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In 1955, the Los Angeles Police Department adopted the motto to “Protect and Serve”. It has become one of the most enduring brand marks and has been used by many other police forces and enforcement agents.
The reason it has had so much impact in the minds of the public is that it has a huge emotional effect on the expectations of the public and engenders a perception and image of the organisation that lasts. Of course that persona can easily be damaged and the LA riots did much damage to the public trust in the service and devalued the identity of the force in the eyes of those they sought to reach out to.
Parallels exist, very clearly, in today’s housing market and the mood from Westminister is that the market is broken and needs a major overhaul. This is pretty much the same Government that a few years ago pledged to purge business of red tape and regulation. Oh, how times change!
Saying this, the great and the good in the industry have been calling for change for over 20 years now and as the housing market has become more complex, the challenge has become greater. It has taken the mass exodus of the younger voter from the governing party at the last election to focus the Government’s mind on the causes of this. The disillusionment and disengagement of ‘Thatcher’s children’s children’, known as ‘Generation Rent’, has dramatically redrawn the polictical lines. The Government has decided something has to be done!
At the beginning of the year, I highlighted that I thought this year will be seismic for the property industry. With the foresight of a city trader with insider knowledge , that is exactly what has happened. With Easter just gone, directly on Easter Day, the Government made a raft of major announcements on the sector – April Fool’s Day, if case you had forgotten.
Protection comes first.
The latest development to get our heads around is the clear commitment to introduce client money protection as quickly as possible. The indication is this could happen very fast and may well piggy back on the existing market provisions which will be checked for approval by the Government. This approach should mean that those agents prudent enough to have CMP provison either through a recognised industry trade body or our partner organisation Client Money Protect, will face as little disruption as possible and the rest of the market has oven-ready schemes to join when the compulsion comes in to force. I am sure that this announcement will be welcomed by all good agents with very few surprises in what the commitment will mean as the providers of CMP are already established in the market and selling their wares.
Serving comes second.
The next announcement to look at is the conclusion of the consultation on regulating, increasing competance and training of the providers in the sector. The Government is now committed to regulations, a single regulator and joined-up enforcement. They, however, have not fleshed out the details, just the direction of travel. To this end, they are setting up a working group to look at piecing together the regulatory frame work.
One Code to Rule Them All.
They are also committed to a single Code of Conduct which all other codes and guides will submit to. The regulator will be the owner and arbiter of the Code and it will be mandatory for all operators in the market to sign up to this. How detailed and perscriptive the Code will be remains to be seen; however, it may well build on the Private Rented Sector Code and the various CMA and Trading Standards codes. I am also sure that the Government will work with the RICS and NALS Codes – they would be foolish to waste the work done on the Propertymark-backed TPO code.
For leasehold the excellent work done by ARMA in establishing their ARMA-Q qualification and practice, for management agents has all but done the work for the Government, but more work is needed for freeholders and the thorny issue of leasehold in general. It will also be a challenge on what regulation private landlords will be subjected to and whether the enviroment is getting to the position where the well-meaning amateur landlord will not be able to thrive, as they have done up to now.
One Redress in the Wardrobe. (if you’ll pardon the pun!)
Also simmering in the background is the issue of whether the consumer needs a single point of access for all housing complaints and whether this should mean a single ombudsman for the whole sector. This consultation is ongoing and, as someone with a vested interest in this question, I have been invited to give my views to the Government which I intend to do.
My opinion is that with a single regulator and overarching code, the need for an all encompassing super ombudsman becomes an unnecessary body. It should also be understood that the current arrangements allow for alternative and informal settlement of disputes and these are not in the public domain.
The Regulator should be there to deal with rogues - redress to sort out the slip ups and mistakes that all businesses can fall victim to.
This approach puts the consumer at the heart of the matter - it is they that are compensated; rather than the authorities, pocketing a fine and shutting down otherwise good businesses.
Yes, it is right, redress should be mandatory, and penalties for non-compliance rigourously enforced, but as something to embrace, not to fear. I will, therefore, be arguing this point when my turn comes and will fully support a single portal and access to redress that makes the consumer’s journey easier. I will also be arguing for a fully-resourced regulator with tough powers, backed by a Housing Court for the real crooks that blight our sector.
Come what may, your Property Redress Scheme are ready for the outcome of the consultation on single redress, and any resultatant changes. We will continue to endeavour to serve the industry and aim to improve standards in the sector.
Protect. And. Serve. That is our job, and the challenge for us all.
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Property Redress Scheme is approved by Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015