Foreword 2020

By the Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, Chair of the PRS Advisory Council

When Harold Macmillan was asked what his greatest challenges were, he replied, “Events, dear boy, events.” None of us could have predicted the events of 2020 and the impact it would have on all aspects of our lives. The coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in our recent history not only in its nature but in its duration. We have all had to adapt and what we do and how we do it has changed not just in the temporary circumstances but most likely for good.

This applies no less to the property world, which despite being one of the first sectors to come out of lockdown, has still faced change and disruption. One thing that this has all shown us, however, is the importance of robust redress and the need for effective dispute resolution and accountability to the people we serve. An industry that does not take complaints seriously is falling short of its purpose and when you are talking about a sector that provides the roof above our heads, that has never been more important. Our homes became our world during lockdown and more than ever the sanctuary we relied on, but for some they became a trap or prison and therefore a source of discontentment.

At the Property Redress Scheme, we have been monitoring carefully the impact of COVID-19 on the level and type of complaints we receive and this has helped us to improve the way we approach and resolve the complex issues that emerge daily as part of the relationship between consumers and their property agents.

I have also seen the effect that this crisis has had on the work of government where “the best laid schemes of mice and men” to misquote Robert Burns, have been turned on their heads. At the start of the year we were anticipating whether regulation of property agents was just around the corner, following the comprehensive report pulled together by my fellow peer Lord Best. This was put on hold.

We were also puzzling out how the promised election pledge by the Government to reform renters’ rights and which had just been laid in front of Parliament in the form of an intended bill, would pan out. It however never got past the stage of announcing its name and nothing was committed to paper, as civil servants’ priorities turned to the emergency measures needed to tackle the crisis.

These measures of course, did severely impact the sector and whilst things like the stamp duty holiday, the mortgage payment moratorium and the business support packages have been positively welcomed by the sector, others such as the evictions and possession ban will have long lasting implications. We will continue to keep abreast of developments as we come out of all of this and beyond.

In terms of the Property Redress Scheme, I have been quietly satisfied by how the scheme has developed in the seven years I have been involved. It has now grown to encompass a significant proportion of the sector, which, if we were not here and the law changed, may well not have valued good complaint handling and the benefits it can have. The legislation has been widely complied with, we have had an impact on modifying behaviour and promoting best practice and now the legal requirement is being recognised by agents and their customers as being an indication of a safer and more professional sector. There is a way to go to elevate the status of property agents to above that of politicians but we are getting there.

Lord Munroe Palmer

Thank you to all you our members and to all those in the Property Redress Scheme who have worked tirelessly to continue our success.

Lord Monroe Palmer, Chairman of the Property Redress Scheme Advisory Council