New measures announced to drive out 'rogue' estate agents
Estate agents will be required to hold a professional qualification and encouraged to crack down on gazumping under plans to drive rogues out of the industry.
The new measures will also require agents to disclose any commission they get for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.
The Government will also encourage the wider use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and tackle gazumping - where would-be buyers lose out to a rival bidder even after having an offer accepted.
The measures announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are aimed at speeding up the process of buying a property and removing the uncertainty faced by those involved.
There are around 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country and currently anyone can practice as an estate agent.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said the measures were aimed at protecting customers from "a minority of rogue agents".
The plans include:
- Setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days
- Requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable
- Strengthening the National Trading Standards team estate agency team so they can carry out more enforcement activity, including banning rogue operators
Mr Javid said: "Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life.
"But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.
"So we're going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of 'rogue agents' and can trust the process when buying or selling their home."
Mark Hayward, the chief executive of the professional body NAEA Propertymark, said: "We particularly welcome the commitment to further regulation - we have long argued that estate agents should be recognised as professionals, this is an important step towards achieving this and we look forward to working with the Government."
The Government will consult on how the industry can be brought up to professional standards, like conveyancers, solicitors and surveyors.
A working group will also be set up to to look at developing "innovative digital solutions" to speed up the home buying and selling process.