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Trading Standards unveils latest material information rules for agents

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has published the long-awaited Parts B and C of material information rules.

New guidance has been issued for agents this morning that aims to improve material information disclosure in property listings.

Part A was announced last year and includes council tax band or rate, property price or rent and tenure information for sales. 

Part B is information that should be covered for all properties – such as the type of property, the building materials used, the number of rooms and information about utilities and parking. 

Part C is information that only needs to be established if the property is affected by the issue – such as flood risk or restrictive covenants. 

Under the rules, NTSELAT said sellers will be advised to bring a conveyancer on board at an early stage to help ensure validated information is available to the agent for marketing and that issues like restrictive covenants or boundaries are addressed at an early stage.

Buyers or renters will see new data fields appearing on portals and any left empty will be flagged and will have a link explaining what’s missing. This will help consumers understand the benefits of being fully informed before embarking on moving home.

NTSELAT will be monitoring take up on the portals over the next 12 months and agents can use free text to input information whilst waiting for any dedicated categories. As ever, under the Consumer Protection Regulations, any information can be deemed material if it impacts a consumer’s transactional decision so agents should continue to be mindful of this. 

In addition to the guidance on its dedicated webpage, NTSELAT has published short guides for agentssellers and landlords, and buyers and tenants. It will also be delivering a series of webinars in partnership with steering group members. 

James Munro, senior manager of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said: “For years, property agents have grappled with what information they should be providing and how, and when it should be disclosed. Their call for help was clear. And too many consumers suffer emotionally and financially because important information crops up late in the process and the transaction falls through. That’s why I’m delighted to publish this guidance today, as the culmination of nearly three years’ work in collaboration with our partners to define and clarify what constitutes material information and to ensure that agents can access that information promptly and with the support they need.  

“This industry-wide effort will create consistency and raise standards across the board, and I would like to thank all those who were involved, in particular the property portals, industry leaders and agents themselves who have made such an important contribution.

“With all sections of the industry ready to support agents I am confident the process of change will be smooth and that the benefits – faster transactions, fewer complaints and fall-throughs and ultimately, greater consumer trust – will be quickly felt.” 

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    No massive supprises here, data providers have been preparing ideas for this for months.

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    These requirements are supported by THIRTY-FOUR pages of guidance notes on sales and TWENTY-SIX pages of guidance notes on lettings.

    Commentary in the guidance notes on Part C is of particular interest to bewildered estate agents :

    "Part C information may or may not need to be established depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the issue in question. This section applies to properties affected by the issue itself, for example, because of the location of the property. We acknowledge that property agents are not experts in the fields below and are generally not qualified to interpret title deeds and associated contracts or to make judgements on building safety.
    Where a matter in this section is identified and further information is required, we recommend that property owners/sellers and agents seek the services of qualified professionals (including, where relevant, a surveyor or conveyancer) to assist with the interpretation of the matter identified. This includes: ■ Building safety ■ Restrictions and rights ■ Flood and erosion risk ■ Planning permission and proposals for development ■ Property accessibility and adaptations ■ Coalfield or mining area This list is not exhaustive, and property agents should disclose any information which is material information. "

    NTSELA has, to quote the vernacular, thrown a gigantic spanner into the works of what has hitherto been a well-defined and respected legal process. What's worse the design of the spanner has been copied from countries like Norway, where estate agents deal with most of the legal work!

    The guidance notes will be dissected in the weeks to come, and no doubt estate agents will be reviewing their professional indemnity insurance arrangements to cover a significantly increased exposure to future negligence claims.

    Meanwhile, the public will be wondering why NTSELA has interfered in the conveyancing process in effect by the back door, without full consultation with the vast majority of mainstream property lawyers.

    These changes are not in the public interest and will expose the public to increased costs and risk for no good reason.


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