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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Call for estate agent licensing
People looking in an estate agent's window
The ombudsman wants the licence scheme to be compulsory
Estate agents should be required to obtain a licence to show they are qualified and competent, the industry's ombudsman has said.

Ombudsman for Estate Agents Stephen Carr-Smith is calling for a mandatory licence to centre on a new code of practice for the whole sector.

His annual report shows a 9% rise - to 6,021 - in the number of complaints made over the past year about agents.

He said the government had indicated it may propose legislation this autumn.

Mr Carr-Smith said the licence scheme he is proposing would improve consumers' access to redress.

'Increasing confidence'

He wants the changes to be made through the Ombudsman for Estate Agent's current voluntary scheme being made compulsory.

Of the 6,021 complaints his office has received over the past year, more than half were against estate agents that were not members.

And while complaints against non-members soared by 19%, those against members rose by only 1%.

"I believe that there should be a single independent redress scheme that applies to all residential estate agents and which can deliver a consistent approach in measuring an agent's actions against the code of practice," said Mr Carr-Smith.

"I believe that all estate agents should be licensed to demonstrate a level of competence before they even take up the profession.

"In my view, it is only all three of these elements coming into effect that will really increase consumer confidence in residential estate agents and ensure improved consumer protection."

The ombudsman added that the government had indicated it would introduce legislation making it compulsory for estate agents to belong to a redress scheme for all aspects of their work, and the proposal could be included in the Queen's Speech this autumn.

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