Call for National Licensing of Estate Agents
More and more, people are calling for the licensing of estate agents throughout the country. Some councils, in an attempt to reign in or drive out rogue agents and agencies, have proposed licensing schemes that are more likely to penalise the good agents than get rid of the bad.
Perhaps it’s time we take a few lessons learned from our neighbour across the pond, the United States. In the US, licensing of agents is required in all 50 states, each state having their own laws pertaining to property, property rights and property disclosure. Each state sets forth the rules pertaining to licensing, creates the test, administers the test through local real estate agencies, and handles complaints and violations. Estate agents there are also required to spend a certain amount of hours in ongoing, continuing education classes to ensure their knowledge and skills remain current.
The UK, on a national level, can and should set up similar licensing requirements. The most appropriate body to develop and administer such a programme is the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), as they already have the framework in place: testing for knowledge, continuing education requirements, investigates complaints and issues reprimands to its members. For Lettings Agents, ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents) provided a similar service.
One of the problems with respect to leaving such a licensing scheme to the councils is that there is no expert authority to determine any type of ‘fit and proper’ test. The rules and testing between council authorities would be so diverse that no true standard could be attained with any continuity. Rogue agents would simply flock to areas where council standards were more vague and less stringent.
In addition, this type of scheme would cause little difficulty for reputable agents who already belong to NAEA and ARLA. They already adhere to a similar programme and code of ethics. Therefore, no or little additional effort or outlay would be required of those who are already compliant.