Property: Hopes of rental regulation are dashed

Any hopes that the rental sector will be regulated before long were dashed this week when Nick Raynsford, the housing minister, rejected proposals from the industry that it should be controlled.

In a letter to Philip Cook, chairman of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, ARLA, he said that the compulsory registration of property would be a huge burden on local authorities, although the Government would stick to its commitment to register houses with multiple occupation.

This is a blow for ARLA and the professional bodies such as the RICS who want to set up their own regulatory body. Of course they could be accused of trying to create a professional cartel, and certainly the last government took the line that it would cut competition.

Anyone looking for security can of course always find an agent who subscribes to a code of professional conduct. But codes have no teeth, and while good landlords can pick and choose, anyone who has ever tried to find somewhere to rent, in London at least, knows that you get so desperate for attention and service you will end up going anywhere if there's the prospect of a home at the end of it.

And it does seem extraordinary that we should have such a cavalier attitude towards the legal and financial responsibilities of a letting agent - far more onerous than those of selling agents. At least, though, Mr Raynsford will be looking at how the millions of pounds of tenants' money can be better protected. He told Mr Cook that the Government would consider controls over tenants' deposits and clients' funds.

The shortage of family homes in Wandsworth, south-west London, is to be boosted by the building of two Edwardian-style houses in Lyford Road. They have 10ft-high ceilings in the main reception rooms and a conservatory- style family room leads on to a terrace and landscaped garden of about 135ft. Michael Comyn, of John D. Wood, the selling agents, says that this is the first time large houses in keeping with their opulent forebears have been built near Wandsworth Common. The developers of Lyford Villas are Thirlstone Homes, and the guide price for both will be pounds 950,000.

For anyone who would rather not set foot in an estate agency and is not on too tight a budget, they can employ Homesearch London via the Internet to do their walking for them. The company offers a service in finding and negotiating prime residential property for individuals or companies in central London on http://www.homesearch.co.uk or 0171 838 1066.

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