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"Disappointing" lack of progress on estate agent licensing

Saturday 25 March 2023

"Disappointing" lack of progress on estate agent licensing

Saturday 25 March 2023

The former Environment Minister has called the lack of progress on estate agent licensing "disappointing" and a "shame", as estate agents urge ministers to reconsider the stance that new legislation is not a priority.

Estate agents in Jersey are currently not required to hold any professional qualifications, belong to a professional body, or abide by a code of conduct.

When pressed at the States Assembly, Environment Minister Deputy Jonathan Renouf revealed that "there are no plans to introduce new legislation regulating estate agents".

This comes despite a 2021 Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel finding that only 40% of Jersey estate agents had voluntarily become members of a redress scheme which deals with disputes between clients and agencies. That figure is low in comparison with other jurisdictions, such as Scotland and Alderney.

In the UK, it has been a mandatory requirement of estate agents to join an approved consumer redress scheme since 1 October 2008.

Nick Dodsley, founder of ND Estates and vice-president of Jersey Estate Agents Association (JEAA), said at the time: "You could start tomorrow with no experience whatsoever."

Timothy Douglas, Propertymark's Head of Policy and Campaigns, called the lack of legislation "alarming", while the JEAA recommended that the government should regulate local estate agents to fall in line with forthcoming requirements across the UK.


Pictured: Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark.

Deputy David Johnson, who chaired the panel, concluded: "We believe it is time for Jersey's government to begin a 'phased in' approach towards a regulatory estate agency market which matches the high regulatory standards of other Jersey industries."

Speaking now, Deputy Johnson added: "Our solution was that there are already professional organisations, and it should be a fairly simple matter to bring in legislation which requires estate agents to enter a redress scheme and estate agents association.

"It doesn't do Jersey's reputation any good to have an unregulated sector."

However, all but one of the panel's ten recommendations were deferred, and the report came weeks before the end of the previous political term, allowing the issue to slip through the cracks.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf recently said: "The existing Consumer Protection Law already provides a comprehensive framework to deal with unfair commercial practices, and this extends to estate agent services.

"That Law supports estate agents in the Island to adopt good practice and importantly enable our Trading Standards team to deal with those who fall below the standards required.

"We have not seen much evidence of consumer complaints relating to this industry coming into the department, so there doesn't seem to me to be strong consumer demand for further regulation of estate agents, therefore I do not feel it would be proportionate to introduce new regulation specifically for estate agents.

"However, as with other areas of regulation, we will keep the situation under review and take action should the need arise."

However, estate agents have seen Deputy Renouf's latest update as a step backward.

Harry Trower, Director at Broadlands, said: "I would push back when the Minister tells us that a code of best practice is good enough when we are dealing with most individuals' largest asset. It wouldn't fly in any other industry, so why are estate agents free from regulation?

"It gives me a sense that the Minister just cannot be bothered when all indications from the previous government were very keen for this to happen."

Gill Hunt, Propertymark Regional Executive and Director at Christie's Hunt Estates, said: "We're confident that we want to keep pushing for regulation locally, because we feel it's important. We want to raise standards, improve the situation, ensure agents are the absolute best that they can be.'

"The Minister has said that he doesn't have an appetite to enforce regulation, but an intermediate step would be to make all estate agency owners members of a professional body."


Pictured: Gill Hunt, Propertymark Regional Executive and Director at Christie's Hunt Estates.

Neville Benbow, Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society for Jersey, said: "It is disappointing that, despite the compelling argument articulated by the Scrutiny Panel for the regulation of Estate Agents, the Environment Minister has determined that regulation is unnecessary, instead preferring to rely on existing consumer protections and consumer choice.

"Islanders should be able to choose an agent with confidence in the knowledge that there are suitable protections and redress processes if things go wrong.

"We consider that the opportunity should be taken to encourage a voluntary approach which may avoid the need to impose a regulatory solution; simply relying on existing consumer protections and otherwise doing nothing is, in our view, insufficient."

Former Environment Minister and Scrutiny Panel member, Deputy Steve Luce added: "It's disappointing, after the Scrutiny Panel worked so hard to produce such compelling recommendations.

"It's a shame we're not better regulated."

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