There is currently no overarching statutory regulation of private sector letting or managing agents in England nor any legal requirement for them to belong to a trade association, although many letting and managing agents submit to voluntary regulation.
The Government has said that it does not intend to introduce regulation in the sector pointing instead to the existing range of available powers under consumer protection legislation. However, a Government amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 enables the Government to require agents to sign up to a redress scheme. It is expected that an order (subject to the affirmative procedure) setting out the criteria and process for approving schemes will be laid in the autumn, while a further order to make it a legal requirement for agents to belong to a scheme will be laid when the Government is satisfied that there are sufficient approved schemes in existence – this is expected to be early in 2014.
The Department of Communities and Local Government published a guide for local authorities: Dealing with rogue landlords (August 2012). The Government considers that the present legal framework strikes the right balance between landlords and tenants and that new regulations would “introduce too much additional red tape”.
The previous Government had proposed full mandatory regulation of private sector letting and managing agents.
The growth in the private rented sector means that standards of accommodation, rent levels and the lack of regulation in the sector is generating increased attention – it is the focus of a recently published report from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee and has been considered by the London Assembly’s Housing and Regeneration Committee. Several Private Members’ Bills on the issue have been introduced during the 2012-13 and current parliamentary sessions.