House of Lords hears praise of SAFEagent

The SAFEagent campaign has been mentioned in the House of Lords as an example of the kind of voluntary initiative the Government wants to see in raising standards.

But mandatory regulation of the private rented sector was not ruled out.

It happened during a debate on an amendment to the Localism Bill.

The amendment, which was sponsored by ARLA, was to insert a new clause into the Bill that would enable the statutory regulation of private letting agents to be introduced at some point.

The amendment was also supported by the British Property Property Federation, Residential Landlords Association and housing charities.

Responding at the end of a lengthy debate, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, a Conservative peer and House of Lords whip, said: “Around two-thirds of landlords let and manage their property through an agent, so it is important that they can rely on a good service.

“We are aware of poor practice within the letting and management agent sector, but regulation already exists in this area.

“Between a third and a half of all agents belong to voluntary schemes which set standards and offer redress when things go wrong, including client money protection.

“Unfortunately, far too few consumers of the agency system – both landlords and tenants – are aware of the risks of using an unregulated agent.

“I am delighted that the Government have been able to endorse the Safe Agent Fully Endorsed scheme – SAFE – recently launched by the industry which highlights a key risk around clients’ money.

“We want to explore these voluntary approaches further before a move to statutory regulation, but we do not rule this out in the longer term. However, we cannot support the introduction of enabling powers where we have no plans for their use.”

He went on: “I have considerable sympathy with those who have been caught out by bad practice, but for the reasons that I have set out we do not think that regulation now is the right answer.”

The amendment was withdrawn, with its proposer, Lord Shipley, saying: “If we are going to explore making the voluntary approaches better, and if we have not ruled out introducing statutory powers, I am content for the moment to work with that, but we are likely to find an increasing need to move down the statutory regulatory route. With those provisos, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.”

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