Tighter regulation of estate agents welcomed

DTI calls for all agents to be subject to ombudsman

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The Ombudsman for Estate Agents, Stephen Carr-Smith, has welcomed Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe’s call for statutory independent ombudsman schemes for redress against all estate agents.

The DTI has made its call after a report from the Office of Fair Trading into estate agency earlier in the year. The OFT report has been widely criticised across the estate agency industry for not going far enough to control estate agents in the future.

Some agents are already members of the OEA scheme which allows a low cost resolution to disputes. Clients of agents outside the scheme have often ended up in costly litigation as a result of alleged malpractise by agents.

Mr Carr-Smith said, “ Already, 42% of estate agents are in the voluntary Ombudsman Scheme, which is the only independent redress scheme in existence. That means that 42% of estate agents are open to my independent scrutiny – and willing to abide by my decisions. But what about the other 58%?"

He added proper self-regulation should do wonders for the reputation of estate agents. His view that adherence to a Code of Practice will be second nature to good agents and a tighter regime will drive the rogues out of the industry.

Christine Fox of Faron Sutaria, an existing member of the scheme said, "We look forward to seeing more agents regulated and more training for staff.  As a professional organisation we are committed to the highest standards but our industry is let down by our less professional colleagues who do not adhere to the same codes of conduct."
Faron Sutaria also has an in-house customer care department in order to monitor the levels of service they are providing to both our vendors and our applicants.  They say is an invaluable source of information for us to constantly assess and improve the service that they provide.

The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) Scheme works to the only Code of Practice covering estate agency that has Office of Fair Trading approval, Stage 1 status. The OEA Code already meets most of the demands made by the Minister to improve industry standards, and has plans for amendments to meet the rest.

Although the DTI has called for all estate agents to belong to an ombudsman scheme, they have not called on them to belong to the OEA Scheme. Mr Carr-Smith comments: “Clearly, any independent ombudsman scheme put forward will have to meet approval criteria set by the Secretary of State. It will be up to the OEA to show that it meets those criteria, and I believe we will. "

July 23, 2004