More protection for owners of leasehold flats is welcomed

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Owners of leasehold flats will get greater protection against poor service from managing agents following the launch of a new regulatory regime.

The new regime, which has received cross-party support, has been developed by the industry’s trade body ARMA and contains a number of measures specifically designed to protect leaseholders.

Most significant is the immediate introduction of independent scrutiny of ARMA agents by a regulatory panel led by former housing minister Keith Hill. Mr Hill will be supported by nine lay members, the first time that managing agents have been subject to such regulation.

Further safeguards will be introduced from 2015, when ARMA members will also be required to sign up to a consumer charter and professional standards committing them to providing a high level of customer service.

Baroness Hayter, the Labour peer who was instrumental in the development of the regime known as ARMA-Q, said it would be a “major force” for consumer protection in the residential leasehold sector.

She said: “There is broad consensus that residential leasehold is an area in which it is important to protect and educate consumers, and raising professional standards is absolutely essential to that process.

“ARMA-Q will play an important role in achieving that. It rests on comprehensive and unambiguous professional standards backed by independent scrutiny.”

Baroness Hanham, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Communities and Local Government, welcomed the regime on behalf of the government saying: “Leasehold is an important and growing housing tenure, and also a complex – and at times problematic – one.

“The government is very supportive of self-regulation by the sector. We therefore welcome the steps that ARMA is now taking – through ARMA-Q – to set high standards of service, best practice and probity for its members”.

ARMA’s chairman Ben Jordan said: “Leaseholders should be able to expect a quality service when it comes to the management of their home.

“If they use an unregulated managing agent, they could be opening themselves up to poor practice.

“We would recommend anyone appointing a managing agent to choose one signed up to ARMA-Q – a clear commitment to high standards and professional expertise”.