RoPA will apply to all UK sales, letting and managing agents in England, auctioneers, rent-to-rent firms, property guardian providers, international property agents and online-only agents.
RoPA’s recommendations include:
an independent property-agent regulator
an enforceable Code of Practice
minimum entry requirements
mandatory professional development for agents
What might independent regulation look like?
When the RoPa report was first published, it found no existing body could take on the role of holistically regulating the property industry, so a new one is being created. Currently, several bodies separately oversee everything from health and safety, to consumer issues and trading. Organisations like the National Trading Standards Estate, Letting Agents Team, local authorities and environmental agencies have to work together as much as possible. But inevitably, multiple organisations are less coordinated than if we had just one. Not to mention local authorities often don’t have the budget or resources to enforce standards. The goal of one independent regulator is that upholding industry standards will be streamlined, more effective and easier to enforce.
What will the Code of Practice include?
We don’t know exactly what the code will contain yet. But recommendations from the initial report include that agents:
obtain and retain a licence from the new regulator
keep proper accounts and business records
report any code breaches to the regulator.
You can see a draft of the Code from July 2020 here.
What will the cost impact be for agent qualifications?
While we don’t know exact figures yet, we expect training and education will be pitched at an affordable rate and the cost will likely fall to agents. The progressive approach will be to see the new qualifications as an investment into improving your team, and an opportunity to review your current fees.
You might want to consider how you absorb the cost of new mandatory training. For example, will you absorb them into your letting fees? A stronger, more competent and qualified team that delivers even better service is one great justification to revisit what you charge and put your rates up.
When will the changes come in?
Party conferences are coming up this September and RoPA is a politically positive agenda. So we might expect parliament to start pushing things through as Covid issues ease off.
Although separate to the Renters’ Reform Bill, RoPA has relevant crossovers which might mean it gets added to that bill. It’s already been through the First Reading and it’s feasible the Second Reading will be autumn this year.
It’s still speculation, but all things considered it could be 2024 by the time RoPA becomes legislation. Still plenty of time to plan what it could mean for your agency, but now is certainly the time to start if you haven’t already.