Norwich property expert to play leading national role

The statutory licensing of estate agents should be a priority for the profession, according to the property industry's new vice-president.

Jan H�tch, a partner at Norwich-based agency Arnolds, has been elected vice-president of the National Association of Estate Agents.

The appointment will see Mrs H�tch play a leading role in national debate about the housing market – and will lead to her becoming president of the association in 2013.

Mrs H�tch said she would work towards the introduction of more rigorous regulation of the profession and try to forge closer links between the bodies representing estate agents and lettings agents.

'I have two main priorities which I hope to move forward by the time I am president in 2013/14,' Mrs H�tch said.

'The first is to drive forward the statutory licensing of estate agents, bringing a robustness of standards to the profession which is comparable to those in the accountancy or legal profession, for example.

'At the moment, anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent, without any qualifications of regulation at all.

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'Although there are many reputable agents operating across the country, many are not, and remain largely unaccountable.

'I believe this is damaging both for our customers, and for the reputation of our profession overall.

'My second priority will be to try to build closer links between the National Association of Estate Agents and the Association of Residential Lettings Agents.

'The work of residential sales and residential lettings agents is becoming increasingly interlinked, so it makes sense to see a seamless interaction between the professional bodies which oversee the whole sector.'

Mrs H�tch joined Arnolds in 1989, and heads the firm's residential sales and lettings operation.

Based in Norwich's Prince of Wales Road, the firm also has offices in Eaton and Wroxham. The National Association of Estate Agents is the umbrella body responsible for the regulation and support of estate agents, with more than 12,000 members across the UK.

Arnolds was among the first agency's to sign up to a voluntary licensing scheme drawn up by the association and launched by housing minister Grant Shapps and his Labour shadow Alison Seabeck at the end of last year.

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