ASK THE EXPERT

Q. We've all experienced property deals going wrong - or heard about them from others. What's your take on this, as an agent?

A. Well, I personally think that as an industry we need to shape up and start calling a spade a spade. The fact is that the majority of deals "go wrong" through no fault of the agent, but because one or other of the two principals involved - ie, the seller and the buyer - simply change their minds for one reason or another!

Another big issue is the lack of transparency on the part of some vendors. For too long, some clients have been unforthcoming on a whole variety of matters - even including the actual ownership of the property they want to sell! This might sound crazy, but quite often an agent will belatedly discover that in fact there is a joint owner, or the property concerned actually belongs to a relative! I'm not suggesting this is deliberate deception - it's far more likely to be simple lack of knowledge or understanding. Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that agents can only sell a property on behalf of the registered owners - unless there is a Power of Attorney.

Full disclosure at the outset of any other issues relating to the property - for example, public rights or way or restrictive lease clauses - is equally vital. Buyers' solicitors and surveyors will soon discover any problems in any case, but it's far better if the agent knows everything, warts and all, right from the start. Then we can forewarn buyers - indeed, it is our legal duty to do so.

Needless to say, another huge stumbling block is price. Naturally, everyone wants the best price possible, but all too often this simply plays into the hands of agents who are prepared to wildly over-value, just to win the instruction. In the process, the sensible price put forward by a more experienced agent will be rejected, to the detriment of the sale.

Working with a knowledgeable, professional and above all honest agent can and will make all the difference. They are on your side. If and when they call a spade a spade, they are helping you. So, always give your agent the full story - however unpalatable. If the agent is worth their salt and their fee, they will give you great advice on how to handle the issues that come up, offering specialist services where necessary, so you get the desired outcome - a move!


The second article is.


Q. It is absolutely scandalous that some letting agents still have no proper arrangements in place to protect client monies. Surely, something must be done!

A. I couldn't agree more. It is, indeed, scandalous that some letting agents are able to get away with taking and holding onto deposits and other client monies, without belonging to any of the approved client money protection (CMP) schemes. The importance of this cannot be over-stated. Indeed, I'm afraid to admit that there are instances almost every few weeks of someone somewhere absconding with client money.

Against this background, it is totally inexplicable that the Government has consistently refused to make belonging to an approved CMP scheme mandatory. Back in the Autumn, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis once again ruled it out, stating in response to a plea from within the industry that he had "no plans" to do so.

The only positive thing you can say about this is that it is at least consistent with the Government's entire attitude towards the lettings sector. Within the property industry - at least, at the professional and ethical end of the spectrum - it has long been believed that one of the great scandals is that letting agents, who routinely handle large amounts of rents and deposits, are not subject to the same regulation as estate agents - who rarely handle any transaction money at all.

However, there is a possibility that things may finally be about to change - at least, on the particularly vexed question of CMP. Pressure is now really beginning to mount on the Government to make it mandatory. A broad coalition of major trade organisations is backing an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill 2015, submitted to Parliament at the request of the Public Bill Committee by the managing director of the leading professional body ARLA (the Association of Residential Letting Agents). The amendment would make it illegal for letting agents to accept money from another person, in the course of lettings agency work, unless they had CMP. The organisations backing the amendment include letting agents, law firms, homeless charities like Shelter, landlord bodies, tenant lobbying groups such as Generation Rent, and deposit protection and redress schemes including The Property Ombudsman.

Will such a remarkable coalition win the day on this occasion? One can only hope. But, in the meantime, my best advice to any landlord is to ensure that the letting or managing agent you deal with already belongs to one of the established schemes. Otherwise, you risk losing a great deal of money.