parliament

23 Apr 24

The government’s failure to act on the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) working party – chaired by Lord Richard Best and published five years ago – has received sharp criticism from all parties in the House of Lords.

Junior levelling up minister Baroness Swinburne was on the receiving end of strong condemnation from the Lords in a debate at the end of last week, when she suggested there was simply no Parliamentary time available to act on the RoPA recommendations.

Labour’s Lord Kennedy of Southwark said: “The Government received the report from … Lord Best in the last Parliament in July 2019. Can the Minister explain to the House what the Government have been doing for the past five years on this issue? There is widespread agreement on what needs to be done. From the outside, it looks like the Government are reluctant, unenthusiastic, disinclined and generally unwilling to address the issue.”

Liberal Democrat Lord Foster of Bath echoed those words, saying: “Given the clear, widespread support for the introduction of an independent property agents regulator, first proposed by … Lord Best, some five years ago, can the Minister explain why, having had five years to think this through, it is not now possible, as she seems to suggest, for the Government to include it by way of an amendment to the Renters Reform Bill? That way, they would provide what more or less everybody in this House and outside it are keen to see.”

The chair of The Property Ombudsman service, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, joined in the push too, saying: “The Ombudsman has been producing codes of practice for several decades, and that skill was utilised by the RoPA steering group, particularly the steering group … A new code was produced which has been received very positively. It stands ready to be implemented, and I urge His Majesty’s Government to give serious consideration to how it could be achieved in the absence of a regulator.”

And Lord Best himself – a cross-bencher – commented: “If we cannot have a fully-fledged regulator because time does not allow, could we at least go half way and introduce some mandatory training and qualifications so that the people handling property agency work know what they are talking about and we weed out some of the rogues?”

But Baroness Swinburne, for the government, was unmoved and said: “We are working hand in glove with industry and trade bodies that want good-quality services provided by their members. It is in their interests, in our interests and in consumers’ interests that we do so.”

However, she confirmed there would be no Parliamentary time before the General Election for any legislation to be considered.

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