fair should ask themselves if these things are worth £35pm to them or not, and if so, join now.”
Wright continued: “The passionate support we have received from our Founder members is astonishing. These small, independent agents are as determined to help their industry be seen in a fairer light as they are to make their own businesses continue to succeed, and they believe CIELA is a “last chance saloon” for quality independent agents to take control of their reputation.”
“As far as CIELA is concerned, the ball is now in the court of independent agents. We are not making a hard sell here. Either agents want a representative voice, or they do not. If they do not join in sufficient numbers, then CIELA will be put on ice [its plans].”
He went on to say that there could be much lost, but much learnt.
He said: “I have no interest in expending time and money persuading turkeys that they should not vote for Christmas.”
CIELA is currently planning to offer, in the event of successful launch, a certificate to show that agents are compliant with regulation. It has also challenged Purplebricks’ advertising to the industry watchdog.
Wright also claimed: “The NAEA and ARLA membership requirements extend significantly beyond the legal minimum, and therefore are too onerous and expensive for many. This means that many perfectly legitimate agents have no way of standing apart from illegal rogues.
“CIELA will rectify this problem by providing a mechanism for all agents to register as compliant, completely free of charge. They will be required to provide proof of compliance via the CIELA website (declarations alone will not be sufficient) and they will be provided with the equivalent of an ABTA or IATA number that will provide protection to their customers against any loss from improper practices.”