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Proposal to register UK estate agents

He is in talks with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the National Federation of Property Professionals (NFOPP), the Register of Estate Agents (ROEA), the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB) and Government departments to drive the scheme forward.

Mr McClintock, who this year celebrates 50 years in the industry, said he had long held the view that estate agents should be registered to protect consumers and that the latest round of legislation now made this feasible without waiting for a fresh Act of Parliament.

"Under the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act, which came into effect on October 1, 2008, every residential estate agency handling property sales has to be a member of an approved redress scheme," he said.

"This means that every residential sales estate agency in the UK has to belong to the OEA or the Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme (SOS). OEA now has almost 95% of UK residential estate agencies registered with it so between us and SOS we should know of every business trading in the UK. Any we don’t know about are now operating outside the law.

"Both schemes operate to a Code of Practice and it is a straightforward matter to amend both Codes to include a requirement for all member agents to use only registered staff to advise on property values or negotiate sales.

"My idea is that all existing agents would initially be registered. After one year, those joining the industry would be required to train in order to join the register and those already in the industry would be required to demonstrate they had achieved at least that minimum standard in order to remain registered.

"One of the arguments against registration is that it is a barrier to entry to the profession but that, of course, is nonsense. To be a driving instructor in the UK you have first to register and then become the holder of a provisional permit to work while you demonstrate your proficiency and pass an exam.

"There are many other professions where a competence to do the job has to be demonstrated and that is not seen as a restraint of trade, so estate agency could easily be viewed in the same light.

"The big concern over the years is that individuals who break the rules or who are not professionally competent can easily move to a job in another estate agency, maybe in a different part of the country, and just start working again. Employers have nothing they can check to ensure the honesty or suitability of a job candidate.

"NFOPP and RICS already run training schemes for estate agents and require their members to undergo continuing professional development and this standard would make a good starting point for the registration requirement.

"New legislation has given the industry the opportunity to take the initiative and itself introduce registration quickly, efficiently, and fairly to those who already work in the sector. I would consider the cost to be minimal and it could even be included in the membership fees of professional bodies.

"The public would be able to access the list of registered estate agents through any of the organisations backing the scheme, so checking credentials would be simplicity itself.

"It is now almost 20 years since the Ombudsman scheme started and 11 years from the date when it was opened up to all estate agents. It has brought consumers the benefit of redress at no cost to them and every member must have professional indemnity insurance.

"During all the time I have been in the industry there have been frequent calls for some sort of licensing or registration scheme and now we have the chance to bring this major benefit with minimum disruption. I see this as an industry-wide scheme and engaging all the professional bodies and unaffiliated practising estate agents rather than something run by OEA as an individual organisation.

"The bones of the scheme are in place and with backing from the Office of Fair Trading and the department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform we could have this established very quickly. Everyone I have spoken to within the industry is supporting this and wants to see it implemented."

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