Organisations with varied interests in the English lettings industry, including some of the UK's major lettings agents, have met at The House of Lords to discuss improving industry standards.
The event was organised by Lord Richard Best, chairman of the independent council overseeing The Property Ombudsman, following the completion of a report 'Regulating Residential Letting Agents: The Issues and Options' which TPO commissioned from leading academic Professor Michael Ball, of Reading University.
The forum was attended by 34 individuals from key organisations including ARLA, ARMA, CAB, DCLG, NAEA, NALS, NLA, OFT, RICS, Shelter, TDS, UKALA, Which?, and several lettings agencies in addition to senior personnel from TPO.
Tom Lynch, who heads the Property Services Regulatory Authority in the Republic of Ireland, also attended to outline how regulation of the property sales and lettings industry is organised in Ireland.
In his introduction to the report, Lord Best pointed out letting agents in Scotland and Wales already operate under more stringent conditions than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, who are thought to earn around £1 billion per annum from a market that brings in £14 billion.
'In Scotland and Wales, there are more stringent regulations,' explained Lord Best in his introduction. 'And all agents in the Republic of Ireland now come under a statutory regulator. Does the scale of the sector in England, and the damage caused by some 'cowboy' operators, mean more extensive regulation is needed here?
'TPO asked the eminent academic, Professor Michael Ball, to investigate these issues and this thought-provoking and cogent report is the outcome. We hope it will start a wide debate and guide the thinking of both the government and the industry in deciding 'what next?' for this vital part of the nation's housing sector.'
Bill McClintock, chairman of the TPO operating company, said all those attending the forum had agreed to work together on further research.
'It was a very helpful discussion which got organisations that sometimes talk at each other to instead talk to each other and I think everyone gained a clearer picture of other people's viewpoints,' said Mr McClintock.
'Those attending the event agreed that as regulation through legislation was not a Government priority it was their responsibility to work together and bring about a regime that reduces risk for the consumer. To that end, Lord Best will be meeting with the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, who is on record as supporting some form of regulation for lettings agents. Lord Best will be seeking Government encouragement to maintain progress in this matter.'