A couple of months ago I was minding my own business, getting on with getting on (as you do), when someone called Sean Hooker rang up and asked if I would join his ‘Property Redress Scheme’ Council.
I sort of knew Sean but not well, and it was a bit of a bolt from the blue.
To start with I was not keen. Would it take up a lot of time? Would it affect my independence in the industry? Would I get paid? I nearly said ‘no’.
My view has always been that letting agents should have ‘proper’ regulation. Like solicitors do. After all they too hold other people’s money. Lots of other people’s money.
But then (I thought) a compulsory Ombudsman service is the first step on the way to agent regulation. It’s a start.
I have written often on this blog about the shocking lack of letting agent regulation in this country – so if the opportunity comes along for me to help make it a reality, I shouldn’t turn it down.
So I said ‘yes’.
The first meeting
The first meeting (to ‘meet the team’) was on Monday, and took place at New Barnet where the PRS offices are. A four hour trek from Norwich (where I live) for me, but (I found out) conveniently close to the other Council members.
Indeed, Paul Shamplina told me that it had taken him just six minutes from his home. Thanks Paul.
About property redress / Ombudsman services in general
A redress or Ombudsman scheme is an independent service, licensed by the Government, which provides somewhere that their members’ customers can complain to.
To get redress.
The Ombudsman / Head of Redress will provide a mediation service and where necessary make a decision – with the power to fine and order the member to apologise, make payments and do whatever is necessary to resolve the matter in accordance with the decision made.
The member will be the letting agent or property manager. The customers, who will now have somewhere independent to complain, will be their landlords or tenants.
The missing 40%
Although there are two existing property Ombudsman schemes (TPO being particularly well known and respected), about 40% of letting agents and property managers are signed up with neither.
However from about October of this year (or maybe April of next) you have GOT to sign up to a scheme – if you are an agent or property manager.
Under regulations about to become law, it will be mandatory and you will ultimately be vulnerable to being closed down if you don’t.
About The Property Redress Scheme
The Property Redress Scheme is a different type of service designed to appeal to people who don’t want to join TPO or the Ombudsman service.
These will probably be the smaller independent firms who have shied away from the hassle and admin. Or who don’t see the need.
So the Property Redress Scheme is a very basic service which will allow you to comply with the law without a lot of hassle. All you need to do to join is complete a fairly straightforward form, pay the fee (£95) and thats it.
You are compliant.
You will have a sticker for your window, a logo for your website and Bob’s your Uncle.
Shiny and new
There are all sorts of plans. Help and guidance for letting agents. Different levels of membership. Member services. But thats all in the future.
What there is now, is your basic scheme which will allow letting agents and property managers to become legal without a lot of messing around and red tape.
My role on the Council will be (along with my co Council members) to advise the ‘Head of Redress’ (Sean) and make decisions (e.g. regarding expulsion) if a member breaches the terms of the scheme.
Sean described it as being the ‘conscience’ of the scheme.
Its all very exciting. A brand new scheme, all shiny and new. Just for you.
I’ll let you know how I get on.