CLC Conference: Customer Charter And Estate Agent Regulation

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) used their annual conference today, January 28th to launch their Customer Charter.

The Charter provides the clients and customers of CLC regulated firms with a set of expectations they can expect from the specialist property or probate lawyers operating under the regulator.

The Charter ensures that all CLC regulated legal service professionals will be subject to ‘robust regulation’ and will ‘undertake specialist training and are required to renew their licence every year’.

The Charter reinforces the importance of price transparency by highlighting that consumers will have a clear idea of fees by looking on all CLC regulated law firm websites, with all additional costs agreed in advance of any completed work.

The Charter also explains that client money is held separately and securely from the firm’s finances, that all CLC law firms will protect their clients against fraud with all incidents covered by £2 million indemnity cover and contributions from a compensation fund.

Later in the morning, Lord Best’s, Chair of the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group, keynote address on the regulation of property agents offered much discussion into regulation of estate agency and property sectors.

Lord Best opened by emphasising that there is “not really anybody opposing the regulation of property agents” and the process of fully regulating the sector will “take two years.”

In addition to overall timescales, some of the nuances of the regulation in regards of who will be regulated was also discussed. Best claimed that managing agents will likely be regulated.

However, private freeholders who manage their own properties, private landlords and developer agents will fall outside the remit of new regulations.

David Pett, managing director at MJP Conveyancing, commented:

“The conference delivered an impressive line up. So what did I take away?

“There is no doubt that there exists a strong desire to make change to the way in which information on a property is delivered at the point it is marketed. Yes, this is the same driver that gave birth 13 years ago to the infamous HIP.

“The Conveyancing Association is pushing for the digital exchange of standard information on a property (BASPI), and the NAEA has trialled its own property information questionnaire finding, unsurprisingly, in the 200 transactions it was used in, a marked reduction in the time it took to complete. Also thrown into the arena was the Government supported interest in the development of a property log book.

“Reservation agreements were also addressed. Government await a final report on customer feedback and will then consider what, if anything, will be done to take the idea further. I got the distinct impression that the idea has been overtaken with other initiatives and may not go much further. There is concern the agreement may be seen as a financial hurdle, especially for first-time buyers. If it does proceed, it may be introduced on a voluntary basis.

“The message from Government is clear – there will be no mandation on any of these ideas unless the industry can demonstrate widespread consumer support with little upfront costs.

“Lord Best suggested agent regulation is probably two years away, and disappointingly, will not cover private landlords or developers who undertake their own agency work. We also learnt that the ban on referral fees will be considered further by Government when the Trading Standards deliver its final report next month.”

Do you feel the Customer Charter will provide an additional layer of protection for consumers? Do proposed property agent regulations need to further clarify what constitutes a property agent to ensure all tenants, leaseholders and freeholders are fully protected?

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