Communities and Local Government CommitteeFurther written evidence submitted by Citizens Advice

Inquiry into the Private Rented Sector (Letting and Managing Agents)

Thank you for your letter of 17 April 2013, in which you ask for our views on the Government amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, aiming to provide for consumer redress in respect of letting and managing agents in the private rented and residential leasehold sectors.

We see the amendment as welcome as far as it goes, but continue to believe, for the reasons given in our written and oral evidence to the inquiry (in which we cited, among other things, our 2009 report, Let Down) that there is a strong case for a regulatory framework. This is because such a framework would provide a means of constructing an agreed set of standards and code of recognised good practice, rather than simply provide the possibility of redress when things go badly wrong.

Of course, a regulatory framework would include a redress mechanism, so the amendment takes us a useful if limited step in the right direction.

We would also argue that a properly regulated lettings agency industry would greatly facilitate effective direct regulation of landlords in the private rented sector, in that regulation of landlords could then concern itself only with those not operating through a letting agent.

While the content of secondary legislation may be relatively straightforward, we think that there will be some important questions to be addressed in relation to:

(a)ensuring agents’ compliance in providing effective access to the redress mechanism and in implementing its findings; and

(b)ensuring a high profile for both initial and ongoing publicity concerning the existence of the new redress provision and its remit and scope.

We also think that there would be considerable merit in setting this up as part of a single system that provides for consumer redress whether the problem relates to estate agency or lettings agency work.

I hope that this is of help.

May 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013