All estate agents should have to obtain a licence to show that they are qualified and competent, according to the industry’s ombudsman.
The Ombudsman for Estate Agents, Stephen Carr-Smith, said it should be made mandatory for all estate agents to be licensed before they could join the profession.
He also wants the introduction of a single code of practice covering the whole industry and for all estate agents to belong to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) scheme to ensure all consumers had access to an independent redress process.
His annual report revealed that there had been a 9 per cent increase in the number of complaints he had received about estate agents, the second year in a row that complaints have risen.
But of the 6,021 complaints received more than half were against agents who were not members of the voluntary scheme.
Single redress scheme
At the same time the level of complaints against non-member agents increased by 19 per cent, while those made against members rose by only 1 per cent.
The biggest cause of complaints was maladministration, followed by disputes over commission and fees and sales particulars.
Mr Carr-Smith said: ‘I believe that there should be a single independent redress scheme that applies to all residential estate agents and which can deliver a consistent approach in measuring an agent’s actions against the code of practice.
‘I believe that all estate agents should be licensed to demonstrate a level of competence before they even take up the profession.’
The Ombudsman said that from this summer the majority of estate agents would belong to the OEA scheme for the first time since it was originally set up in 1990.
He said following a decision by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) to make membership of the scheme compulsory for its members, 60 per cent of agents would belong to it, rising to more than 70 per cent if the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors introduced a similar move as expected.
The Ombudsman said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had indicated it would introduce legislation making it compulsory for estate agents to belong to a redress scheme for all aspects of their work, and the proposal could be included in the Queen’s Speech this autumn.
Head of Which? Campaigns, Louise Hanson said: ‘We have been campaigning for tough action to be taken against rogue agents; today’s announcement by the Ombudsman demonstrates that all estate agents need to be forced to belong to an independent redress scheme. The government must take urgent action’