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

PDQ Estates Ltd

Updated 11/02/2016

*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.

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

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.


  • Excellent article Chris – just hope all agents see it and digest it!


  • Hi Chris,

    Agree with agencytrainer…excellent post!


    Leasehold Life


  • Thanks for highlighting this Chris, same goes for Relocation Companies too as we come under the same banner as Estate Agents for the ICO, Worth shouting about because the fines are huge.


    • Thanks Sharon, I think a lot of businesses (not just property related) will be caught out by this as its so easy to overlook with the vast amount of post we get through the letterbox nowadays as small to medium sized firms, reminding us to do ‘x’ or suggesting that we need to do ‘y’.


  • Great article Chris! Well done you for raising the matter.


    • Thanks Clare. I was prompted to write it after a conversation with an IT friend of mine who wanted to pick my brains about a new service the property software company he works for was about to introduce. Potentially, I felt, that the service might lead to complaints to the ICO about the agents using the software and thus, back to the company itself. A conversation ensued and I went off to check some facts; during which time I discovered the gaping hole in the numbers of potentially liable agents.It struck me as a good idea for a blog to get the News out there as I am sure that many of the offending agents are simply unaware of it although, I’m sure many will simply not care.


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