Wales politics

Powys council to regulate estate agents across UK

Image caption Powys County Council won a competitive bidding process to secure the work

The role of keeping Britain's estate agents in check is set to change in the next few weeks - with some powers handed over to a Welsh council.

Powys council will take over the regulation role from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) from 1 April.

It will be able to issue warning and banning orders against agents acting dishonestly or breaching estate agent laws.

The move follows a decision by the UK government to disband the OFT.

Powys won the competitive bidding process to deliver the service in place of the OFT.

The UK government will pay Powys County Council £170,000 a year for three years for providing the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, with the local authority creating three new jobs.

Monitoring and advice

However, people complaining about estate agents should still contact their local council's trading standards department.

Trading standards officers around the UK will still investigate suspected breaches of the act and prosecute alleged offenders, if they feel it is necessary.

If they believe certain parts of the Estate Agents Act have been breached they will refer the case to the new Powys team, where banning or warning orders can be considered.

The new team will also keep a public register of the banning and warning orders, approve and monitor a consumer redress scheme, and provide advice and guidance to businesses and consumers about rights and obligations under the act.

Powys council's cabinet member for trading standards, John Powell, said: "We recognise our success in bringing in this function and it will enhance the reputation of the council.

"We want to develop this project further with Powys becoming a centre of excellence for the UK on estate agency enforcement matters."

But Labour has criticised the move.

Its consumer affairs spokeswoman Stella Creasy said: "I question whether, at a time when we have growing concerns about estate agents, it is right to move the monitoring powers for the entirety of England and Wales to one trading standards body in Wales.

"Having read the proposal, I do not think that anyone could doubt that Powys trading standards officers are committed to their national role, but there is a lack of clarity about how they might make decisions to enact that role."

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Media captionJames Munro from Powys council told Peter Johnson the role would give Powys credibility

'Rogue traders'

In a statement, the UK government's Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) department said: "Transferring the OFT's powers to trading standards will simplify the landscape by giving sole responsibility to trading standards.

"This type of enforcement, with a council hosting a team, is already carried out very effectively in areas like tackling illegal money lending, so is not unusual.

"Through a competitive bidding process, Powys were able to demonstrate that they were the best placed to take on this work.

"Consumers are still going to be protected against rogue traders under the changes."

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