Savills calls for register independence
Bill McClintock is under fire from Savills over concerns about the independence of his agency register.
As The Negotiator exclusively revealed on January 14, McClintock (pictured), chairman of the Ombudsman for Estate Agents, proposes that agents be offered a registration certificate to operate.
After one year, they would be required to pass an entry-standard qualification to ensure they are at the professional standard required under National Federation of Property Professional bodies' membership.
McClintock says he hopes registration, which may cost £30 per agent, will help firms identify unscrupulous agents by detailing any evidence of malpractice.
But Christopher Lacy, a director of Savills, says: "We fully endorse the principle [of a register] and, on the surface, there is much merit in this proposal. However, we have some concerns on the detail proposed.
"A register should not be run by the OEA or indeed its holding company. An ombudsman should specifically not be seen as a regulator. Indeed, the ombudsman himself, Christopher Hamer, states in his foreword on the OEA website: 'I am not a regulator or consumer guardian.'"
But Lacy also has concerns about the proposal to have an independent company manage the register.
"This of course brings great dangers," he says. "Registration must not simply be about paying your £30 to get your name listed. Such a shallow scheme could have entirely the wrong effect. Indeed it could make it easy for less scrupulous or less competent agents to get their name listed and thereby cloak themselves with respectability."
Adrian Cole, principal partner at Cole Flatt & Partners in Berkhamsted, says he would strongly support a register run by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, saying: "Provided it was clearly aimed at non-RICS members, I don't see any problem with it, and I think it would bring a discipline to the profession that is sadly lacking.
"Compare our industry to that in the US - if anybody wants to negotiate there they have to become a realtor. That's quite a hard exam and at the end of it you get licensed and that license is up for renewal every year. If you've transgressed in the year then you lose your license and you cannot practice.
"Although there is the Estate Agents Act, realistically, the only people that can shop estate agents are other estate agents."
McClintock says: "In order for it [the register] to work it has to be wholly inclusive. We [the OEA] weren't suggesting that the OEA would run it. It was never suggested it would be an OEA matter. I agree it is not appropriate for a redress scheme to own it.
"It could be that the limited company of OEA, if nobody else wants to own the register, could own it. Equally, if the professional bodies want to own it, that's also OK, but you have got to be inclusive and make sure we include all those people that do not belong to professional bodies."