The three government approved redress schemes will in future jointly and publicly name and shame both rogue estate and letting agents.
They have revised the existing arrangements by which one will not accept an agent that has not settled an award ordered by another redress scheme. Any agent that does not belong to a redress scheme is legally unable to trade.
The announcement comes ahead of the Government’s ‘blacklist’ of letting agents, set to go live this autumn, but which is due to be accessible only by local councils and central government – and not by consumers or, for example, by potential employers.
Regulator NTSEAT does publish lists of warned and barred estate agents, but not letting agents.
The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services: Property, and the Property Redress Scheme yesterday issued a revised version of their Memorandum of Understanding.
If an agent is expelled from membership by a scheme due to a breach of its terms of business, the Memorandum of Understanding will now allow for total transparency and the sharing of information with the press, property portals, National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) and the expelled agent’s local Trading Standards office.
Property Ombudsman Katrine Sporle said: “Registering with an approved redress scheme is a legal requirement for both sales and letting agents in England.
“Naming and shaming expelled agents that have not fulfilled their obligations and are not able to legally trade is in the public interest.
“The scheme responsible for expulsion will provide consumer protection by publicising the news via their website and other media outlets, and will inform regulators within the industry.”
Sean Hooker of the Property Redress Scheme said: “Agents should be fully aware that the consequences of not complying with the decisions of the redress schemes are severe, and that the close cooperation of the schemes will ensure that the consumer can be reassured that they are protected from poor industry practice.”
Lewis Shand Smith of Ombudsman Services: Property said: “Our strengthened Memorandum of Understanding should send out a clear signal to all agents that the redress schemes are working collaboratively to drive out poor practice in the industry.
“This is good news for tenants in the private rental sector who can be confident that our strong working partnership means we are acting together in the interest of all consumers to provide greater protection.”
Other revisions to the Memorandum relate to the transfer between schemes. These include:
- To clearly define the actions required if an agent makes an application to one scheme having previously been a member of another, but there are ongoing complaints.
- To identify who is responsible when a company changes redress schemes, but a complaint arises where issues occurred during membership with the previous redress scheme.