Industry bodies are expecting the coronavirus epidemic to delay the introduction of legislation on agency qualifications.
Lord Best, chair of the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group (R0PA), first backed minimum industry standards and qualifications in July 2019 and said in January that the implementation was likely to take two years due to the time it takes for legislation to progress.
Members of RoPA are not expecting the coronavirus outbreak to scrap these plans but some believe they will take longer to come to fruition.
Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association told EYE: “As of yet no firm details have been provided on the roll-out of the RoPA’s recommendations, which is understandable given the unusual times we are living through.
“Given this, and given that many staff in agencies are likely to be on furlough it is important to be realistic about implementation and the ability of the market to make major structural changes at this stage.
“That said, we remain keen to see these reforms made as soon as is practically possible.”
A joint statement provided to EYE from David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark and Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, anticipated a longer timescale.
The statement said: “At the moment, Covid-19 clearly is the priority, we cannot underestimate how much of Government time and focus will be taken dealing with the pandemic given it is impacting every area of our lives.
“Our understanding is that there is still a willingness to proceed with RoPA, but it would be reasonable to expect timescales to be extended as a result of coronavirus.”
A spokesman for safeagent said the trade body believed the Government position – that it will consider the RoPA report in due course – remains unchanged, while RICS said it was ready to work on the new rules whenever the Ministry of Housing is able to.
Another RoPA member, University of Oxford Professor of Justice Systems Christopher Hodges, added that there was still work agents could do on the changes even if legislation takes longer.
He told EYE: “It is clear that almost every part of Government is currently focusing on fighting the virus.
“Preparatory work on implementing RoPA and possibly waiting in a legislative queue would logically be affected.
“I personally think that the current situation is strengthening the understanding that there is a need across the country to adopt closer engaged working, based on shared ethical values.
“I believe that various initiatives will be seen in four to six months as being important to knit societies and communities together.
“The adoption of a new system in housing and property based on an ethical code of conduct will be one of a number of priorities.
“Even if legislation takes a while, agents, landlords and tenants can meanwhile make good progress towards preparing for the new vision of how to behave.
“This might include thinking about the content, behaviour and culture of a system based on ethical values.
“For example, one some might be able to progress initiatives like reviewing a single code, designing a comprehensive property website and moving towards an integrated housing information and disputes service.”
Lord Best and the Ministry of Housing didn’t respond to requests for comment.