Halifax calls for estate agents licensingIt says government reforms don't go far enough

30 January 2007

A row of terrace houses

All homes with 4 or more bedrooms will now need a HIP

Which? has welcomed a call from one of the UK’s largest property sellers for estate agents to be subject to compulsory licensing.

Halifax Estate Agents says ministers need to go further than the changes set to be introduced in the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill.

Under the Bill - which will be discussed today in the House of Lords - estate agents will be required to sign up to an independent ombudsman with the power to award compensation to buyers and sellers.

It will also include a proposal to ban any agents from operating if they refuse to sign up to an ombudsman.

But Halifax said the government should go further and insist all estate agents are licensed through approved bodies. It also wants to see the introduction of minimum training and competency standards.

Minimum standards

Halifax has also introduced a new summary box initiative and called on other estate agents to follow suit.

It says the box - which will illustrate key facts to the consumer - would improve clarity and the level of service customers receive.

Currently, no standard format exists across the industry for presenting information such as cancellation terms, fees and agreement type. 

But Halifax says its research shows that 73 per cent of people favour a summary box style addition on estate agency literature to show key facts.

Compulsory licensing

Halifax also found that 58 per cent of people think there should be a compulsory licensing scheme, while 64 per cent agree with the government and think there should be a compulsory ombudsman scheme.

Halifax Managing Director Colin Kemp said: ‘Our research shows there is real public support for the proposed government scheme of compulsory membership of an ombudsman.  The public would also welcome an extension of this with the introduction of compulsory licensing.

He added: 'Although most estate agents give customers all the information they require, it is often split over multiple documents or pages making it difficult to compare.  Our new summary box initiative will introduce a standard format across the industry, giving consumers a consistent means of looking at key information.’

Which? campaigner Mark McLaren said: 'Which? welcomes the support of Halifax Estate Agents for a licensing scheme for all estate agents. Which? has been campaigning for reform in the estate agency market since 1963. While we welcome the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress bill, currently before Parliament, we agree that it does not go far enough.

'The provisions on redress and an ombudsman are a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done to improve the home buying and selling process.'