Consultation response: Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market

By: Rhea Newman  Published: November 2017


Shelter's response to the Department for Communities and Local Government's consultation on regulating letting and managing agents.

Summary

Shelter welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. We will be focussing our response on the regulation of letting and managing agents in the private rented sector as this is the area where we have the greatest expertise. In light of this we will answer only questions 2.4, 3.1 and 4.6.  
Shelter was pleased to hear the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announce his intention to require all letting agents to be regulated so they meet strict minimum standards. Our experience as a key housing provider across England makes clear the extent of poor practice in the letting agent market and in 2016/17 Shelter’s online letting agent advice pages were visited 37,000 times by people seeking advice about letting agents. Our most recent private renters’ survey also highlighted that only 22% of private renters felt agents were acting on their behalf and with their best interests in mind.    
The lack of regulation has made it all too easy for agents to get away with poor behaviour and the industry has been described by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors as operating “like the wild west”. Landlord groups, tenant representatives and letting agent bodies have been united in calling for increased professionalism, with all parties equally keen to see action taken against those rogue agents who give the industry a bad name.  
There is an opportunity to learn from the models of regulation recently introduced in Scotland and Wales and Shelter would be keen to see a similar model introduced in England. The key to any regulation will be to ensure that standards are clear and consistent and are backed up by meaningful enforcement and sanctions for those that do not comply.