People who have had problems with estate agents are backing calls for the government to “get on” with introducing reforms aimed at improving standards.
Su Francis, 65, from Buckinghamshire, says she’s been left “in limbo” after a bad experience with her estate agent.
She wants ministers to introduce reforms outlined in a report last summer by Lord Best, the former leader of the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.
The government said it remained committed to raising standards.
‘No service whatsoever’
Su told BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme that she was visited by a so-called quick sale estate agent who pressured her into signing a contract. However, the full details of the contract were only revealed a couple of days later during a phone call from its office.
“They were quite hard about [me] signing up. Subsequently I found out I was signed up to them for a year,” she says.
“They provided no service whatsoever, they provided no viewings, nobody came to see it [the house] and when I phoned them it was just recorded messages.
“It’s also left me quite worried about who I should take on and whether or not I can trust people.
“It’s left me in limbo because I haven’t been able to sell my house. As far as the financial implications, until I can sell my house, it’s impossible for me to plan for my financial future.”
Julia Armstrong also contacted Money Box about her experience with a rogue estate agent, who lowered the sale price of her house without her permission.
“A year later we have put our house on the market again and every viewing has said it’s overpriced now because it was listed at £50,000 less last year,” she says.
“It was a shock to us and our new agents advised us to drop the price this year immediately by £30,000 [to try to get people to even consider it].”
She added she was very unhappy that the new valuation “has been affected by the short period more than a year ago when it [our house] was undervalued by one of these agents”.
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In 2018, Lord Best was asked by the government to come up with proposals to help clean up the industry, covering estate agents across the UK and lettings and management agents in England and Wales.
His report made a series of recommendations. These included creating a new independent regulator, and making sure that all property agents (estate, lettings and management agents) are licensed, have passed qualifications and are signed up to a code of practice.
Lord Best says acting as a property agent without a licence should be a criminal offence.
“At the moment anybody can set up shop and the next morning be operating as an agent,” he says.
“They can take quite a lot of money off you… and they aren’t regulated.
“Lawyers or accountants have proper qualifications and are properly regulated but not property agents.”
Lord Best had this message for ministers: “We need you to get your head around these recommendations and get on with it.”
Su Francis is among those backing Lord Best and his recommendations.
“[Rogue agents] leave people very vulnerable, particularly elderly people,” she says.
“Lord Best’s recommendations should be implemented, the government should be listening… and people will be harmed and will be thousands of pounds out of pocket if this is allowed to continue.”
Industry voices are also keen to see the government take action on Lord Best’s report. The National Association of Estate Agents, the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the Property Ombudsman are all backing his call for ministers to “get on” with implementing his ideas.
A statement for the Ministry of Housing said: “The government is committed to raising professionalism amongst property agents and welcomes the work of the independent Regulation of Property Agents working group, chaired by Lord Best.
“We will respond to the group’s final report following careful consideration.”
You can hear more on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme by listening again here.