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Agents must be regulated, Ombudsman tells ministers

Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer has reiterated his call for some form of regulation of letting agents.

He said that ‘realistically’, legislation is the only option, and called on the Government to stop dodging the issue.

At the very least he wants all letting agents to be required by law to join an Ombudsman scheme.

Hamer, whose annual report for last year is officially published today, said that the Government should heed the views of his own organisation, ARLA, RICS and consumer groups such as Which? so that, legally, lettings agents are treated in the same way as sales agents and provide a consistency of redress for consumers.

Whilst around 60% of lettings offices in the UK have voluntarily registered with TPO and follow its lettings Code of Practice, Hamer argues that unless legislation is amended, tenants and landlords alike will continue to be at risk if they use one of the 40% who do not belong to TPO or one of the associations.

He said: “The Government has made clear that it is looking to reduce the burden on businesses and has introduced its ‘Red Tape Challenge’ to de-clutter the statute books of unnecessary legislation. The Government also wishes to avoid imposing burdensome regulation on business, preferring instead that business sectors put their own houses in order.

“However, realistically legislation is the only vehicle that can bring 100% of letting agents within the fold.”

He added: “I would caution the Government that this is an issue which simply cannot be put off any longer.”

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