OPINION: Jading Standards

Russell Quirk
Russell Quirk

As inflation rages, the media hype a forthcoming recession and Russia edges us nearer to world war and global starvation, Britain is to be distracted by seeking a new occupant for Clowning Street. The role’s job description lists integrity, honesty, capability, authenticity, and selflessness as prerequisites and therefore this latest search may take a while given the pool of political ‘talent’ from which it must feed.

The good news though is that with regime change may come respite for a battered lettings sector that has been force-fed proposed regulation and diktats that are at best piffling and at worst designed to push property folk into bankruptcy. With Johnson and Gove both dismissed to the backbenches, the new incumbents will surely now toy with economic policy rather than landlords and agents. The Renter Reform Act and Gove’s hallucinogenic NIMBY pandering by way of his latest planning ‘improvement’ announcements will, one hopes, be buried in the Westminster graveyard of populist claptrap.

But what of future housing policy? Will a new Prime Minister focus on actually solving the problems of supply and the inadequate provision of social housing too? Will a newly appointed Housing Secretary know their subject at last and put in place not just attention-grabbing headlines that regurgitate promises of funding from the same, tired pot – but publish an executable plan to build the right homes in the right places without relying solely on the top ten house builders? Can we expect a new administration to see the property industry and landlords as partners in a sector that demonstrably props up the wider economy and subsidises successive governments’ failure to provide affordable and social rental homes? Of course not, but we can all dream.

For the record, simply appointing an apolitical Housing Tsar with a mandate and a budget for a minimum term of five years, someone that knows what they’re doing, would be a sensible start.

Regardless, unfortunately the changing of the guard at the top of British politics will not, however, so easily rid us of that other great threat to the prosperity of the property industry – National Trading Standards.

NTSELAT, whilst it sounds like a weird tropical disease, is the mouthful that is the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, the body tasked with overseeing the regulation of estate and letting agents. It exists from a small cupboard within council offices in Powys, Wales and it was confined to such, quite justifiably in my opinion, when Government seemingly sought to push the function as far away from Whitehall as it could. Politically speaking, Powys is Outer Mongolia.

At the head of this organisation is James Munro, a man that takes his role from said cupboard very seriously. In fact, rather too seriously.

In recent months Munro has become all Chris Whitty like in his authoritarian pronouncements aimed at those trying to earn a humble living from property. So heavy handed are NTSELAT’s interpretations of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations that you’d be forgiven for expecting further Munroisms along the lines of:

+ Mandatory DNA swabs of properties listed for sale to ensure an absence of any criminal activity

+ Exorcisms of all homes over 20 years old – Poltergeists now being declarable as material considerations

+ In depth interrogations of neighbours prior to a listing going live

+ No listings during a full moon

James Munro

In reality, Munro’s laying down of the law, or to be exact, his law seemingly… is only slightly less ridiculous than these tongue in cheek examples.

Recent proclamations have included:

+ Banning ‘Price on Application’. What, because the regulators believe that buyers are too vulnerable to understand the concept of a price being proffered discreetly?

+ Making mobile-phone signal a declarable element to a sale. Presumably because Munro doesn’t feel that buyers are bright enough to check this for themselves by just glancing at their phone display whilst at the property? It’s insulting the intelligence of the public and whom are more than capable of bearing their own necessary personal responsibility for such matters.

+ Encouraging agents to ‘grass’ on one another if they believe sufficient disclosure information has not been provided by their competitors.

+ Attesting to broadband speed – as if agents have any control over this or how such things are measured versus the reality.

This is the Nanny State at its worst. And if North Korea oversaw estate agency, perhaps it would look and feel a bit like this?

Consumer protection law is important and so is regulation. In fact, I am a staunch advocate of estate agent licensing. However, on the other side of that ‘Big Government’ coin is this cautionary dynamic whereby often those afforded a little power in office simply overstep the mark and resemble a combination of something akin to the East Berlin Stasi and a party-drug fuelled teenager on their first night out at as a university fresher.

The law is the law, fair enough. But the current, overbearing skewing of interpretation by these cupboard dwellers is simply too much.

Property buyers are not dumb idiots. And NTSELAT, the industry’s authoritarian Welsh foghorn, should not exist purely on the basis that it hopes they are.

Russell Quirk is co-founder of ProperPR. 

NTSELAT has been invited to respond to this piece.



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  1. Rob Hailstone

    Agree with them or not, I am sure that James Munro’s “recent proclamations” are not simply his personal list of what he feels should be contained in any future Material Information requirements. Opinions will no doubt have been taken, and possibly surveys undertaken.

    However, there is one (shall I buy or not buy?) proclamation that James seems to have missed out however:
    Full disclosure of the whereabouts of the habitat/dwelling of Russell Quirk, if within hearing distance of his recent proclamations

  2. Typhoon

    Mr H I think that’s harsh Mr Q is surely opinionated abut  love him or hate him, regularly, he does hit the nail on the head. the list of proposed issues he relates to which are proposed to be included in CPR 2008 declarations are utterly ludicrous and I share his view that it is insulting to the general public to think they cannot easily establish this information themselves.


    And where do we the industry sit when a broadband speed we published turns out to be total rubbish in reality, as most do?

    1. Rob Hailstone

      RQ also hits his thumb regularly, and I believe he has done that again this time.


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