The launch of “licensing” for lettings agents by ARLA, the Association of Residential Letting Agents is all well and good but frankly we are not expecting those who have voluntarily joined and paid up to a trade body to be the ones who are skipping off with the tenants deposit. I welcome the enthusiasm for some form of registration but have concerns about today’s announcement.
At the House of Lords the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) launch their move into ‘licensing’ by announcing that all those who are paid up members of the lettings part of NFoPP (the National Federation of Property Professionals) will henceforth have a ‘license’ and later this year they will add the ‘provisional’ wing of the organisation (the National Association of Estate Agents) who will be doing the same.
Is Arthur Daley back?
Now I’m a great fan of improving the image of the industry and have been working with NFoPP and RiCS and many others to introduce a register of estate agents but the move by ARLA to simply call their members ‘licensed’ is a recipe for disaster. Today, landlords and tenants will wrongly feel relieved that they need no longer worry that they may be caught by a rogue agent dressed like Arthur Daley but it won’t be long before yet another headline screams “Dodgy estate agents rips off customer…” despite the new licenses that have been issued. The reason is that NFoPP only speaks for about 50% of agents!
I calculate that between them the RiCS and NFoPP represent less than 20,000 estate agents in the country. NAEA’s own survey at the start of the year said that there were close to 40,000 estate agents so a voluntary scheme like this is really just a PR puff to remind the public that they should be better off using a NFoPP sales or letting agent. A good idea but I suspect that the public will read the headlines and assume that they can relax and that this covers ALL estate agents.
Tenants deposits are often cited when discussing renegade agents but these deposits are now required by law to be lodged in one of three approved schemes which help protect the tenant from unscrupulous agents and landlords. The Office of Fair Trading was in the High Court just last week dragging Foxtons in front of the beak in a row about fees but Foxtons aren’t members of ARLA and therefore won’t be ‘licensed’ like the thousands of other agents up and down the land.
Neither the Government nor the opposition has the stomach to legislate and until a way can be found to ensure ALL agents are at least registered then todays announcement will achieve little other than to convince a skeptical public that all agents are rogues. I bet that God isn’t often bothered by Jehovah’s witnesses calling on him – even they understand that its a complete waste of their time. A bit like licensing just the good agents….