The Property Ombudsman (TPO) responds to new report published by the Communities and Local Government Committee on the Private Rental Sector published today
As the UK's largest property ombudsman scheme, with more than 22,000 sales and lettings branches registered, Ombudsman Christopher Hamer was invited to present evidence during the Select Committee's recent investigation into the Private Rental Sector.
Commenting on the report issued today, Mr Hamer said:
'I have been calling for regulation in the lettings sector for a number of years. Whilst it is estimated that around 65 percent of UK letting agents are in membership of TPO and have voluntarily agreed to follow our comprehensive Code of Practice, there is a sizeable number of agents who have not taken that option and are not affiliated to any trade association. That presents a significantly riskier place for landlords and tenants to do business.'
The news comes in the same week that TPO issued an announcement[i] calling for a level playing field for lettings in the wake of Client Money Protection (CMP) cover being made available to all letting agents for the first time to protect the £23 billion that is paid annually in rent, of which £6 - £10 billion is collected by agents on behalf of landlords[ii].
Mr Hamer added:
'It would seem a logical step that consumers who are using the private rental sector are given the same level of protection as those who are buying and selling property. With that in mind I welcome the Select Committee's recommendation to the Government for a robust code of practice to be included in its forthcoming letting agent redress arrangements. The TPO Code of Practice is already used by the majority of the industry therefore it would not present a significant change for letting agents if such a code became mandatory for all.
'Recent announcements by the Housing Minister Mark Prisk to change legislation will ultimately move us one step closer to greater consumer protection and that development is to be commended. However, it does fall short of a full regulatory regime which the majority of the industry, along with many consumer groups, have argued for. I hope that the Select Committee's report lends yet another strong voice to the calls for that to be put in place.
'I feel that the report addresses many crucial issues affecting the lettings industry, including the full disclosure of fees, which we wholeheartedly support and is currently being addressed by the ASA to ensure complete transparency.'
Some 10,391 letting agents have voluntarily signed up to the TPO's Code of Practice for letting agents, which provides a comprehensive set of standards by which firms should operate and focus on customer service.