The RICS and the Property Ombudsman are seeking comments by 4 September 2020 on a draft Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents ("Code"). The Code is intended to apply to sales and purchases, lettings, property management, auctions, property guardians and rent-to-rent arrangements and includes international property agents.
The draft Code has come about following a report in July 2019 by the Regulation of Property Agents ("RoPA"), a working group comprised of industry and consumer experts which made recommendations aimed at raising the standards of property agents operating in these sectors. The Code was one such recommendation
The intention is that the Code be mandatory and legally enforceable. It comprises two sections entitled "Dealing with Consumers" and "Managing business and staff" and sets out 15 overarching principles that underpin the standards of professionalism that the regulator and the public expect of residential property agents.
The principles apply to conduct and behaviour of agencies and their staff. The Code makes clear that "Agents are personally accountable for compliance with this Code – and other regulatory requirements that may apply – and must always be prepared to justify and evidence decisions and actions".
The RoPA's other recommendations also included a system of minimum entry requirements and continuing professional development for property agents as well as a model for an independent property-agent regulator, including how it will operate and how it will enforce compliance.
"A serious failure to meet these standards or a serious breach of regulatory requirements may result in regulatory or criminal action being taken against an agency and/or staff. A failure or breach may be serious either in isolation or because it comprises a persistent or concerning pattern of behaviour" (Draft Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents)