Conveyancing Association issues response to industry Overarching Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents

The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has today issued its response to a draft industry Overarching Code of Practice for Residential Property Agents.

The Code of Practice has been created by a Working Group comprised of representatives from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), The Property Ombudsman, and a raft of other trade bodies, and ‘sets out the overarching principles that underpin the standards of professionalism that the Regulator and the public expect of residential property agents’.

The Working Group that has created the Code, chaired by Baroness Dianne Hayter, has asked industry stakeholders to provide feedback on its contents, with the plan to create a voluntary Code adopted by those willing to participate and supported by further sector-specific codes to raise standards for property management and property sales.

The Code covers two sections:

  • Dealing with consumers; and
  • Managing businesses and staff.

The principles of the Code ‘apply to conduct and behaviour relating to agencies (as firms) and staff (as individuals)’ and the Working Group responsible believes they ‘provide a framework for ethical and competent practice that applies to estate agent across the UK, letting and managing agents in England and all others carrying out residential property agency work.’

The CA’s response shows it is broadly supportive of the Code’s contents however it has highlighted a number of areas where it believes amendments are required. For example, it is concerned that no reference is made to agents managing estate rentcharges, service charges or other managed freehold schemes.

It also wants to see the Code reference and cover agents of developers who are responsible for the marketing of new-build properties, and to reference the future inclusion of landlords, freeholders of a leasehold estate, developers, estate rentcharge owners, management companies and Right to Manage Companies.

The trade body also wants the sector-specific Codes to include reference to codes for those managing estate rentcharges, managed freehold schemes and service charges applicable to freehold homes as well as developers, and site office staff.

The Association response stresses it wants the Code to be explicit in terms of how it can be amended in the future and by whom, given that is ‘inevitable that changes will need to be made in the light of experience’.

The CA has also provided an amendable version of its own response to all members and is urging them to provide their own individual inputs to the consultation.

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, commented: “We welcome the Code of Practice issued by this Working Group and hope it will go a significant way to ensuring the very highest standards are attained and maintained by all agents involved in the residential property market.

“To that end, we have used our response to highlight a number of administrative arrangements which have not been specifically referenced within the Code and who we would also like to see signed up to it, and following the practice outlined within it, to provide protection for all home owners. In order to make this an overarching and universal Code of Practice, and one that consumers can have full trust in, we believe it needs to be as exhaustive as possible, especially when the Code is voluntary.

“Ultimately we would like to see a full response from Government to Lord Best’s ROPA Report issued in July 2019 with a commitment to mandating the Code and delivering on the recommendations in the report.

“In the meantime, the CA is urging all our member firms to make similar points in their own responses, and to highlight any further feedback they might have on making this Code fit-for-purpose and as effective as possible.”