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Many people who sell a property in the UK will use the marketing services of an estate agency. Estate agency work is defined by the Estate Agents Act 1979 (EAA 1979) as:

“[…] introducing and/ or negotiating with people who want to buy or sell freehold or leasehold property (including commercial or agricultural property) where this is done in the course of a business pursuant to instructions from a client.”

Estate agents are not currently required by law to be licensed or qualified. In Scotland, where property law is different, a solicitor will manage much of the property sale. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, unless an estate agent is also a qualified chartered surveyor, they will liaise with other professional bodies.

Estate agents are principally regulated by the EAA 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In addition to this statutory regulation, since 1 October 2008 all estate agents in the UK who engage in residential estate agency work are required to belong to an approved redress scheme, either The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme. This is a requirement of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) of Powys County Council protects consumers and businesses by enforcing the EAA 1979. The team will assess whether an individual or business in any part of the UK is fit to carry out estate agency work within the terms of the EEA 1979. It took over this enforcement role from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in April 2014.

In recent years there has been calls for the Government to strengthen regulation by requiring all estate agents to be properly licensed and qualified. The Conservative Party Manifesto 2017 committed to “reform and modernise the homebuying process so it is more efficient and less costly”. The Regulation of Property Agents: Working Group was set up in October 2018 to advise the Government on a new regulatory approach to letting, managing and estate agents, in line with the Government’s responses to its calls for evidence on Protecting Consumers in the letting and managing agent market and Improving the home buying and selling process.

This briefing paper provides an outline of the current regulation of estate agents. It also looks at past market studies and consultations and considers in detail recent government proposals to tighten regulation.

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