The OFT report may not go far enough, the RICS believes. Peter Bolton-King, residential director, said: “The OFT report adds yet another voice to those calling for changes to the lettings market.
“However, RICS remain concerned there is still no recommendation for clear, consistent and targeted regulation for all aspects of the UK residential property market.
“Such an holistic approach is long overdue, since ultimately it is about the provision of shelter, a basic human requirement.
“RICS’s own recently published research – an impact assessment of bringing lettings agents within the scope of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and introducing statutory minimum professional standards – shows there is real potential to introduce such clear, targeted regulation without generating burdens on business.
“In light of this latest OFT report, RICS urges Government to think again, and use the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to introduce such regulation – in particular, statutory redress.
“In its report, the OFT recommends increased transparency in lettings agents’ fees and charges, and working with trading standards to develop an agreed enforcement strategy. These measures are important in creating a level playing field for all residential property professionals and consumers which RICS has long sought.
“As an independent body with a royal charter which requires us to act in the public interest, RICS is ready to help with advice and guidance so consumers are aware of their rights and responsibilities in the lettings market.”
Ian Potter, managing director of ARLA, said: “The OFT’s report highlights some of the problems with the rental sector. Today, the sector is expanding as home ownership becomes out of reach for many. However, lack of regulation, and pressures on housing supply, mean some unscrupulous landlords and agents are able to take advantage of consumers, and are driving down the reputation and standards of the sector as a whole.
“We have long called for a central system of regulation, and would agree with a number of the OFT’s recommendations to help improve the market. In particular, agents should always be transparent about the fees they charge, and the services associated with those fees.
“In the absence of Government regulation, we would urge tenants and landlords to always consult with an agent who is a member of a recognised body like ARLA, which has a redress scheme and other consumer protection mechanisms in place.”