The case for the regulation of the UK’s property industry
Don’t get me wrong: I know many good estate agents. At the age of 15, I worked for an incredibly respectable firm based in Lancashire. My boss, a thoroughly charming individual, was one of my earliest influences and I still respect him enormously.
Equally, those who have completed the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ courses are people deserving of respect. They are individuals who are professional and knowledgeable. As their website states, over 18,000 follow them on Twitter and their expertise is second to none.
In recent days, however, after personally witnessing how one firm of agents have conducted themselves, my thoughts on the negativity that surrounds this “profession” has again been proven true. An apartment in a building I know in London has a most interesting tale. Owned by an old lady who died, it was sold on a short-lease by her executors. The subsequent owners bought this and supposedly then managed to persuade two banks to lend against fictitious longer leases on it. When, eventually, the banks repossessed, the flat remained empty for over a year but several months ago one of the individuals involved smashed down the door and effectively returned as a squatter.
The person concerned spent some time renovating the property before putting it up for rent through a local estate agent. Said agent plainly did no research into whether this person actually owned the apartment. They did not check the deeds or ask questions of their client. The reason for this, they’d argue, is that they are not required to but they were also too lazy to bother. That speaks volumes but because agents are not regulated, such conduct occurs more often than one can imagine. It should not be allowed to continue.
If Prime Minister Cameron wants to boost his much dented popularity, he should act on this issue. Estate agents should be made, like in the USA, to qualify just as those working in financial services have to go through FSA authorisation. Purchasing or renting a home is something that consumes the majority of the income of any individual and such transactions should be better governed.
Equally, the owners of estates, such as Cadogan and Grosvenor, ought to become more selective about who they allow to take leases in their respective manors. In New York, many buildings operate by committee. The River House, designed by William Lawrence Bottomley, between 52nd and 53rd Street and the East River in New York, is a prime example of the power of co-op boards. The owners of apartments in this 26-storey landmark, built in 1931 and staffed by white gloved doormen, rejected Richard Nixon, Gloria Vanderbilt and Diane Keaton when they applied to live there. They rightly did their research on these personalities as they did not want to lower the tone of their residence or endure paparazzi intrusion. Similarly, here in London residents should be able to vote to stop noisy youngsters with more money than sense, criminals and so-called celebrities bringing havoc to the buildings where they reside.
Regulating estate agents and residential buildings more effectively is a sure vote winner as most people I speak to tell of bad experiences. It is time the British government got to work.
For more information on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, go to: http://www.rics.org
For more information on the apartment in The River House contact either Alexis Bodenheimer of Brown Harris Stevens on +1 212 906 9230 or email her at [email protected] or Cathy Franklin of the same company on +1 212 906 9236 or email her at [email protected], go to: http://www.bhsusa.com/manhattan/midtown-east/east-52nd-street/coop/1216446