Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents
This article was published on: 3rd August 2020Matt Pugh
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Property Ombudsman (TPO) have announced they are consulting on a new Draft Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents (Code).
Purpose of the Code
The Code endeavours to set out a series of principles that should underpin the “standards of professionalism” expected of residential property agents. A new regulator will be created which will be responsible for imposing sanctions for non-compliance.
The draft Code follows the recommendations of Lord Best following the final report of the Regulation of Property Agents working group.
15 principles are proposed, each of which contain detailed sub-guidance:
- Agents must act legally, ethically, with honesty and integrity
- Agents must avoid conflicts of interest, declare all conflicts and ensure they are managed
- Agents must treat all consumers fairly and equally
- Agents must comply with all relevant legislation
- Agents must act with due skill, care and diligence
- Agents must communicate clearly, accurately and transparently
- Agents must report breaches of the relevant code(s) to the new regulator
- Agents must be open and transparent with the new regulator about matters which might affect trust in the profession
- Agents must disclose any information relating to a property which could threaten a resident’s safety or does not conform to mandatory property standards
- Agents must manage their businesses and staff effectively
- Agents must make appropriate arrangements to protect consumers’ money
- Agents must maintain accounts and records of business activities
- Agents must ensure that all staff are qualified and capable to handle their responsibilities
- Agents must handle information sensitively, in accordance with data protection legislation
- Agents must have effective consumer complaints procedures in place
Does it apply to me?
All businesses (online, high street or hybrid) within these sectors will be caught:
- Property sales/purchases
- Property lettings
- Property management
- Property auctions
- Property guardians
- Rent-to-rent arrangements
- International property agents
The Code will sit above pre-existing industry-specific codes which are already in force (e.g. Residential Property Sale and Residential Property Lets). It will not replace those codes.
How will it be applied?
The Code envisages agents exercising their judgment in applying the principles to the specific scenario they are dealing with, and in their decision-making.
Agents will be personally accountable for compliance with the Code. Any serious failures may result in action being taken against “an agency and/or staff”. Serious failures will also capture a “persistent or concerning pattern of behaviour”?
There is limited information on what those sanctions could entail, at this stage.
What is the timeline?
The Code is currently in the consultation phase. Anyone with an interest in the Code has the opportunity to respond and make comments.
Those comments must be submitted by Friday 4 September.
Comments may be submitted here: https://consultations.intstandards.org/consult.ti/ropa/consultationHome.