I’ll bet £1,000 you are breaking the Data Protection Law*
I am prepared to bet that you are breaking the Law because the odds are stacked totally in my favour. The shocking statistic is that around two-thirds** of estate, letting and property management agents are currently open to criminal prosecution by failing to register with the ICO (Information Commissioners Office). I would also wager that a great many other businesses that hold information about customers have failed to register as well.
You may think that you don’t need to register or, be totally unaware of the need to but, if you hold data about a living person/ persons as part of your business then you almost certainly ‘process data’ under the Law and, consequently, must register a Data Controller with the ICO. If you haven’t registered, you need to get a move on; the ICO are getting tough!
In 2010, the ICO issued a press release warning agents about their need to register. At the time, the ICO held records for just 1,416 UK Lettings agents, 3,734 Estate Agents and 5,245 Property Service Management Companies. Following the warning, a few more agents did join, but not many. By the 1st of July 2011, just over 300 more lettings agents registered, 627 more agents thought it might be a good idea and, just under 250 property service management companies decided that they had better try to avoid a criminal record too.
On the 14th of this year (2016), a further request was made to the ICO and the 10th of February, I received the following update:
The number of estate agents registered with us as of 25 January 2015 when we extracted the figure is as follows:
Estate agents registered: 6033
As a matter of advice and assistance, we have also extracted the number of lettings agents and property management companies registered with us, as they fall close to the scope of your request and have a separate ‘nature of work’ registration template.
Lettings agents registered: 3199
Property management companies registered: 6964
So, six years on from my initial bet there continues to be an awful lot of you out there owing me £1,000 and, facing prosecution from an ICO that is looking to flex its muscles.
Offending agents will receive a warning reminder to register from the ICO but if it is ignored or, simply thrown away as junk mail, the result could be a fine and a criminal record.
Whilst the ICO may undertake a simple cross-referencing with TPOS and RICS SOS to bag a big, and quick, list of potential offenders it is unlikely that many agents will receive a complaint from a member of the public before they have a chance to register. However, if you are not currently registered and you receive a complaint, it will be too late.
If you want to check the list of registered companies you can do so here
Good luck, and don’t forget to check your registration is still in date if you are registered; even the best of us can get caught out occasionally… ahem.
Chris Wood – Director
*Any payouts will be paid to those readers who are ICO compliant once I have received all the cheques from those who are not (don’t hold your breath). Better still, make a donation to www.swiftandbold.org if you have been potentially saved from a criminal record by reading this blog or, do it anyway because it’s simply a good thing to do. Thank you.
** “There are 19,000 estate agent branches in the UK, with 18,000 sales and lettings agents on Rightmove and 16,460 on Zoopla” (source ThisIsMoney 2014). That said, no-one in authority (TPOS, RICS, DCLG etc), it seems, has a definitive figure. If you find one; please let me know! Thanks.
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About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and was a former long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade but was flown home prior to seeing action and was subsequently medically discharged.