Review calls for letting agents shake-up

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The Independent Online

Property agents in the rental sector must be better regulated, a major housing report launched tomorrow will conclude.

The Carsberg Review of Residential Property is expected to argue that the 1979 Estate Agents Act needs to be updated so that estate and letting agents require an entry-level qualification.

It is also likely to conclude that letting agents should be included in the definition of estate agency and regulated to the same standards. This would ensure that all letting agents become members of a trade body; only about 50 per cent are at present.

The report, led by the former director-general of the Office of Fair Trading Sir Bryan Carsberg, is expected to argue that the existing voluntary arrangements among agents confuse consumers. A summary of respon-ses given to the review panel concluded that customers do not understand the property buying process and that they believe estate and letting agents are licensed.

There will be criticisms that estate agents make up rival offers to interested buyers and inaccurate property descriptions.

Ian Fletcher, director for residential property at the British Property Federation, said: "The current regulatory regime is a patchwork quilt which leaves landlords and tenants confused and unprotected.

"Letting agents collect over £12bn in rent each year, so we need to see money-protection schemes for all agents."

The review was commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the National Association of Estate Agents.

Sir Bryan published his initial consultation paper in September last year and responses were invited by January this year. More than 100 responses were received.

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