With the New Year here and 2022 about to kick start, now is a good time to ‘take stock’ and ensure your business is prepared for the challenges ahead in 2022.
Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, says that before the festive season gets under way, there are a few aspects that agents can do to prepare for the year ahead from a compliance perspective. As it is so close to Christmas, he has prepared a ’12 days of Compliance’ guide to help agents prepare for the big event. Of course, their choice of festive offering, be it sherry and a mince pie after each completed day, is entirely up to them.
Day 1 – A partridge in a pear tree
Log into your Government Gateway account and check out your AML page. Aspects to look out for include any emails that have dropped into your account that you have yet to action, whether your supervision status is showing correctly, and make a note of the date your supervision expires. Click on the ‘about your business’ section and see if anything needs updating, especially the information on your responsible people, and lastly, update it with any training you have completed in 2021.
Day 2 – Two turtle doves
Have a look at your terms of business. When were these last reviewed? Read through them carefully and ensure that all the information is correct. Other things to consider include whether all your fees and charges are stated as inclusive of VAT, and do you include a pound amount either as a fixed fee or as a worked example if you charge a percentage fee.
Day 3 – Three French hens
Log into your website and take a look – does it meet compliance standards. Tick these off: privacy notice, company information, complaints policy, Redress logo, EPCs ratings on properties and if lettings, landlord and tenant fee information and copy of your CMP certificate. Once you have checked all these aspects, take time to read all the pages and ensure that information is up to date, remains accurate and is correct.
Day 4 – Four calling birds
Your Privacy notice – does this still reflect how you manage personal data you are provided with, and does it still record the names of organisations you share data with. What is your process for sharing your privacy notice with any new consumer who provides you with their personal? This includes applicants, sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants – if you were challenged by the ICO, what would your evidence be?
Day 5 – Five golden rings
Insurance and in particular cyber insurance. Cybercrime is a real threat to all businesses across the UK with an increasing number of incidents being reported. These days we do far more business online and use our mobile phone and other devices more and more. How are you protecting your business against an attack and what insurance do you have in place to protect you should you face a claim from a consumer?
Day 6 – Six geese a-laying
EPCs. Whilst these have been with us for several years, consumers are starting to take more interest in how homes can be made more energy efficient. Make sure all properties have one at the point of marketing, EPC ratings on window cards and all marketing material. A copy should be provided to the buyer or their solicitor at the point of a sale memorandum being issued. Remember that listed properties are not automatically exempt as they used to be in the early days.
Day 7 – Seven swans a-swimming
Consumer Protection Regulations, another area where there has been an increase in claims – so review your due diligence process. Do you have in place a property information questionnaire which covers all the key points and is this used on all occasions? If so, is the form reviewed once it is returned to check to see if there are any disclosures which need to be made? Do you get your sellers written approval for brochures/marketing before they are made available? What about disclosure of fees you may earn from referring a consumer to a third party? Is this process still working? Remember full disclosure of fees in writing before the consumer agrees to being referred to the third party.
Day 8 – Eight maids a-milking
Polices, an important part of your due diligence, so review what you have in place for AML, Data Protection, Lone Working, Complaint Handling, Health and Safety and social media to name but a few.
Day 9 – Nine ladies dancing
Perception versus reality. Do you know how things are working in your business? Does everything run as smoothly as you think it does? It is important to test your processes to ensure they give you the controls you need to keep your business compliant. If you have no process in place for doing this, then your risk exposure increases.
Day 10 – Ten lords a-leaping
Whilst we await a decision from Westminster on the next steps of RoPA, you should start to think about the changes that you may need to make in your business. Start with the training of your teams. Who has a recognised qualification, who is studying for a qualification or who is yet to start the process off? Consider what your development strategy for your people is going to be like in 2022.
Day 11 – Eleven pipers piping
One word I’m sure you are going to hear a lot of in 2022 and beyond – sustainability. Especially with Cop26 held in Glasgow recently and with much more media coverage on this topic and the Government’s aim to reduce emissions. Consumers are starting to take more interest in using firms who have a sustainable policy, and investors are becoming more interested in actions business owners are taking. So, expect to hear a lot more about this over the coming months and start thinking about actions you can take to raise awareness and improve.
Day 12 – Twelve drummers drumming
Joining a network such as The Guild of Property Professionals. We offer absolutely everything you need to run a compliant business, from responses to a variety of questions, training, compliance reviews and updates.