Most agents are well aware that in the course of their work they are subject to numerous statutory rules and regulations as well as the need to adhere to certain ‘best practices’ as required or recommended by professional and trade bodies.
At the TPO Conference in Solihull this week one of the speakers was Peter Stonely, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a Trading Standards Officer.
In the course of his presentation he referred to statistics that, if correct, are truly shocking and call into question the overall level of compliance being exercised by the estate agency and letting industry.
According to Stonely, one particular Trading Standards office in an urban area recently looked at their local market and the 107 agents operating within it.
All the agents’ websites were vetted for membership of a redress scheme and membership of bodies such as ARLA, NAEA, RICS, SAFEAgent, NALS, TPO.
The following results were obtained:
Number of agents without a website or their website unavailable: 9
Number of agents who have not joined a redress scheme: 13
Number of agents who have not publicised their fees: 51
Number of agents who are misusing logos in claiming to belong to a trade association when they do not: 14
Number of agents who are not displaying or disclosing their company or legal identity: 66
Number of agents who fail to mention a Tenancy Deposit scheme they belong to: 44
Number of agents who do not publicise the EPC certificate of a property they are advertising to let on their website: 42
If these figures are indicative of the general levels of compliance across the country, then agents need to take urgent action to remedy the situation.
Although the likelihood of an immediate crackdown by Trading Standards looks highly unlikely, this issue won’t stay off the radar forever and the industry would be well advised to address it sooner rather than later.
James Munro, head of the Trading Standards estate agency team based in Powys, was at the conference.
When asked if the quoted statistics would cause Trading Standards to repeat the exercise in other localities, Munro was sceptical, given that each Trading Standards office is autonomous, short of resources and also short of revenue.
But as Stonely pointed out, if the quoted Trading Standards officers decided to take a stroll down their local high streets and simply deal with the letting agents who are not publicising their fees, the revenue from the fines in the subject area alone would be £25,000.
Given that Trading Standards is so notoriously short of funds, the industry is perhaps unwise to give them the excuse to do it on a far wider basis.