The biggest debate in the lettings industry over
the last year has been the ongoing saga of regulation. Should
letting agents be treated as estate agents? Or would a raft of new
compulsory regulations simply distract from the business of
enforcing the regulations we already have?
Industry bodies have been split down the middle on the debate,
however the political forces in Parliament have remained highly
consistent: the Opposition, led by Shadow Housing Minister Jack
Dromey, are for compulsory regulation - and the Coalition
government, spearheaded by Housing Minister Mark Prisk, are
However now it appears like these established political
positions could be in for their first major sea-change. The
Department for Communities and Local Government has issued a
statement, saying: "We continually work with industry and
regulatory bodies to improve the system. However, we recognise that
the lack of redress against some letting agents is a real concern
for many landlords and tenants. Government is currently looking at
this issue and giving it serious consideration."
DCLC softening position on industry control?
"It would be a huge missed opportunity not to enable the OFT or
its successor bodies to ban or reprimand rogue agents, or to
deprive tenants or landlords who suffer poor treatment at the hands
of letting agents with access to independent redress.
"We believe these changes do not equate to a burden on business
but rather a minimal regulatory necessity."
This possible change of direction could come as a relief to
Prisk, who advocated regulation when the Conservatives were in
opposition. It comes in advance of a 16th April vote which will
consider an amendment made by the House of Lords to the Enterprise
and Regulatory Reform Bill, which calls for letting agents to be
included under the Estate Agents Act 1979.